Zappos may be more closely linked to the late Tony Hsieh, but the online shoe-peddling juggernaut was actually started by a different man entirely: the quietly prolific Nick Swinmurn, an English-born American serial entrepreneur. It was Swinmurn who first came up with the novel idea of selling shoes online; before launching Zappos, he solicited an investment from Hsieh, who was already a wealthy angel investor due to his prior success with LinkExchange, the startup he sold to Microsoft in 1998 for $265 million. Though initially skeptical of the business model, Hsieh would ultimately infuse $2 million into Zappos, joining the firm shortly after its launch. The brilliant yet famously troubled entrepreneur then spent the next 21 years as company CEO.
Swinmurn cut professional ties with Zappos in 2006, weary of the growing company’s increasingly corporate culture and looking for fresh new startup challenges, though it seems certain his remaining equity holdings still allowed him to attain stratospheric wealth when Zappos was sold to Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion. Since then, the now 48-year-old has founded or cofounded a whole host of companies to varying degrees of success; none have come close to reaching the Zappos level of fame and fortune.
Long based in California’s Bay Area — he owns a sumptuous estate in the prestigious Silicon Valley of Hillsborough, acquired in 2017 for $6.8 million — Swinmurn is expanding his residential footprint down to Montecito, where records reveal he’s dropped $8.6 million on a lavish estate near the proverbial heart of town, just a quick jog to the homes of other financial heavy-hitters like Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, and Meghan Markle.