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The Future Startup Dossier: Amazon

Amazon.com, founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, is the world’s largest ecommerce company where you can find literally anything, from necessary items to weird things like an umbrella hat or ostrich pillow.

A brief history. Like many other big companies, Amazon started its journey from a garage in Seattle, Washington. Bezos started Amazon with the financial help of $245k from his parents. From 1994-1995, Amazon was known as Cadabra.Inc, which was an online bookstore. But as Bezos’s lawyer suggested he changed the name. Bezos later registered several domain names including Browse.com, Relentless.com, etc. 

Eventually, he found the name Amazon which he thought to be a perfect name for his “everything store”. Bezos always aspired to build a technology company that will simplify the online transaction process for customers.

In July 1996, Amazon introduced its affiliate program. Under this program, Amazon would pay a commission to other companies and in return, other companies would advertise Amazon’s merchandise for sale on their own platform. By 1999, the number of associated companies reached 350k.

By October 1996, the number of registered accounts on Amazon reached upto one million. From 1997, Amazon started to sell music and video games. In the same year, Amazon started to operate internationally after acquiring two online marketplaces for books in two countries UK and Germany. In 1997, the revenue of Amazon reached $148M from $16M in 1996.

Up to this point, Amazon was a private company. In 1997, Amazon went public to grow even bigger and raised $54M on the NASDAQ exchange. In 1998, the revenue of Amazon reached $600M.

From 1999, Amazon started to sell other items such as consumer electronics, toys etc. 

Though there were older players like Computer literacy, a marketplace for selling books, in the online retailing niche, Amazon gained popularity fast for delivering products directly to the customer’s address anywhere in the world and providing more facilities.

In 2002, Amazon Web Service (AWS) was launched making Amazon a tech company, rather than simply an online retailer. In 2006, the AWS portfolio was expanded with EC2 (Elastic Computer Cloud), soon followed by S3 ( Simple Storage Service). EC2 rents computer processing power and S3 rents data storage via the internet. To this day the bulk of revenue generated by AWS comes from these two services. 

The same year 'Fulfillment By Amazon' was launched, a platform that manages the inventory of individual vendors and small companies, by providing them with services including storage, packaging, and shipping.

In September 2007, Amazon Music, a platform for streaming music, was launched. In the same month, Amazon launched “Prime Video”, a video streaming service.

Kindle’s success as an ebook platform led Amazon to join the ebook publishing market in 2011 with Amazon Publishing Service, soon after which e-books outsold the traditional books on Amazon.

In 2012, Amazon bought ‘Kiva Systems' to automate its inventory management system. Amazon Prime Air, a cargo airline for transporting packages of Amazon, was launched in 2015. In 2017, the name was changed to ‘Amazon Air’.

In the same year, Amazon bought ‘Whole Food Market’, a supermarket chain that sells organic plant-based food.

In January,2021, Amazon opened two centers in Italy’s two locations: Novara & Modena, investing $278M.

In early February 2021, Jeff Bezos the founder of Amazon stepped down as the CEO and Andy Jassy succeeded Bezos as the CEO of Amazon.

Amazon’s catalog includes approximately 12M products and if Amazon’s sellers are included the number of products sold on Amazon is roughly 350M. At present, Amazon is available in 200 territories worldwide, employing 1.2M people roughly including permanent employees and part-timers. 

Currently, Amazon’s net worth is  $1.6T, generating $3B revenue annually. Amazon crossed a trillion-dollar valuation as the second company after Apple, after its stock price reached an all-time high of $2050.50 on September 4, 2018.

Jeff Bezos's philosophy regarding Amazon has always been “Grow Big Fast”. Over the years, Amazon has implemented many innovative ideas including delivering products by using drones and robots, using AI for inventory management and even recruitment. 

The “Anytime Feedback” tool enables the employees of Amazon to praise or criticize their coworkers and it also tracks the performance of employees against set KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). 

Amazon is famous for its customer obsession and experts consider it to be one of the main reasons behind Amazon’s massive success. Amazon has always focused on customer satisfaction and worked hard to gain customer’s trust. Amazon’s definition of ‘Customer Obsession’ is: Leaders start with customers and work backward.


Amazon at 25: The story of a giant: “There's no guarantee that Amazon.com can be a successful company. What we're trying to do is very complicated," said Jeff Bezos in 1999, just five years after launching the online firm. That the firm's founder was so uncertain of its future seems surprising.

Today, 25 years on from when it started, Amazon is one of the most valuable public companies in the world, with Mr. Bezos now the world's richest man, thanks to his invention.

What started as an online book retailer has become a global giant, with membership subscriptions, physical stores, groceries for sale, its own smart devices and a delivery system which can get things to customers in just an hour.”

Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace (Published 2015): Tens of millions of Americans know Amazon as customers, but life inside its corporate offices is largely a mystery. Secrecy is required; even low-level employees sign a lengthy confidentiality agreement. The company authorized only a handful of senior managers to talk to reporters for this article, declining requests for interviews with Mr. Bezos and his top leaders.

In interviews, some employees of Amazon said they thrived at Amazon precisely because it pushed them past what they thought were their limits. Many employees are motivated by “thinking big and knowing that we haven’t scratched the surface on what’s out there to invent,” said Elisabeth Rommel, a retail executive who was one of those permitted to speak.

3 Reasons Why Amazon Will Likely Continue To Gain E-Commerce Market Share: It’s unsurprising then that Amazon is expected to seize 50% of the entire e-commerce retail market this year. Yet there’s still plenty of room for growth. E-commerce sales still only accounted for 14% of total retail sales in 2020, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Here is why Amazon will likely continue its dominance and why brands may want to consider developing an Amazon strategy, and fast.

Amazon Prime’s evolution from 2005 to 2020: “Amazon Prime has been around for a while now—15 years to be exact. The subscription service has continued to evolve over the last decade and a half, continually setting the standard for ecommerce subscriptions and delivery.” [..] “Amazon launched their Prime subscription in February of 2005 at the initial price point of $79 a year, offering unlimited 2-day delivery on over 1 million in-stock items (or as they announced it “all-you-can-eat express shipping”).”

Jeff Bezos Interview With Axel Springer CEO on Amazon, Blue Origin, Family: Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Business Insider's parent company, Axel Springer, sat down with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to talk about the early days of creating Amazon, what he's learned since then, how he funds his rocket company, Blue Origin, and what it's like when the president of the United States is your biggest critic. Interview’s Video Link: Jeff Bezos Talks Amazon, Blue Origin, Family, And Wealth

How Jeff Bezos took Amazon to the top: “Two decades ago, he foresaw a future when a click would conjure anything from pet food to caviar; malls would fade in popularity; and shops would have to offer entertainment or convenience to survive. Then he built an empire in that image.”

The Story of AWS and Andy Jassy’s Trillion Dollar Baby: Amazon Web Services wasn’t any one person’s single idea. No proverbial apple fell on some Newton’s head, no Henry Ford or Steve Jobs-like character had a brainstorm. Instead, it rather emerged. The idea grew organically out of the company’s frustration with its ability to launch new projects and support customers.

Bezos Unbound: Exclusive Interview With The Amazon Founder On What He Plans To Conquer Next: “Unlike America's other tech giants, Amazon doesn't have a traditional campus. The 45,000 or so employees and executives in Seattle, out of 575,000 worldwide, fan across numerous high-rises downtown and in the South Lake Union neighborhood. Amazon's "headquarters" defaults to where Jeff Bezos, the company's founder and CEO, happens to be, currently Day 1 Tower. Its name comes from a perpetual Bezos maxim: that, relatively, we're still at "day one" of the internet—and, by extension, that Amazon is just getting started.”

Alexa: Amazon’s Operating System: “The concept of an operating system is pretty straightforward: it is a piece of software that manages a computer, making said computer’s hardware resources accessible to software through a consistent set of interfaces.”


Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos (full film) | FRONTLINE

Jeff Bezos: The electricity metaphor | TED

Jeff Bezos Interview | Amazon Ep 2 | CNN News18

Inside Amazon's Smart Warehouse | Tech Vision

Tithi Chowdhury is an undergraduate student majoring in Botany at the University of Dhaka. She is a Trainee Analyst at Future Startup and looks after our Collective Knowledge initiative where she prepares interviews and writes articles on interesting topics. She is a voracious reader and loves listening to podcasts in her spare time.

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