First a little Zappos history #182

First a little Zappos history #182

First a little Zappos history

Blog #181 I talked about Why you should never burn your bridges. In this blog I want to talk about first a little Zappos history

Since there was some history of how Zappos came to be the next few blogs will talk about the history of Zappos before I came on board in 2003.

Zappos was founded by Nick Swinmurn in 1999. In 1998 Nick was shopping for a pair of brown Airwalk Desert Chukka boots. He went to the Stonestown Mall and one store would have the style but not the right color. Another store would have the color but not in his size. After several hours of shopping he left the mall empty handed and frustrated.

Nick decided to leave his job at Autoweb.com to focus on this idea full time. His idea was simple in concept but not so much in execution. Basically he wanted to serve customers who typically shopped catalogs and mail order for shoes they couldn’t find in Brick and Mortar stores.


He launched Shoesite.com which eventually changed to Zappos.com, an adaptation of “Zapatos” which is Spanish for shoes. On July 28, 1998 he reserved the domain name “Shoesite.com.” February 1999 Nick attends the Las Vegas shoe show called WSA solo. From there he contacted retailers such as Freidman’s and Footwear etc. to see if they would supply styles he could put on the web site.

May 1999 Nick incorporates Shoesite.com and raises the first round of funding from family and friends totaling 150k. The first vendor of record is “Boxer Dogs”. The first office was set up in San Francisco at 9th and Irving on June 1st.

Venture Frogs and Tony

Nick contacts Tony Hsieh from Venture Frogs to pitch his idea and invest in his new company. Venture Frogs was formed by two members of the founding team of Link Exchange (acquired by Microsoft for $265 million in November 1998.) Tony Hsieh and Alfred Lin who went to Harvard together (and had a “pizza” business together in the dorms) were the two founders.

Tony liked Nicks idea but suggested recruiting some experienced Shoe people to help get the idea going in the right direction. This was during a weird time in tech history (Y2K) because people were afraid when the clocks turned to the year 2000, everything was going to crash and there would be bedlam in the streets. Of course that didn’t happen but it was quite the news cycle. For These two, to go forward with such a new idea at a time like this, was amazing in itself.

Nick decides to pose as a recruiter and contacts Fred Mossler, a Nordstrom Buyer in San Francisco saying he’s from a huge shoe company. He sets up a meeting for the following week with Fred. At the time Fred had a pretty steady position at Nordstrom and supported a family as well. Taking this step with a startup would create the eventual Zappos phrase “Leap of Faith”.

…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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