2021-02-25

Om Malik on Tony Hsieh

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Om Malik:

Nick Swinmurn started Zappos in 1999, raised $500,000 in funding from Tony & Alfred. It was originally called Shoesite.com Tony later became CEO in 2000. Swinmurn left the company, in 2006. Amazon bought Zappos for $1.2 billion in 2009.

“Shoesite.com” is adorable. The name alone captures the ethos of that late ’90s “dot com” era. Of course the original name was just “shoesite.com”. And of course it still redirects to Zappos.

“I believe that getting the culture right is the most important thing a company can do.” —Tony Hsieh

I wrote about LinkExchange for Forbes, even though I never met Tony or Alfred till much later in life. My startup was housed in the same office as LinkExchange in SOMA through some strange twist of fate. I later got to know Tony socially through non-tech friends. Quiet, kind, quirky, but always open to the impossible.

With Tony’s passing, I feel something special has ended. I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe a certain innocent aspect of the early possibilities of the Internet. Maybe I feel the contrast of those days to a now that is more mercenary, less friendly, and more polarized. Whatever, without knowing Tony as well as I should, I mourn him deeply.

“Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes.” —Tony Hsieh

The outpouring of love and admiration for Hsieh from those who knew him is just remarkable.