How Jeff Bezos Became the King of E-Commerce
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How Jeff Bezos Became the King of E-Commerce


In 1994, a young, Wall Street hotshot named Jeff Bezos was at a crossroads in his career: Continue amassing a small fortune… …or abandon it all to sell books? That decision would single-handedly change the history of e-commerce, publishing, film, TV, journalism, and quite possibly interstellar travel. That decision also represents a recurring
theme in his life: Never settle. Ever. This is how Jeff Bezos took a simple idea
into a garage and built one of the largest marketplaces on the planet. Jeff Bezos was born on January 12, 1964. As a child, he turned his parents’ garage into a laboratory for his inventions. In his 1982 valedictorian speech, he discussed colonizing outer space and turning Earth into a giant nature preserve. Graduating from Princeton with a computer science degree, instead of going straight into tech, he had other ideas… You don’t become a billionaire unless you
have this insatiable desire to accrue wealth and power. But I think he just looks at it in a way that’s really different to almost anyone else I follow. That’s Tom Metcalf… I’m a billionaires reporter for Bloomberg
News. He’s always driven by success, and Wall
Street was the pinnacle for most graduates. He was a very mathematical graduate. It really fit in his almost quant-like outlook. He quickly made a name for himself. At 26, the youngest-ever Vice President of Bankers Trust Company. At 28, the youngest-ever Senior Vice President of DE Shaw and Co. It was there that he discovered a giant, untapped
resource: the internet. He was seeing the internet grow by 2300% a year. In all his time at a Wall Street firm, he’d never seen such a growth opportunity. He went through a whole list of industries, and, if you think about books, easy to package. Hard to damage. And of course the internet offers an infinite
library. DE Shaw did not share his optimism. For the opportunity of a lifetime, Bezos would have to leave Wall Street. Whatever it is that you want to do, there’s gonna be risk in your life. And risk is a necessary component of progress. And he quite simply packed his stuff up, drove across the country. And the legend goes that, while in the car, he was writing the business plans. Setting up shop in his garage, in 1994, he incorporated his book company under the name…. “Cadabra”. It wasn’t great when a lawyer misheard it
as “cadaver”. He ultimately landed on “Amazon” for a
couple reasons. Firstly, the name beginning with ‘A’ would likely be on top of any alphabetized web search. And he kind of liked the fact that it tied
into the world’s largest river, and he was setting up plans to make Amazon the world’s largest company. Launching in July 1995, a bell was installed to ring every time a book was sold. In its first month, Amazon sold to people in all 50 states and 45 different countries. The bell was gone in weeks. All their expectations were smashed. They thought they’d maybe sell dozens of books the first week. It was in fact hundreds. Then thousands. And, of course today, millions. By September 1995, Amazon processed $20,000
in monthly sales. With its 1997 IPO, Amazon was valued at $400
million. By 1999, Jeff Bezos was worth $10 billion and was Time’s Man of the Year. But soon after, the dot com crash had people
skeptical: was Amazon a sustainable business, or would the bubble burst? Anyone who’s met Bezos knows he’s
extraordinarily charismatic and very convincing. In terms of the long-term vision, he had it mapped out for decades. Whatever happened in the short term, he wasn’t going to change that plan. And I think he conveyed that pretty well to his stockholders. With the crash eliminating many competitors, Amazon strengthened its grip on the market and expanded beyond books. The Kindle. Alexa. Amazon Studios. And of course…. Amazon Prime. What it does is it really locks people into
the Amazon ecosystem. They’re much more inclined to be buying
a lot more. Word of mouth spreads. And that has been the biggest driver of Amazon’s
incredible revenue growth. Yet, historically, Amazon has seen modest
annual profits. There’s an enormous amount of cash flowing
through the company. And what Bezos does – he’s not returning
that to shareholders. He’s reinvesting that in the company. For sure in its core businesses, but also going off for these almost moonshot projects. My vision for Blue Origin is millions of people living and working in space. This is such a game-changer. Amazon to buy Whole Foods. Jeff Bezos is now the richest person in the
world. $250 million for the storied Washington Post. His acquisition of the Washington Post not
only raised eyebrows, but put him at odds with another well-known billionaire. He bought the Washington Post to have political
influence. If I become President, oh do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems. Bezos and Trump are probably as different
as two entrepreneurs can get. Trump is pretty reactionary, kind of emotional, whereas Bezos normally doesn’t really respond. Though once he did suggest he’d be willing to send Donald Trump into space. And, you know, I have a rocket company so… the capability is there. Few businessmen choose to make an enemy of
a president. But having built an empire out of a garage, Jeff Bezos has proven capable of handling any adversary. Especially complacency.

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