The Time I Met Tony Hseih From Zappos
By Marc Reifenrath on May 17, 2017 in Company News
In March of 2010 I was attending SXSW for my third time. That year we had Cory Schmidt, Adam Lewis and Todd Reifenrath from Spinutech in attendance. We went to many great sessions. I was able to see the the usual suspects at SXSW like Jason Fried from 37Signals, then Twitter CEO Evan Williams and of course, Gary Vaynerchuk.
I haven’t been to SXSW for a few years now. The event changed, got really big and was harder to leave with as much value as you did the first few years we went in 2008 through 2010. We did meet several famous and “Internet Famous” people in our times there. I once met Seth Rogan at a BBQ joint, it was then really awkward when we sat at the table right next to them. There was also the year we met Gary Vaynerchuk. He was doing a wine tasting and jumped from place to place. We were able to get some Gary V swag and some free wine.
Tony was at SXSW that year promoting his, at the time, new book Delivering Happiness. We were given a copy of it by a promoter on the street - I believe the same night we had our encounter. Tony had a presentation as well which drew a big crowd. The day after we saw Tony Hseih give his talk we were going out for dinner. Right around the corner from our hotel, the Hilton right by the convention center, was a bus. It was possibly branded with Zappos, but my memory is a little vague on that. There was a small crowd by the bus and there was Tony Hseih. He started talking to us and shook all of our hands. We were small talking with him and giving him compliments on his talk.
Tony is a fairly quiet guy, very mild mannered. He told a funny story about a time he was about to go on stage for a talk and he spilled water on his right leg. So as to not make it look out of place he dumped water on the other side as well. He also talked a lot about Zappos culture and how they paid new hires to quit as to get rid of a more costly mistake later. I think we all left with some great nuggets that have helped shape some of our own culture over the years.
Let’s get back to that night when we met Tony. So the bus.... We were done small talking and Tony said we should get on the bus. He maybe called it a party bus, I’m not sure. So we decided to get on the bus and I’ll do my best to describe it and also keep it PG.
There were a ton of people on there with black lights, a disco ball, rave type music, smoke of some sort? And then maybe the strangest thing of all, balloon animals. Lots of balloon animals. It was kind of like this:
We got all kinds of weird looks when we got on and we all kind of looked at each other in that “we don’t fit in here” kind of look. So we bolted and thanked Tony for the invite but we had to run.
It was a really strange series of events. Tony had a lot of great things to say about company culture and we were really impressed with Zappos approach and the "fire before you hire" mentality. It's so important to hire the right cultural fit even more so than the skillset. When writing this post I did a few searches and found the video above that validates many of my memories. It also shows lots of balloon animals.