For most of us, whenever we feel like purchasing something, we search for it on Amazon. The online shopping website has become such a staple of our lives that it is difficult to imagine the times when it was not around. The Amazon success story started with the ability to 'imagine' the various possibilities at a time when the internet was a fraction of what it is today. Jeff Bezos dreamt of a store that could utilize its power and change the course of the everyday retail experience.
Jeff Bezos' Life Story
Like most innovators and successful entrepreneurs, Bezos' and the Amazon success story starts with taking a risk. Jeff Bezos had a lucrative career in finance; he worked with several Wall Street firms, and in 1990 became the youngest Vice President D.E. Shaw had seen.
In the spring of 1994, Bezos found out that web usage was growing at the lightning-fast rate of 2300 percent per year. And he began thinking about the different kinds of business projects that could tap into the potential of that growth. He chose to believe in that potential and left his career in finance to start an online bookstore called Cadabra, which later came to be known as Amazon.
Before his finance career, he graduated from Princeton University with a degree in computer science and electrical engineering. His perpetual interest in computers, his educational background in it, and his finance experience due to his professional background were some serious advantages he had going into his business endeavor.
His parents were his first investors; they invested several hundred thousand dollars in his startup (which amounted to their lives' savings), despite not having a lot of insight into the technical aspect of the idea. And it didn't take long for them to see the result of their investment.
Amazon's success story did not take a long time to gain momentum; it can be said that it was truly a case of 'right time, right place' and right idea for Jeff Bezos.
Jeff Bezos Success Story - Milestones
- Bezos had a few employees develop the software with him in his garage, and before the launch of the website, he asked over 300 friends to beta test the site. Amazon launched on July 16, 1995, and they were eventually able to expand into a two-bedroom house equipped with three Sun Microstation.
- Within two months of launch, Amazon was making $20,000 a week. And with no press promotion, Amazon sales reached all the states in the US and other 45 foreign countries, only 30 days from its launch.
- Amazon went public in 1997 and raised $54 million; it was valued at $438 million that year
- In 1998 Amazon's success story began taking a new route, and they acquired IMDb (Internet Movie Database).
- In 1999 Amazon acquired the web information company Alexa which was later going to be the name of the AI-based virtual assistant launched by Amazon.
- The year 2000 saw the 'dot-com bubble of the stock market burst, and as a result, a lot of internet-based businesses were shut down, and the stocks of the ones that survived pummelled. The momentum of Amazon's success story slowed a little bit; their stock dropped from $91 to just over $15.
- Amazon managed to survive the stock market crash and stayed afloat, launching Marketplace in 2000, allowing third-party sellers on the platform.
- In 2002 Amazon introduced the "Free Super Saver Shipping" service, which provides free shipping on orders over $99. Amazon was one of the first organisations to offer this service.
- In 2002, Amazon launched Amazon Web Services (AWS) to understand internet usage patterns, website popularity, and other statistics for online markets and businesses.
- In 2005 Amazon launched its paid subscription service Amazon Prime, providing free shipping for over 1 million items. It is estimated that Prime today has over 66 million members.
- In 2007 Amazon launched Kindle, keeping alive its spirit of making books and reading more accessible.
- In 2007, the grocery delivery store Amazon Fresh was launched in Seattle for the first time.
- In 2008, Amazon acquired Audible for $300 million. Amazon Audible is now one of the largest and easily accessible audio-book libraries.
- In 2013, Amazon finally launched in India, and the Indian customers and employees could now be part of Amazon's success story.
The above timeline is the tip of the iceberg that Amazon's success story is. Not only that, it is just one side of the coin. Amazon is a 25-year-old company now, with offices in almost every country, they hire millions of people across the world, and most importantly, they are not free of negative press.
To know more and in-depth about the Amazon success story and Jeff Bezos' life story, here are a few books and shows that you can refer to:
- "Jeff Bezos : Biography of a Billionaire Business Titan" written by Elliot Reynolds.
- "The Everything Store : Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon" was written by Brad Stone.
- The PBS Frontline documentary "Amazon Empire : The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos."
We live in an age where consumerism is at its peak, and the conversation to combat its side effects is the white noise that accompanies our daily lives. And unsurprisingly, Amazon is a massive topic in that conversation.
The exploitation of employees, cruel working conditions in warehouses, tax evasion, aiding in uncomfortable amounts of online surveillance, etc., are a few of the most talked-about scandals that Amazon has been accused of. And these accusations are not unfounded.
The Amazon success story is not without its dark side, and we should not forget it. Only focusing on the success aspect and not realizing the human consequence is not something that we can afford in this day and age. We as a society desperately need to find a way to dream big and achieve great things while still being able to protect the environment and the underprivileged.