Jeff Bezos

“The questions to always have before embarking on a journey like this is: What’s the idea? What would we do that would be different? How would it be better? We don’t want to just do things because we can do them; we don’t want to be redundant.”

- Jeff Bezos

CEO. Entrepreneur. As one of the richest people in the whole wide world, everyone knows who Jeffrey Bezos is. He founded the e-commerce behemoth Amazon, was its former CEO and currently serves as its executive chairperson. On July 5th 2021, he stepped down as its CEO, with Amazon’s revenue being $346 billion in 2020. He also acquired The Washington Post in 2013, which is one of the most prominently circulated newspapers in America, has an investment and venture capital firm called Bezos Expeditions and also founded Blue Origin, a space tech company.

As of August 2021, Bezos has a net worth of around $197 billion at the age of 57. On 20th July 2021, through Blue Origin, Jeff travelled to the edge of space with his brother Mark and other passengers in a flight with an all-civilian crew. But how did this all happen? How did Bezos make his money enough to become the richest individual in the world and travel to space without being an astronaut? For that, we have to go back to the beginning:

Early Life

Jeff Bezos was born in 1964 in Albuquerque, New Mexico and showed himself to be quite adept at technology, even as a young kid, setting up a security system in the form of an electric alarm to keep his siblings out of his room. As a valedictorian at high school, he mentioned in his graduation speech the future of civilization in space, colonizing it and having space hotels orbiting around the Earth. I wonder how that worked out for him. He also studied in renowned universities specializing in electrical engineering and computer science. While in high school, Jeff worked as a line cook in McDonald’s. After that, he worked at an international trade network startup and also dabbled in banking and hedge funds.

Not Just A River In South America: Amazon

Bezos wished to build an online bookstore and so, at the age of 30, started Amazon in his garage in 1994. Jeff’s goal was to focus on customer service and have long-term thinking. The company, initially called Cadabra, was changed to Amazon, not only because it was the world’s largest river by water flow, but also because it began with the letter ‘A’ so customers would see it first when checking website listings online. 

Within one month of launching, books were sold all across the US and in 45 foreign countries! Amazon’s IPO was in 1997, making its stock shoot up to mammoth proportions. At this point in time, the company had about 1.5 million customers in around 150 countries. In 1998, Amazon also opened up to foray into the video and music business, as well as into toys, clothes, software and electronics. Amazon’s sales were $1.64 billion in 1999 alone! 

Jeff also wished to create an e-commerce service to help third-party operators with databases, programming languages, an OS and more services; hence, in 2002, Amazon Web Services (AWS) was formed, being a reliable system for data management services to fulfill orders. Around that time, Amazon’s spending meant that they were almost going bankrupt circa 2003, but with enough perseverance, Amazon bounced back majorly to acquire a profit of $400 million. 

Later on, Bezos wished to make books more accessible for people and he saw e-books as the future of booksellers. To be a bookseller in the digital world, in 2007, Bezos started the Amazon Kindle. In 2005, Bezos launched Amazon Prime to provide members with various products, including Prime Video in 2011. There are also plans to launch Amazon Prime Air to provide delivery services via drones.

Other Ventures

Blue Origin was founded in 2000 as a spaceflight and an aerospace manufacturing startup. 21 years later, the company used one of its developed launch vehicles, New Shepard, to fly to space and Jeff became the second person to win the Billionaire Space Race, after Richard Branson. Through Bezos Expeditions, Jeff was one of the early shareholders in Google and also works with companies in the healthcare sector. He also has some real estate holdings and has some investment in Uber, Twitter and Business Insider. Jeff also has an interesting idea of building a massive clock inside of a mountain that would tell the time for the next 10,000 years, the goal being to remind individuals that the far future exists.


In 2019, Jeff divorced his wife MacKenzie Scott and as a result of that, she received 25% of his Amazon shares, valued at $36 billion. That being said, Jeff still has voting control of the shares that MacKenzie has. Currently, he has a 10.3% stake in Amazon.


Bezos Expeditions is also used for various philanthropic purposes. Donations have also been made by Bezos to cancer research centres, Buffet and Gates’ The Giving Pledge, pro bono legal services, a college scholarship fund for undocumented immigrants in America and an emissions-free energy organization. Jeff also has a Bezos Earth Fund to combat climate change. There’s also the Bezos Day One Fund to combat homelessness and to create a pre-school network in low-income communities in the US. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bezos donated $100 million to Feeding America for food banks.

Qualities As An Entrepreneur

Bezos is known as being hyper-competitive and responds to any competition with the maximum of ebullience. His goal was always to scale Amazon’s operations and become a key dominant player in the market. He has been described as being ‘brilliant and mysterious’ and a ‘cold-blooded corporate titan’. He has also been characterized as being ridiculously data-driven and quantitative.

Criticism and Controversy

Amazon has faced a whole lot of criticism from the general public for the treatment of its workers. Even in its early days, there were reports of city bus passes being declined to employees, so that they wouldn’t leave the office to catch the last bus. The workers at Amazon are said to allegedly operate in brutal workplaces and its focus on worker surveillance in dehumanizing and unsafe conditions with little pay, extreme heat, little break time, high injury rates and demand for high turnover means that the workers are treated like machines. Amazon has rebutted that they’ve implemented a $15 minimum wage, but it’s not received much warm reception, considering the other issues. 

Jeff himself has been reported as having an abrasive and condescending demeanour to his employees. Former president of the US Donald Trump has accused him of anti-competitive practices, many of which are being investigated today. 

Bezos also faces sharp criticism from Senator Bernard Sanders and other politicians in America. Senator Sanders also introduced the Stop Bad Employees from Zeroing Out Subsidies (Stop BEZOS Act) and has accused Amazon of receiving corporate welfare when a good chunk of its workers are surviving on food stamps. Even Bezos’ trip to space is being critically panned by many as being pure capitalist decadence when the world is on fire suffering from the deleterious impacts of COVID-19.

All that being said, there are definitely a lot of aspects to Jeff Bezos that must be admired in terms of entrepreneurial learnings. His prescience to see the potential of the Internet and to see the world of web growing by 2300% in late ‘93 revolutionized, paved and pioneered the way we order online today. His creativity, single-minded focus and to optimally provide the best consumer experience is the reason why Amazon is so successful today. There’s a lot to learn from him as an entrepreneur: to keep going and to feed your vision. As he soon travels to space, there’s a lesson there somewhere: reach for the stars.

“I didn’t think I’d regret trying and failing. And I suspected I would always be haunted by a decision to not try at all.”

- Jeff Bezos

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