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Jeff Bezos on Amazon.com

March 30, 2010

One company stands above all others in epitomizing the digital revolution’s transformation of the economy. Since its obscure origins during the dawn of the world wide web (ca. 1994), Amazon.com has quietly continued to flourish and expand its offerings to an even wider marketplace. Amazon popularized customer reviews that have evocatively enriched the buying experience of online shoppers, provides what is indubitably the largest selection of products at the lowest prices (from shoes, TVs, dry goods to books, music, appliances), and now remarkably makes and manufactures its own hardware device the Kindle, a highly successful e-reader (powered by MIT Media Lab startup E-INK’s displays). I have personally contributed a number of reviews on books that I have purchased and delight in the clever recommendation feature that suggests items to me based on my viewing and purchasing history. To really understand the fountainhead of this company’s rocketing growth, you need only glimpse behind its well-crafted website and listen to its exalted CEO Jeff Bezos who appears candidly for hour long interviews on the Charlie Rose show here in 2007 and here in 2009. Bezos’ ability to enunciate clearly and eloquently his company’s strategic vision, its singular devotion to its customers, and his talent at anticipating new trends beyond the always muddied technological horizon are extraordinary. Take for example his vision for the Kindle: “to deliver any book ever written, in any language, within 60 seconds.” Astounding. Or his analysis on the key design philosophy responsible for the Kindle’s meteoric success (that had foiled previous failed attempts); the imperceptible quality of printed books to “fall away” when the reader is engrossed in its contents so as to render the ink and paper pulp irrelevant to the reading experience. I particularly enjoyed Bezos explain his company’s focus on setting and pursuing long term goals, its ability to rise above the fray of unrelenting quarter-by-quarter competition to take a bird’s eye at emerging trends & technologies (the Kindle is an obvious example). Bezos always remains calm and collected during his interviews and speaks pointedly with little obfuscation (even while politely refusing to release sales figures for the Kindle he exudes classy professionalism). His charisma and charming demeanor are effective at winning over skeptical pundits — witness the mesmerized Charlie Rose sitting starry-eyed across the table from him during the two interviews. Amazon, like all shrewd companies seeking to prolong growth well into the future, has already embarked upon cunning global ambitions of its own. The emerging economy of China with its current primitive infrastructure is still no deterrent for Amazon’s expansion into this nascent market: the company employs bicycle couriers who receive cash upon delivery from customers of purchased goods. This while the gargantuan highways are built, the airports sprout, and credit cards become ubiquitous in a country of 1.3 billion budding capitalists. Amazon is even anticipating the future arrival of personal space travel by deploying its resources to build a prototype facility in Texas to launch wealthy tourists into sub-orbital flight. And befitting every well grounded CEO who maintain hectic schedules, are routinely inundated with facts, have to constantly make very consequential decisions, while charting a path forward for their company, Bezos regularly seeks solitary downtime for himself. He describes in the 2007 interview his habit of spending four days by himself each quarter (away from his wife and kids even) in order to brainstorm new ideas, catch up on the latest trends in “hacker world,” and privately reflect on the company’s direction. With a guy like this at the helm, Amazon’s prospects continue to burn bright.

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From → technology

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