How Zappos CEO’s obsession with raving helped him create a billion-dollar company

This post is by Jillian D'Onfro, Business Insider from VentureBeat

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How Zappos CEO’s obsession with raving helped him create a billion-dollar company

Above: Zappos founder Tony Hsieh

Image Credit: Robert Scoble/Flickr

On the way to his very first rave ever, Tony Hsieh, 26 years old and not yet the CEO of e-commerce site Zappos, was already excited for the night to be over. He found electronic music annoying and didn’t understand the appeal of packing into a space to dance to some repetitive beat without words. As he waited in the 20 minute line outside the gigantic empty warehouse, he secretly wondered how long he’d have to stay there.

“What I experienced next changed my perspective forever,” he writes in his book Delivering Happiness: A Path To Profits, Passion, And Purpose.

The people packed into the enormous warehouse were dancing differently than anything he’d ever seen at in a nightclub. Instead of grinding against each other, the people all faced the DJ, who seemed to be channeling his energy to the pulsing crowd.

“The entire room felt like one massive, united tribe of thousands of people,” he writes. “I felt a sense of experiential epiphany. It swept through my entire being.”

The throb of the electronic music, he realized, felt like a heartbeat and it was as if the existence of individual consciousness had been replaced by a group consciousness.

“Everyone in the room had a shared purpose,” he writes. “We were all contributors to the collective rave experience.”

Hsieh fell in love with that connectedness and raving became a big part of his life. Although he has said in interviews that, at 40, he no longer attends the all-night dance parties of his youth, his rave-obsession hugely influenced his views on management and happiness in general.

At the time of that first rave, he had already made a fortune from selling his first startup, LinkExchange, to Microsoft for $265 million when he was only 24.

His entrepreneurial drive had cropped up much earlier though: He started a worm-farming business when he was nine, which flopped, and a button-making business in middle school through which he pulled in about $200 a month. He also created his own newsletter, selling it for $5 a copy and charging $20 for a full-page ad. In college at Harvard, he sold study guides to fellow classmates for $20 a pop.

He and a friend from Harvard, Sanjay Madan, started adverting company LinkExchange after graduation. Hsieh originally had a job at Oracle, but had quit because he found the corporate environment boring.

After LinkExchange’s major exit to Microscoft, Hsieh invested $500,000 in a startup called ShoeSite. ShoeSite soon became Zappos and Hsieh eventually became its CEO. He moved its headquarters to Las Vegas in 2004 and the company became known for its almost-insane customer service and quirky company culture. In 2009, Amazon bought Zappos in a deal worth $1.2 billion.

How did Hsieh’s experience with raving help him turn Zappos into a billion-dollar company?

Partially because of a psychological concept called “the hive switch.” The idea, explored at length by Jonathan Haidt in “The Righteous Mind,” is that humans are mostly self-serving, but can occasionally tap into a desire to cooperate and work together. Certain experiences can trigger that group-mentality, which Haidt calls that the hive switch because it mirrors how bees work together for the benefit of the hive.

Hsieh found that his “hive switch” got turned on by raving.

“It was a feeling of unity with the other people in the space, unity with the music and with one another,” he told Playboy earlier this year.

Hsieh tries to evoke that sense of connectedness amongst Zapponians, the name given to Zappos employees.

One of the companies “ten commandments” is to “build a positive team and family spirit.”

Hsieg tries to achieve that partially through fostering a a wacky company culture that has included liberal shots of Grey Goose, a guy in a hot-dog suit doing back flips, Tutu Tuesdays, and a horse on the 10th floor of the office for Chinese New Year.

He wants employees to bond over their quirks, have plenty of creative freedom, but bond together through parties, outings, and adventures (Zappos holds parades through its offices all the time).

Like ravers all dance alone but move to the same beat, Zappos employees are appreciated for who they are and have their individual roles but work towards the greater goals of the company.

In his book, Hsieh also defines what he sees as the four tenets of happiness: “perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness (number and depth of your relationships, and vision/meaning (being part of something bigger than yourself).”

That last piece of Hsieh’s “happiness framework” connects back to what he learned while raving as well.

“Everyone in the room had a shared purpose,” he says of that first rave. “We were all contributors to the collective rave experience.”

This story originally appeared on Business Insider.

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Zappos, a subsidiary of, is a leader in online apparel and footwear sales by striving to provide shoppers the best possible service and selection. We carry millions of products from over 1000 footwear and apparel brands. Est… read more »

Grumpy Cat’s new movie shows she should have stayed a meme

This post is by Kwame Opam from The Verge - All Posts

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Sometimes the internet takes things too far.

Grumpy Cat, neé Tardar Sauce, was born in 2012, and because she happens to have feline dwarfism, she has a distinctly pissed off face. The kind of face made for image macros meant to express the inherent truth of life in the age of late capitalism: that existence has been bled of all meaning and is therefore joyless. Or something. It’s pretty perfect actually:

So, naturally, people went gaga over her. She was “interviewed” on Good Morning America. She’s been to SXSW. Nevermind the fact that Tardar Sauce was never and will never be in on the joke because she as a cat would sooner nap than deal with you. But we carried on anthropomorphizing her because the shit was funny. That was fully…

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Changing The Rules Of E-Commerce

This post is by Tim Chang from TechCrunch

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rulebook In late summer, Mayfield and CRV co-hosted a dinner for entrepreneurs at e-commerce 2.0 companies, including Brit& Co, Dolls Kill, Dropship, Indiegogo, Kiwi Crate, LeTote, Massdrop, Pebble, Peek, Poshmark, The Hunt, Tophatter, Touch of Modern, Trendalytics, Udemy and Urban Remedy. Over dinner and drinks these executives discussed the factors making e-commerce cool again for investors… Read More

Current, a Facebook app for Mac, highlights the network’s core: pictures & chat

This post is by Kia Kokalitcheva from VentureBeat

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Current, a Facebook app for Mac, highlights the network’s core: pictures & chat
Image Credit: Franco Bouly

Funny to think that, while Facebook is a native app on mobile, it’s still trapped in the browser on desktop.

Scott Kyle, a Capitola, Calif.-based developer, decided to build his own: Current for Facebook. Current, which hit the top of tech product leaderboard Product Hunt today, is a $1.99 Mac app that brings the entire Facebook functionality to your desktop.

Born out of Kyle’s desire to improve what he found to be a frustrating browsing experience for the News Feed, Current is designer to spotlight elements such as photos and videos (they pop out into their own windows and tabs). The main app pretty much looks like a browser window with Facebook loaded into it — even the sign-in page is Facebook’s original homepage, not a fancy Mac app dialog box. When you click a link, it opens in a new tab, just as it would in a regular browser, but when you click on a photo or video, it pops open in its own window, freeing you to interact with it independently with it and your News Feed.

Photos are a core function of Facebook, having become the main repository for many of us who have been documenting our lives on Facebook for years, uploading to it any and all of our photos to share and store.

On the technical side of things, Current interfaces with Facebook’s JavaScript to render parts of it into different Web views, which is why it does look and feel like Facebook in the browser.

The Current app can also show up in your desktop menu bar at the top right, letting you quickly access Facebook chat, your messages, notifications. You can, of course, customize which of these you’d like to receive notifications for, allowing you to manage how much Facebook distracts you.

Current FAcebook app

Chat is the reason I log in

But Kyle also turned his attention to the messaging portion of Facebook, which is “a core part of using Facebook for so many users,” as he wrote in an email to VentureBeat. Facebook chat conversions with Current pop out into their own windows, and you could even use Current purely as a Messenger client if you want to. You can already do that with other clients such as Mac OS’s native Messages app, or third-party apps like Adium.

It’s also interesting how Current lets you split Facebook’s elements, much like Facebook did when it launched Messenger, its mobile chat app that it’s now imposing on mobile users.

Current isn’t the first Facebook for Mac app. Many others have built Facebook Messenger clients, without much success, and there have even been a couple of attempts to port the whole social network to the desktop. But Facebook killed its Windows and Firefox Messenger apps last spring, a move that’s not surprising given the company’s clear investment in mobile, especially in the past few quarters.

But I’d venture to say that Current might be getting at the core of Facebook, at least on desktop, much more than the company seems to understand. While some of my friends keep their chat turned off at all times, looking to prevent friends from interrupting them, I keep Facebook open on my computer precisely in order to have real-time access to chat.

Facebook is how we connect with other people (yes, Zuckerberg, you’ve achieved becoming the connector in my world), so why wouldn’t we want to have a convenient way to access Facebook chat on desktop? We’re on desktop during work hours anyway, so let’s optimize it.

While Facebook is spending a lot of money, energy, and engineering talent on mobile, I don’t think it’s leaving the desktop anytime soon.

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Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1.15 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 w… read more »

Hands On With Microsoft’s New Fitness Wearable, The Band

This post is by Alex Wilhelm from TechCrunch

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mbandthumb Dropping out of left field like a foul fly ball from the Kansas City Royals this week, the Microsoft Band was a surprise. Part fitness band, part computer, part mobile Twitter and stock-checking smartgadget, the Band is a mix of things.
And it pretty much works. It’s still a bit clunky, as you might expect from first-generation hardware, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Band. Read More

‘What to Think’ Episode 27: Aneesh Chopra on and the future of health

This post is by Mark Sullivan from VentureBeat

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‘What to Think’ Episode 27: Aneesh Chopra on and the future of health
Image Credit: VentureBeat

For our latest podcast we connected with former White House CTO Aneesh Chopra at VentureBeat’s HealthBeat conference to talk about the state of the government’s insurance marketplace, among other things.

A year ago, then White House CTO Chopra wrote a guest post for VentureBeat about the government health insurance exchange, which at the time was mired in technical glitches and was considered a big black eye for the Obama Administration’s health reform program. Chopra says a lot has happened since then, and that the exchange has gone on to a new, and better, phase.


Above: Former (and first) White House CTO Aneesh Chopra

Chopra also discusses new digital health approaches to personalizing health care for consumers, and new federal initiatives that will pay health providers to begin sharing health care data with each other.

Plus, we tell you what to think about

You can subscribe to “What to Think” on iTunes. Or you can listen to Episode 27 right here:

In addition, you can listen to us on Stitcher or get the What to Think RSS feed for the podcast player of your choice.

Or download the MP3 of episode 27 here.

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Box was founded on a simple, powerful idea: it should be easy for people to access, collaborate, and share all their content, wherever they are. Co-founders Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith, along with our fast-growing team, have since esta… read more »

Aneesh is the former (and first) U.S. Chief Technology Officer. As an Assistant to the President, he designed the National Wireless Initiative, helped launch Startup America, and executed an “open innovation” strategy across the go… read more »

Contextly Expands Its Content Recommendation Platform To Include Videos And For-Sale Products, Too

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contextly With the latest expansion of its content recommendation tools, startup Contextly isn’t just pointing visitors to relevant articles, but videos and products, too.
Co-founder and CEO Ryan Singel (a former editor at Wired) told me that this is “doubling down” on the company’s current strategy. Read More

Why middle-aged entrepreneurs will be critical to the next trillion-dollar business

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Why middle-aged entrepreneurs will be critical to the next trillion-dollar business
Image Credit: VLADGRIN / Shutterstock

Steve Jobs was 52 when he announced the iPhone. That was in 2007. Years later, the Apple cofounder introduced the MacBook Air, App Store, and iPad. Tim Cook, who was 51 when he took over from Jobs, is building on his legacy. They both shattered a myth that the young rule the technology industry.

Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists, however, speak openly of their bias toward the young.

“People under 35 are the people who make change happen; people over 45 basically die in terms of new ideas,” Vinod Khosla, a prominent investor, said at a conference I attended.

Referring to the age of entrepreneurs whom venture capitalists fund, investor Paul Graham told the New York Times, “The cutoff in investors’ heads is 32; after 32, they start to be a little skeptical.” He acknowledged that he could be “tricked by anyone who looks like Mark Zuckerberg.” Others go so far as to claim that Internet entrepreneurs peak at age 25.

The cult of youth is so powerful that billionaire Peter Thiel announced in September 2010 that he would pay college students $100,000 to drop out. Instead of “wasting” precious years in school and then being burdened by “incredible amounts of debt,” he said, they could be “focused on breakthrough technologies that will take civilization to the next level.”

The result of this bias is that older entrepreneurs are often shunned while younger entrepreneurs receive attention and funding. This is hurting the venture-capital system as well as Silicon Valley — because the stereotypes are flawed.

Research on successful technology firms by a team I led at Duke and Harvard in 2008 looked only at companies that had made it out of the garage and were generating at least $1 million in revenue. The research revealed that the average and median age of their founders was 39. Twice as many were older than 50 as were younger than 25. And twice as many were older than 60 as were younger than 20. In a follow-up project, we studied the backgrounds of 549 successful entrepreneurs in 12 high-growth industries. The average and median age of male founders in this group was 40, and a significant proportion were older than 50.

Dane Stangler, vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation, built on our findings by analyzing Kauffman Firm Survey data and the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, which uses data from the U.S. Census. He found that, in every year from 1996 to 2013, Americans in the 55-to-64 age group started new businesses at a higher rate than those in their twenties and thirties. And the trend is building. Those ages 55 to 64 started 14 percent of all new businesses in 1996 but nearly 24 percent of them in 2013.

There are hordes of young founders in Silicon Valley, some of whom drop out of school to start their companies. Venture capitalists collectively invest billions in them. The vast majority of these startups fail, however, because there is no substitute for experience and knowledge. What makes entrepreneurs successful, as my team’s research revealed, is work and industry experience and management ability. These come with age. The inexperience — and immaturity — of youth is one reason venture capitalists’ track record is so poor. In 2012, the Kauffman Foundation analyzed 20 years of investment data from nearly 100 venture funds. It found that the vast majority of them produced lower returns than did the public markets.

The experiment by Thiel to pay college students to drop out did not result in any world-changing startups. Most Thiel fellows joined other companies or went back to school. The Thiel Foundation quietly redesigned its program, which now provides an alternative education to children. Perhaps the realization set in that the innovation advantage isn’t provided by youth, but by knowledge, maturity, experience, and connections.

The claim that only the young can effect change has been disproved not only by Apple, but also by founders, inventors, innovators, and executives at almost every major technology company, including Google, LinkedIn,, Qualcomm, and Intel. Qualcomm, for example, was founded by Irwin Jacobs when he was 52 and Andrew Viterbi, who was 50.

It also is untrue that people “die in terms of new ideas” as they approach 45 or that “young people are just smarter,” as Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told an audience at Stanford in 2007.

Benjamin F. Jones, an economist at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, analyzed the backgrounds of Nobel Prize winners and other great achievers of the 20th century. He found that the average age at which Nobel laureates performed their prizewinning work and the average age at which inventors had their great achievement was 39. He also found that twice as many — 14 percent — were older than 50 as were younger than 26. Jones found that the average age of innovators is steadily rising, with the average age of greatest achievement for Nobel Prize winners and great tech inventors having increased six years, to 45, in the 20th century.

Young entrepreneurs surely have an advantage in social media and app building. They understand these new technologies better than their parents do because they have grown up using them. It also is easier to write code for a cellphone than to learn how to motivate and inspire employees, manage finances, and market products. But building a business requires all of those skills. That is why older entrepreneurs have more success. As baby boomers become as familiar with Internet and mobile technologies as their children are, they surely will give the youngsters a run for their money. They also have greater buying power and a better understanding of the markets for the next generation of technologies.

A technology shift is happening that will dramatically alter the entrepreneurial landscape in the next few years. Several technologies — involving medicine, robotics, artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, 3D printing, and nanomaterials — are advancing at exponential rates and are converging. This is the same type of advance that is occurring with computers — with processing power doubling every 18 months, prices falling, and devices becoming smaller. A $500 laptop today has more computing power than did a Cray 2 supercomputer that cost $17.5 million in 1985 and had to be housed in a large building.

These advances are making it possible to solve the global problems of health, energy, education, and hunger. Inexpensive sensor-based devices, for example, allow the continual measurement of heart rate, temperature, movement, pressure and light. They can be used to build devices that keep track of blood pressure, glucose and blood oxygen levels, respiration and even sleeping habits. They also can be used to improve agriculture, monitor the environment and reduce food spoilage. Systems based on artificial intelligence can be used to make medical diagnoses, to drive autonomous cars, and to predict traffic patterns, crime and trends. Robotic devices will allow us to care for the elderly and automate routine processes. Digital tutors will be able to transform education.

These technologies will make it possible to create the next trillion-dollar industries and to better our lives. But they require knowledge of fields such as medicine, biotechnology, engineering, and nanotechnology. They require experience, an understanding of the problems people face, and cross-disciplinary skills. All of these come with age and experience, which middle-aged entrepreneurs have in abundance. That is why we need to get beyond the stereotypes and realize that older entrepreneurs are going to better the world.

Vivek Wadhwa is a fellow at the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke’s engineering school and distinguished scholar at Singularity and Emory universities. His past appointments include Harvard Law School and University of California Berkeley.

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CrunchWeek: Google Hunts For Cancer, Microsoft’s Fitness Band, And Kim Kardashian Goes To A Tech Conference

This post is by Sarah Buhr from TechCrunch

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crunchweek Alex Wilhelm, Kyle Russell and I discuss Google[x]‘s new nanoparticle project to hunt down cancerous cells, Alex shows off his shiny new fitness tracker from Microsoft, and the scary comments we received after Kim Kardashian showed up at a tech conference.
Also, Happy Halloween! We all put on cat ears just for you. Read More

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is fun, but Xbox 360 HD remaster is rough

This post is by Andru Edwards from Gear Live

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<img alt="Grand Theft Auto San ANdreas" src="" style="width: 575px; height: 323px;" /></p>

Somehow, 10 years have already passed since the release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas--arguably the most innovative game in the series. To coincide with the recent anniversary, Rockstar re-released the game on Xbox 360, replacing the Games on Demand version with a slightly improved version. And while the game itself remains an enjoyable experience, this may not be the best way of revisiting it.

I find myself occasionally in the mood to play one of the classic GTA III-era games (GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas), which are among my all-time favorite games. I typically ignore this compulsion or simply spend a few minutes with the iPhone version of GTA III; I get my small dose of nostalgia but invariably stop playing because, despite Rockstar&#39;s best efforts, these are not games that work well on a touchscreen.

An improved re-release of San Andreas was exciting news for me--while a release on Xbox One or PS4 would have been ideal, a cheap Xbox 360 version with improved graphics, better draw distance, and achievements sounds like a great way to revisit the game.

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Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is fun, but Xbox 360 HD remaster is rough originally appeared on Playfeed on Fri, October 31, 2014 – 2:13:32
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