In 1998, at the age of 24, Tony Hsieh sold his first company to Microsoft for $265 million. In 2009, at the age of 35, he sold his e-commerce company, Zappos, to Amazon for $1.2 billion. In 2020, at the age of 46, he died. Tony Hsieh revolutionized both the tech world and corporate culture. He was a business visionary. He was also a man in search of happiness. So why did it all go so wrong?
It is a gripping, uncomfortable read. One wants to identify the moment when Hsieh’s life turned a corner ... At its heart, this is a story about addiction ... Au-Yeung and Jeans, who covered Hsieh’s death for Forbes magazine, want to tell another story, though, about the dark side of the tech boom. There is something to this ... Why didn’t anyone force Hsieh into treatment? Au-Yeung and Jeans have performed a true service by trying to find out, interviewing many of those in his inner circle. Their writing is frustratingly clunky, as if written in haste. But the material is compelling, with the gathering tension of a slow-motion disaster. The final chapters, documenting a series of interventions that went nowhere, are riveting ... They default to a conclusion worthy of a TED Talk: that Hsieh was doomed because happiness is an intrinsically unreachable goal ... This is an unsatisfying ending, given the evidence they have laid out in the preceding pages.
A compelling and tragic story, but it’s also more than that. The authors pose questions that reverberate beyond Hsieh’s life. Are entrepreneurs more subject to mental-health problems than the average population?