The Revolutionist: Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos

By Emillio Mesa

Jeff Bezos is not just a tenacious entrepreneur, but someone who has reformed our modern society.



The internet was originally created by the Defense Department to protect computer networks from natural catastrophes or enemy attacks. Throughout the years, it was embraced by government and academic agencies to swap information, but as late as 1994, there was still no e-commerce on the horizon. His research showed that internet usage was increasing by 2,300 percent a year. “That was my wake-up call, things don’t grow that fast,” he said.



He saw the opportunity for a digital bazaar and seized it. He left his job at a New York City hedge fund, which coincided with a then-new U.S. Supreme Court ruling holding that mail order catalogs were not required to collect sales taxes in states where they lack a physical presence. Bezos set up the office for his experimental company in his garage, with a handful of employees. With a $300 thousand loan from his parents, he started. It was one of the first and massive gambles placed on the emerging information highway, which changed the way we shop and read forever. On July 16, 1995, Bezos launched, named after the South American river, symbolizing great size and selection.

According to Forbes magazine, he is now the ninth richest person in the world with a net worth of about $40.5 billion. Not bad for a business plan conceived during a cross-country drive from New York to Seattle. From the beginning, Bezos sought to increase market share as quickly as possible. He never hid his ambition to go from “Earth’s biggest bookstore” to “Earth’s biggest anything store.” However, there is no success without heavy criticism; it is a public affair, after all. He’s been blamed for the collapse of the industries which he essentially reinvented. Yes, it’s true his business model has shaken up sales in the publishing and retail sectors; but more importantly, he gave consumers and creative types the power of choice.

The “era of the customer,” based on relationships that Bezos had worked so diligently to construct paid off just as he had predicted, by establishing a new equation for success based on customer satisfaction and longevity. With the introduction of the Kindle, Amazon quickly captured 95 percent of the U.S. market for books in electronic form. He also purchased the newspaper division of The Washington Post Company. In addition, the sale included a number of smaller local periodicals in the Washington, D.C. area. Bezos made the purchase as principal of a privately held company, rather than on behalf of his company.

“The balance of power is shifting toward consumers and away from companies…The right way to respond to this if you are a company is to put the vast majority of your energy, attention and dollars into building a great product or service and put a smaller amount into shouting about it, marketing it,” Bezos has explained.

Despite his progress, he’s never taken the time to rest on his laurels. Through each round of expansion, Jeff Bezos continually emphasized the “Six Core Values: customer obsession, ownership, bias for action, frugality, high hiring bar and innovation,” as his driving force. In 2012, Bezos launched Amazon Studios, crowdsourcing the development of feature films and television shows. This past January, amidst the Hollywood honchos and stars being applauded at the 72nd Golden Globes were two new names: Amazon and Jeff Bezos.

The innovator received a shout out when “Transparent,” a show available via Amazon’s streaming service, garnered two golden statues. One for “Best Television Series Musical or Comedy,” the second for the show’s lead character, Jeffrey Tambor, who portrays a middle aged father who comes out to her children as transgender, for “Best Actor” and called Bezos his “new best friend.”

“I’m pretty sure we’re the first company to have figured out how to make winning a Golden Globe pay off in increased sales of power tools and baby wipes,” said Bezos in his annual letter to his company’s shareholders.

He leads a rather simple lifestyle, in Seattle, with his wife, Mackenzie and their four kids. He supports his wife’s career as a novelist, but wasn’t mad when she decided not to publish with Amazon. When asked about her decision to publish elsewhere, he laughed. “We are calling her the fish that got away,” he said.

At 51 years young, Jeff Bezos has some great years and projects ahead of him. “What we want to be is something completely new. There is no physical analog for what is becoming,” he said. So stay tuned.

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