Tony Hseih, the Zappos visionary who convinced skeptical Americans to buy shoes online without trying them on, paid new employees to quit, and lived in an Airstream, has died at the age of 46 from complications from a house fire, reports the Wall Street Journal. Fire officials in New London, Conn., said they were called to a burning waterfront home at 3:34am on Nov. 18, where they had to force their way inside to remove Hseih and begin CPR; he suffered burns and smoke inhalation. He died Friday.
Hsieh was the Harvard-educated son of Taiwanese immigrants who stumbled onto Zappos, saw it through the dot-com bust, and eventually sold it to Amazon for $1 billion in 2009. He continued to run it as a standalone division until he retired from the company in August. Over at Inc.com, Bill Murphy Jr. remembers Hseih for his two-word employment policy: "The offer." Basically, after a short time on the job, employees could choose to stay or go. If they chose the latter, Zappos would pay them to leave. "It wasn't altruism," writes Murphy. "Zappos was better off without employees who didn't want to be there." (That wasn't Hseih's only radical policy.)