An empire builder

In a recent chat show Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recalled his early struggle days. It took him 60 meetings with investors to raise one million to start Amazon. He had to coax $50,000 from 22 investors each. In 1994 not many had heard of internet. Besides pitching his book business, he also had spread the word about it. People, who were familiar with the new medium and the book business, declined him. It was those, who were new to both, went along.

The books business took off quickly thanks to the hefty discounts he could offer. Amazon became the poster boy of the dot coms and never really looked back. Unlike many other successful behemoths, which struggle to outgrow the suite of initial products, Amazon has been able to anticipate trends consistently and ride them. So, what’s the secret sauce?

Bezos is a vision guy. He chucked a good job at a hedge fund for a web start up because he knew that anything, which was growing at 2,400% a year, had a future. He has a management style, which the Harvard books may not endorse, to make that vision happen. In building teams he follows a two-pizza rule; the team should be small enough for two pizzas to feed everyone. Once he famously declared that communication was a bad thing. He runs the world’s most secretive public company.

He is a great believer in speed. He jump starts products even when they are not ready for prime time, irons out glitches on the fly. When the orders started pouring Amazon initially did not have the ability to ship books in the required numbers or offer adequate customer support. He built all of these on the fly. The result is there to see. Amazon, a $48 billion company, shows no sign of slowing down.


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