Jeff Bezos steps down as Amazon CEO on July 5, 27 years after he founded the e-commerce behemoth, as he sets forth to expand his private space exploration firm, philanthropy and other endeavors. As he prepares to blast off into a new phase of his life and career, Bezos leaves an enduring legacy after transforming Amazon from a modest online bookseller into one of the world’s most powerful corporations.
Bezos will still remain executive chairman and Amazon’s biggest shareholder, while his successor Andy Jassy takes over the executive role. Jassy joined Amazon as a marketing manager in 1997 and led Amazon Web Services (AWS) since it was founded in 2003. He was named the CEO of the Amazon Cloud arm in 2016.
Bezos, who built an online bookstore into a $1.7 trillion technology empire announced in February he will be stepping down as CEO. He had said that he chose the date because July 5 is a sentimental one for him. “It’s the date that Amazon was incorporated in 1994, exactly 27 years ago.”
Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and raised in Houston, Texas, Bezos was estranged by his biological father, when he was just 17-month old and was raised by his mom Jacklyn Gise and stepdad Mike Bezos. He would spend summers at the ranch with his grandfather, Lawrence Gise, working on varied tasks such as fixing windmills, laying pipe, vaccinating cattle, and other farm work. He has often hailed his grandfather as a huge role model in his life, with this wide-ranging knowledge of science and every other subject.
Bezos graduated from Princeton University in 1986 with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science. After graduation he refused many lucrative job offers including the ones from Intel and Bell.
Instead, he joined a startup known as FITEL, where he learnt how to run a company from scratch. After a short stint at Bankers Trust as a product manager and DE Shaw, a hedge fund, where he became senior Vice President, he decided to start his own venture.
In early 1990s, Bezos observed while the internet was the latest buzz, nobody was using the medium for selling goods and a huge hidden potential lies there. He studied every prospect of this business and decided to sell books online.
In 1993, Bezos left his job at D. E. Shaw and on 5th July 1994, he founded Amazon in his garage after writing its business plan while travelling from New York to Seattle. After much contemplation Jeff Bezos named his new company Amazon because the name begins with the letter ‘A’, which is at the beginning of the alphabet and after the Amazon River in South America.
Originally Amazon was an online bookstore, but Bezos had always planned to expand to other products and diversified into the online sale of music CDs and video and later also expanded to clothes, electronics, toys and more through major retail partnerships.
In 2007, the Amazon released a handheld digital book reader, Kindle that allowed users to buy, download or read and store their book selections. In the same year, Bezos announced that he has invested in a Seattle-based aerospace company, Blue Origin that develops technologies to offer space travel to paying customers.
Bezos also successfully ventured into cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. It is currently the world’s largest online sales company, the largest internet company by revenue, as well as the world’s largest provider of AI assistance and cloud infrastructure services through its Amazon Web Services arm – making Bezos top Forbes’ list of richest Americans for the third year in a row.
On 5th August 2013, Bezos made headlines worldwide when he announced that he purchased The Washington Post and other publications affiliated with its parent company for $250 million.
Today, Amazon has a market value of more than $1.7 trillion. It posted 2020 annual revenues of $386 billion from operations in e-commerce, cloud computing, groceries, artificial intelligence, streaming media and more.
Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s profitable cloud platform, continues to remain ahead of the pack. Amazon’s market share in the worldwide cloud infrastructure market amounted to 32% in the first quarter of 2021, still exceeding the combined market share of its two largest competitors, Microsoft and Google.
The company was well-positioned during the coronavirus pandemic with its fast delivery of goods and groceries, and boosted its US workforce to more than 800,000, besides spreading its wings to other global markets, including India, where the company has a substantial presence.
The India growth story for Amazon is indeed compelling. Amazon has doubled down on the India market in recent years and has committed investments worth $6.5 billion in the country to date. It has also opened its largest campus in the world in Hyderabad.
His departure leaves questions about the future of Amazon as it faces a torrent of regulatory scrutiny and criticism from activists. US lawmakers are considering a measure that would make it easier to break up Amazon, amid concerns that a handful of Big Tech firms have become too dominant, hurting competition in a way that eventually harms consumers.
Bezos is however unperturbed. For better or worse, he remade Seattle, solidifying it as a tech hub and transforming a former warehouse district into a soaring campus, though critics would point out that Amazon has contributed to soaring housing prices and rising income inequities.
In recent years, Bezos’ eye has wandered to projects related to space. His Blue Origin spacecraft project will launch him this month, perhaps miles away from a host of terrestrial troubles. As Bezos believes, if you want a fulfilled life and more freedom, start your own, do your own things. And live the way you want.