Jeffrey Preston Bezos (better known as Jeff Bezos) was one of the richest people in the world. Until 2018, he is the richest person in the world, topping Bill Gates. Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and raised in Houston, Texas, Jeff graduated from Princeton University in 1986 with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. He worked on Wall Street in a variety of related fields from 1986 until he founded Amazon in late 1994.
Bezos added to his business interests when he founded aerospace company Blue Origin in 2000. A Blue Origin test flight successfully first reached space in 2015 and Blue has plans to begin commercial suborbital human spaceflight as early as late 2018. He purchased The Washington Post in 2013 for USD 250 million. Bezos manages other business investments through his venture capital fund, Bezos Expeditions.
Although most people know what Amazon.com is and have used it before for shopping, many may not know the background of the company and the founder himself.
He started Amazon because he knew he’d regret not trying for the rest of his life.
When Jeff founded Amazon.com in 1994, the age of the online-only retailer appeared to be far off. It was also the year where The New York Times published an article that cast doubt on figures that stated that 20 million people were using the Web, speculating on the consequences awaiting companies that had wasted money on online projects. However, Jeff was optimistic and began to develop the idea behind Amazon. The name Amazon was chosen because it’s the biggest river in the world.
It all started with the book business
One factor that drove Jeff’s ruminations was a then-recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that mail-order businesses were exempt from sales taxes in states in which the companies didn’t have a physical presence. He started researching mail-order businesses and their products. From there, he winnowed the opportunities down to smaller and smaller lists, finally deciding to get into the book business, because of the millions of titles in print.
With a full library of books for sale, Amazon.com opened for business and the orders began pouring in almost immediately. During his launch, Jeff quoted “within the first few days, I knew this was going to be huge. It was obvious that we were onto something much bigger than we ever dared to hope.” In its first two months, the advantages of being online were apparent. Amazon sold books in all 50 states as well as more than 45 countries, bringing in USD 20,000 in sales per week by late 1995.
Striving above imitators and competition
Jeff knew from an early stage that the keys to Amazon’s survival would be innovation and size. To that, he planned to heavily all surplus revenue into growing the business. Jeff invested not just in technology and new initiatives but purchased a wide range of competitors, potential competitors and complementary businesses over the next few years. That investment paid off and gave the company a leadership position in online retail, a sector that simply didn’t’ exist ten years earlier. The strategy served the company well, especially during the dot-com bubble burst at the beginning of 2000.
Don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results
Nobody said transforming an industry or solving major problems was easy. Although Amazon didn’t turn a profit for decades, he didn’t really care as he knew that it would take time to achieve goals as lofty as the ones he had set-goals like fundamentally changing the way people shop. By 2001, the dot-com bubble had burst, and even Amazon had to retrench and reevaluate. The retrenching came in the form of layoffs in which the company shed 1,500 employees. The reevaluation led Jeff Bezos to look for ways to diversify Amazon’s business model. One of the areas of diversification was the Amazon Marketplace, which let its customers sell their used books, and other products alongside Amazon’s own offerings. In 2004, Amazon brought in revenues of USD 6.9 billion, which increased to USD 8.5 billion in 2005.
From books to ebooks
When Amazon Prime was introduced in 2005, it offered free two-day shipping within the continental United States for a USD 79 annual fee. It was so successful, Amazon launched it in Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada over the next eight years. In 2007, the Amazon Kindle, a lightweight device for reading electronic books, was brought into the market. Four years later, the Kindle Fire was born, posing as a low-cost alternative to the iPad.
Those new businesses, along with forays into smartphones, groceries, television series, cloud storage, aerial drones and social networking made Amazon not just the biggest online retailers in the business but one of the premier tech companies in the U.S. With 2014 revenues of $88.8 billion, it’s also made Jeff and Amazon a lot of money.
The year Jeff Bezos surpassed Bill Gates
2017 served to be a pretty amazing year for Amazon as the soaring price of its stock rose USD 40 billion through the course of the year. And 2018 is shaping up to be an even better year for Jeff fortune. On 5 June 2018, while the stock market pushed Amazon shares to yet another record high, Jeff Bezos’ net worth crossed the USD 140 billion mark for the first time, according to Forbes.
In 1997, Jeff took Amazon public at USD 18 per share. Today, Amazon stock prices have soared, rising from roughly USD 1200 at the start of 2018 to nearly USD 1700 per share in intraday trading – an increase of about 40%. His wealth theoretically increased USD 10 billion within the first two weeks of the year, and he was up USD 30 billion by early March – at which point, Jeff was making an insane USD 230,000 per minute.