In 2011, I moved from NJ to Vegas. It didn’t take long for me to hook up with the Vegas tech scene and the Downtown Project. Over the course of my five years in Sin City, I attended events, spoke at Zappos’s HQ a few times, met plenty of smart cookies, and learned a great deal about one man’s attempts to revitalize the longtime gambling mecca.
That man, of course, was Tony Hsieh.
I met Tony a few times, and I definitely sensed an aura about him. After I moved to Arizona in 2016, I didn’t follow Vegas events as closely. I read a few articles about the DTP’s travails and knew that he had resigned from Zappos in the summer of 2020. Sadly, Hsieh passed away a few months after. To be sure, there were gaps in my knowledge—and I wanted to fill them.
Against that backdrop, I just finished the excellent book Wonder Boy: Tony Hsieh, Zappos, and the Myth of Happiness in Silicon Valley. Angel Au-Yeung and David Jeans have done what few books business are able to do: move the reader.
Part of me enjoyed the trip down memory lane. I remember well networking events at the Downtown Cocktail Room and many of Tony’s other renovated locales. I even crashed one night at The Ogden.
On a deeper level, though, reading the book made me sad. Tony’s wealth, incessant need for companionship, and big ideas attracted no shortage of opportunists competing for status. When tragedy inevitably struck, the panoply post-death lawsuits that followed angered me. I can’t imagine the grief that his parents experienced, compounded no doubt by people claiming that Post-it notes entitled them to millions of their dead son’s savings.
I’m still processing the book, but I wonder—as I’m sure others have—what might have happened if more of the folks in Tony’s inner circle had just said no. Would he still be alive today? Or would have have excommunicated them and sent them off of the island?
Give it a read.