In 1994, a finance executive who was into an extremely lucrative job at Wall Street decided to quit his job and moved to Seattle to explore the potential of the Internet market. It was a tough and bold move, but he had realized that it was worth trying something innovative when the Internet was young.
He gathered some start-up fund from family and friends and started Amazon. What seemed like an unplanned and impulsive ramshackle operation towards an absolutely grandiose driven ambition, turned out to be a giant organization that employees almost 100,000 people.
Jeff Bezos, born on 12th January 1964, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was a curious child blessed with zeal to learn “How things work”, and had remarkable mechanical prowess, and it was quite evident when he could dismantle his crib using a screwdriver and rigged electrical contraptions around his house in his teens.
Jeff attended River Oaks Elementary School in Houston from fourth to sixth grade. He used to spend his summers working on varied tasks like laying pipe, fixing windmills, vaccinating cattle and other farm works.
Bezos ventured his first business at high school, which he called ‘The Dream Institute’. It was an educational summer camp for fourth, fifth and sixth-grade students; and there were some books like Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens that Jeff required his participants to read as a part of the program. While it is quite evident that he was a book aficionado since childhood, who knew he would start his tech giant by creating then ‘one of its kind’ online bookstore.
He had realized his eternal love for computers at a very early stage in his life when his family had moved to Florida and Jeff was transferred to Miami Palmetto Senior High School. He won a Silver Knight Award in a Student Science Training Program at the University of Florida. He graduated as the school’s valedictorian, and a National Merit Scholar which secured his spot at Princeton University, where he planned to study physics, but then he decided to pursue his passion for computers. He graduated with two degrees in computer science and electrical engineering from Princeton University.
After his graduation, Bezos worked for a few firms in Wall Street when computer science was very much in demand. Bezos worked in finance realm with Bankers Trust, where he became vice president; and later went to work in the investment firm D.E. Shaw, where he met his wife MacKenzie, who was also a Princeton graduate. They walked the aisle in 1993. He underwent a rapid growth in his career and rose quickly through the ranks. In 1990, he became the youngest senior vice president in the company’s history.
While working at D.E. Shaw, Jeff came across a digit that changed his life. He observed that the World Wide Web was growing by an enormous rate of 2300 percentage a month. This became an impetus that led to the success story of Amazon.
He realized the possibility and prospects of selling products online. Shaw tried to retain him, but he was determined to try something innovative and fail then to never try at all. He quit the firm in 1994 and moved to Seattle to explore the potentials of the Internet market by opening an online bookstore. He made a list of products that can be sold through the Internet. The list included CDs, software, and hardware; but latterly chose to sell books because a lot of titles were available. Jeff paid no tax for the products he sold because at that time, mail orders did not have to pay tax according to a rule by then-recent Supreme Court, as they did not have a physical presence.
His idea behind choosing Seattle as the place for new business was simple – it had an enormous pool of tech talent. He always respected preciousness of time, as he made a business plan on his laptop and started calling possible investors, while his wife drove both of them from Texas to Seattle. Subsequently, he managed to raise $1 Million from his family and friends, which was enough to set up his business in the garage of his Seattle home. His perpetually happy and contagiously enthusiastic attitude won the support of his employees and things started working. Soon, everything got ready and they hurled 300 people for beta testing on different computer platforms.
The website opened on July 16, 1995, and they set up a bell to ring each time Amazon made a sale. The bell did not last long as, by September 1995, the sales were $20,000 a week.
Amazon soon went public and started competing with other bookstores that were expected to make their own website. While others were setting up their website, Jeff traveled around the United States and Europe with the first CFO of Amazon, Joy Covey to pitch Amazon to potential investors. Bezos always took anticipatory action to stay in the market when the competition was growing at an enormous rate.
Amazon grew exponentially in the difficult times of the 90s. In October 2002, Jeff decided to launch clothing sales after Amazon partnered with hundreds of prominent brands. Latterly, in 2003, Jeff included sporting goods with 3000 different brands.
In 2007, Bezos brought a revolution in the world of books – The Amazon Kindle. He wanted to change how people acquired books. In 2012, the site launched Amazon Studios that focused on development of feature films and TV shows. Fortune magazine named Bezos as “Businessperson of The Year” in 2012, and now he is the richest tycoon in the world.
There is a quote that says, “Push your limits to know your actual potential.” For Jeff Bezos, his unassailable competency never stopped him pushing limits and exploring possibilities in the world of business. The fact that he takes his customers seriously and makes sure that their voices are heard makes him maintain his impregnable image in the market of the Internet. Apart from business and computer proficiency, his happy and enthusiastic attitude that evokes an exhilarating air and motivates his employees and people around makes him the great business leader he is.
Jeff Bezos’s life and his rise to the richest businessman is a story of precocity, competency, hard-work, courage, cussedness, ability to sustain competition and most importantly a perpetual hunger for innovation to change the world.