Tony Hsieh, retired Zappos CEO passed away at 46-years-old last week. Yahoo Finance’s Andy Serwer remembers & pays tribute to Tony’s life.
MYLES UDLAND: First we have some sad news that broke over the weekend to discuss a bit more here. Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos, passed away over the weekend at 46 years of age, reportedly from complications due to a house fire. And Yahoo Finance Editor in Chief Andy Serwer joins us now to talk about Hsieh’s place, Andy, in the e-commerce landscape as we know it today. Zappos was doing a lot of the things that are now what you would call table stakes in the space well before many businesses were doing them. I remember the free returns, the two-day shipping. I mean, they were the leading edge of a lot of what is now the minimum expectation to even be in the online sales space.
ANDY SERWER: Yeah, that’s right, Myles. And, I mean, you know, they said you couldn’t sell shoes on the internet, right, because you need to try them on and returns were a pain in the neck, but Tony Hsieh proved them wrong.
And the reason why that’s the case is because he truly was a think different kind of person. He studied computer science at Harvard, but he was the ultimate people person. He was soft spoken, he was cerebral, and he had tremendous respect from the likes of Jeff Bezos in particular. Jeff Bezos singled him out, bought that company years ago, and kept it autonomous– very, very unusual.
And then Tony also was someone who was very comfortable talking to the press even though he was soft spoken and kind of quirky, unlike everyone else at Amazon, right? And so when he moved to Las Vegas, ultimately, and began to do work there and develop the city there, he was really an advocate for that city as well and someone people looked to as kind of a voice of reason when it came to e-commerce, Silicon Valley, and digital commerce just generally speaking.
JULIE HYMAN: And, Andy, what’s interesting as well is that he wasn’t just, you know, a friend of just Bezos and sort of titans of the tech community. As I was looking over the weekend, there were so many people posting on social media, particularly tech-startup entrepreneurs, right, who had had personal relationships with him. So it seems like he had a big effect in that community as well as being sort of an inspiration to people– other people who were starting companies in tech.
ANDY SERWER: Yeah, I mean, he was an incredibly generous and giving person, Julie. I mean, that was the thing about him. He would spend time talking to anybody, maybe to a fault. Sometimes people would complain. You’ve got to focus on the business. And I remember him saying, but this is the business, you know, people.
And, you know, everyone talked about how great the consumer experience was at Zappos and the customer experience and all that. He had an incredible morale machine at Zappos. I mean, that’s what he built. The people loved working there because he was such an inspirational leader, not in a get on a soapbox rant kind of way but just in that he really cared so deeply about people and was willing to listen to their problems and sort of shape the company around understanding how people worked, both customers and employees together and where they sort of fit together.
MYLES UDLAND: And we’re seeing just some of this B-roll here about, Andy, his involvement with the city of Las Vegas, and perhaps Hsieh a bit ahead of his time as well in viewing cities that aren’t often thought of as tech hubs as places really to be for that industry.
ANDY SERWER: Yeah, and it was so unlikely too, Myles. Like Las Vegas, really? You know, because he wasn’t this flashy, you know, guy who liked to gamble at all. There were some reasons why he liked to be there. I think there was– you know, it was out of the glare of Silicon Valley. Costs were lower. But once he was there, he really embraced the city and did try to, you know, instill change there and also tried to build it up as a tech hub and did succeed to a degree.
And people think about Las Vegas. They think about Tony Hsieh. And, you know, he’s a very different kind of person when you think about the usual suspects when it comes to Las Vegas.
MYLES UDLAND: All right, Yahoo Finance editor in chief Andy Serwer. Andy, thanks so much for joining the program this morning.
ANDY SERWER: Thank you.