In 1998, at the age of 24, Tony Hsieh sold his first company to Microsoft for $265 million.
In 2009, at the age of 35, he sold his e-commerce company, Zappos, to Amazon for $1.2 billion.
In 2020, at the age of 46, he died.
Tony Hsieh revolutionized both the tech world and corporate culture. He was a business visionary. He was also a man in search of happiness. So why did it all go so wrong?
Tony Hsieh’s first successful venture was in middle school, selling personalized buttons. At Harvard, he made a profit compiling and selling study guides. From there, he went on to build the billion-dollar online shoe empire of Zappos.
The secret to his success? Making his employees happy.
At its peak, Zappos’s employee-friendly culture was so famous across the tech industry that it inspired copycats and earned a cult following. Then Hsieh moved the Zappos headquarters to Las Vegas, where he personally funded a nine-figure campaign to revitalize the city’s historic downtown area. But as Hsieh fell deeper into his struggles with mental health and drug addiction, the people making up his inner circle began changing from friends to enablers.
Drawing on hundreds of interviews with a wide range of people whose lives Hsieh touched, journalists Angel Au-Yeung and David Jeans craft a rich portrait of a man who was plagued by his eternal search for happiness and ultimately succumbed to his own demons.
Journalists Au-Yeung and Jeans debut with a nuanced, sympathetic biography of Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, tracing his life from Silicon Valley wunderkind through his spiraling addiction and death in 2020. Hsieh was raised in Northern California by Taiwanese immigrant parents, and from an early age he showed a penchant for moneymaking schemes that included starting his own newspaper while he was in middle school. After a Harvard career marked by intense study and sobriety, he created LinkExchange, which brokered the sale of advertising space on small businesses' websites, and began partying. The authors cover Hsieh's founding of Zappos in 1999 and his decision to move the company to Las Vegas and later sell to Amazon, but the most affecting material covers Hsieh's worsening addictions and mental illness. They suggest Hsieh's childlike earnestness and desire to be a "man of the people" disintegrated into grandiosity and delusion as he began using ketamine and became insulated from the interventions of friends and family by yes men on his payroll, until he died in a fire at age 46, when the Connecticut storage shed where he'd holed up burned down. Au-Yeung and Jeans's empathetic portrait is as enthralling as it is achingly sad, combining rich research with a propulsive novelistic style. Readers will have a hard time putting this down.