Billion dollar man Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh speaks about "Delivering Happiness" at Grow2010
The Grow Conference took place Aug 19-21 at the Vancouver Convention Center. I didn't attend any of the conference sessions, as I spent all day interviewing over 22 Grow speakers, organizers, and other business people attending Grow.
The interview list includes featured speakers such as Tony Hsieh CEO of Zappos.com, Leonard Brody, President of Clarity Digital Group, Wesley Chan, investment partner at Google Ventures, Robert Goldberg, Senior Vice President of Corporate Development at Zynga, Jeff Clavier, Managing Partner at SoftTechVC, and Tom Conrad, Chief Technical Officer, Pandora Internet radio. I interviewed several event sponsors such as Jason Brandon, Director of Rogers Ventures, and Robin Axon and Duncan Hill, General Partners, Mantella Ventures. I also sat down and spoke with Dealmakermedia.com CEO and Grow Conference organizer Debbie Landa. These audio interviews will be published over the next week or two.
Featured interview: with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, whose company has grown to $1 billion in yearly gross revenue from online sales. He wrote a book on his entrepreneurial experiences and his company's pursuit of "Delivering Happiness".
Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos.com and Author of "Delivering Happiness". Speaker at Grow Conference in the Vancouver Convention Center. Sonia Ryan from Bootup Labs, and Tarlan Seyedfarshi from Capilano Suspension Bridge.
Listen to Tony Hsieh interview: Transcription of the audio interview
Jonathan Hanley: Can you tell me your name and a bit about your company?
Tony Hsieh: My name is Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. Zappos - we've been around for a little over 11 years now. We started out selling shoes online but we actually sell a lot more than shoes here. We sell clothing, and beauty products, handbags, and so on. The vast, vast majority of our business is in the U.S., and really our goal is to build the Zappos brand, to be about the best customer service and customer experience. We've grown from basically no sales in 1999 to we're now doing over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales every year. The number one driver of that growth is through repeat customers and word of mouth. [And online sales.] Prior to Zappos, I had started a company with a college roommate called Link Exchange. We specialized in online advertising. This was in 1996. We grew that to 100 or so employees, and ended up selling the company to Microsoft in 1998.
Jonathan Hanley: What was the reason for starting Zappos?
Tony Hsieh: After selling Link Exchange, then this guy named Alfred, he and I got together and started an investement fund. We invested in 20 or so different internet companies, and Zappos just happened to be one of them. But over the course of a year, I realised after a year that for me investing was pretty boring. I really missed being part of building something. It felt like I was always sitting on the sidelines, so I ended up joining Zappos full-time within a year.
Jonathan Hanley: What keeps you motivated to stay at Zappos?
Tony Hsieh: I think it's that things are always changing. The sky's the limit, since we're building our brand about customer service. As I talked about in the interview at the Conference, there could one day be a Zappos Airlines. That's just about the very best in customer service. I think if the business was just about selling shoes, I'd just get bored.
Jonathan Hanley: Maybe elaborate on your talk today. You spoke today at the Grow Conference, is that right?
Tony Hsieh: I was interviewed by Kara Swisher. I just talked a little bit about Zappos and the book that just came out called "Delivering Happiness" and the subtitle of the book is "A path to profits, passion, and purpose". Part of the reason for writing the book is that Zappos may seem like an overnight success, but the truth is we made a lot of mistakes along the way. During the interview we talked, for example, hiring mistakes that cost us over $100 million. We learned a lot of lessons along the way. Prior to Zappos, I learned a lot of lessons as well. So part of the goal is to share those stories with other Entrepreneurs and Business people and hopefully help them make fewer mistakes.
Jonathan Hanley: What was the reasoning behind the title of the book?