Popular Las Vegas TechPreneur, Tony Hsieh Dies At 46

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Tony Hsieh, the former head of Zappos, who catapulted the shoe company into the major leagues with a sale to Amazon, and then used the proceeds of his success in a massive project to kick-start the reconstruction of the run-down part of Las Vegas, Nevada, with tech and wider business investment, died at the age of 46.

The cause was injuries caused by a house fire, a Hsieh spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch. At the time of the crash, he was in Connecticut with his brother. It’s not clear whether anyone else has been hurt.

The ultimate cause of the death of Hsieh is still under investigation. The full statement of the DTP Companies that ran the Downtown Project (Hsieh’s Mammut plan to redevelop the very run-down, older portion of Las Vegas) is below.



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The news sent shock waves in the middle of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and across a community in a city – heavily dependent on tourism – that was hit extremely hard by the Covid 19 global health pandemic.

Hsieh was a bright, offbeat individual, and—to many people, sometimes very directly—a kind-hearted person who was regularly described as a visionary.

It wasn’t an overstatement. Growing up in the Bay Area, he sold his first company—LinkExchange, a marketing software company—to Microsoft when he was just 24 years old in 1998.

Using some of the proceeds, he founded a venture capital company called Venture Frog. One of his early ventures was ShoeSite.com, created in 1999 by Nick Swinmurn at a time when he saw a change in how people were shopping for shoes, doing a lot more online.

Hsieh was entrepreneurial in his investment instincts and then took on a more hands-on role in the startup, which eventually rebranded as Zappos. As CEO of Zappos, Hsieh relocated the business from the Bay Area to the outskirts of Vegas in 2004 to create a larger customer service network, operated under an especially strong ethos of flat management aimed at empowering and encouraging workers. His leadership helped propel him to massive growth: by 2009, he sold Zappos to Amazon for around $1.2 billion (a huge amount for an e-commerce startup at the time).

He then continued to run the business, using the proceeds of the work to concentrate on his next major project: urban regeneration.

Las Vegas is a town that leaves nothing to sentimentality. Located in the middle of the desert, the city’s unrelenting emphasis has long been on development, breaking fresh, almost boundless ground to do so. For years, that meant vast swathes of “older” Vegas businesses, in the downtown area, just sitting empty, turning the wider area into a hotbed of crime and poverty. As in many other urban centres, this has become a vicious cycle: people are focused on building newer homes and businesses elsewhere, leaving older neighborhoods much more neglected and vulnerable.

Hsieh saw the appeal of Downtown, full of modernist 20th-century blooming under its more evident signs of decline, and proceeded to purchase large sections of the area: apartment buildings, apartments, small business structures, old casinos and hotels, and empty lots.

His vision was not only to be a real estate magnate—although that was obviously something that fascinated him, too—but to regenerate Vegas in the mold of what he knew best: tech.

He continued to invest in a large array of start-ups, provided they relocated to Vegas to develop their downtown businesses, to introduce entrepreneurs and employment to the city.

There were a lot of strange aspects to the effort: it wasn’t just about hard-nosed enterprise, and some of it was just about trying to have fun on a grand scale. Inspired by Burning Man, for example, Hsieh paid to have some of the structures constructed for a festival in the desert transported and permanently installed in the downtown area.

Hopping from the casino to the bar to the restaurant, one night we ended up in a great piano karaoke dive where his best friend from childhood and I sang Duran Duran duets and Frenet Brancas came back. People flocked around him everywhere he went (so many breathless “Hi, Tony” from many of the women we walked past). I recall wondering if this was what it was like to be a mafia boss (with a friend playing the part of a consiglier, or a guest for the night back in the day.

Of course, the Downtown Project, as it came to be known, was a grand vision, and like all grand visions, it had its ups and downs.
Hsieh unexpectedly resigned as CEO of Zappos earlier this year without any reason for the change, after 21 years in office.

Still between Zappos and what Hsieh developed in the area, his work and his larger ideas were and are an important testament to the influence that the technology industry can have with a little creativity and a lot of hard work and determination.

Our condolences go out to his family and his many colleagues, as well as to those in the tech and business community he helped to develop.

The following DTP Statement:

Good afternoon, my name is Megan Fazio and I’m in charge of public relations for DTP Companies, formerly known as the Downtown Project, in which Tony Hsieh is a visionary. With a heavy and saddened heart, we regret to inform you that Tony Hsieh died peacefully on November 27, 2020 surrounded by his beloved family.

Tony’s goodness and compassion touched the lives of those around him and made the world brighter forever. Delivering happiness has always been his mantra, so instead of grieving his transition, we ask you to join us in celebrating his life.

On behalf of all employees and workers of DTP Businesses, we would like to express our deepest condolences to Tony’s family and friends who have all lost Tony as a loved one a visionary and a comrade. Tony was highly respected by all his fellow friends and colleagues in a tight-knit family at DTP Businesses, so this heartbreaking loss is one that affects all of them.

We ask that you continue to respect the privacy of your family during this most difficult and demanding period.

Our sincere condolences to his family and to his many colleagues, as well as to those in the tech and business community he helped to develop.

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