The Everything Store
The Everything Storeby Brad Stone
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p.234
Drawing lessons directly from the book, Bezos unshackled Kessel from Amazon's traditional media organization. “Your job is to kill your own business,” he told him. “I want you to proceed as if your goal is to put everyone selling physical books out of a job." Bezos underscored the urgency of the effort. He believed that if Amazon didn't lead the world into the age of digital reading, then Apple or Google would. When Kessel asked Bezos what his deadline was on developing the company's first piece of hardware, an electronic reading device, Bezos told him, “You are basically already late."
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The genesis of the Kindle
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p.94
Soon after Thanksgiving, predictably, Amazon was failing to keep the most popular toys in stock. Kerry Morris, the buyer who joined Amazon from Walmart, says she organized Amazon employee visits to Costco and Toys “R” Us stores around the country and had them scoop up supplies of Pokémon toys and Mattel's Walk ’N Wag dog, which were hot that season. She cleaned out the inventory of Pokémon products on the brand-new ToysRUs.com website and had everything shipped to Fernley, exploiting a rival's freeshipping promotion. “Because they were so new to the e-commerce space that year, they really did not have the tools to alert them to us wiping out their inventory until it was too late," Morris says.
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p.51
Parking was scarce and expensive. Nicholas Lovejoy suggested to Bezos that the company subsidize bus passes for employees, but Bezos scoffed at the idea. "He didn't want employees to leave work to catch the bus," Lovejoy says. "He wanted them to have their cars there so there was never any pressure to go home."
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p.46
“You can work long, hard, and smart, but at Amazon.com you can pick only two out of three.” Now the young CEO liked to recite, “You can work long, you can work hard, you can work smart, but at Amazon you can't choose two out of three."
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p.27
Bezos's parents, Mike and Jackie, were nearing the end of a threeyear stay in Bogotá, Colombia, where Mike was working for Exxon as a petroleum engineer, when they got the phone call. “What do you mean, you are going to sell books over the Internet?” was their first reaction, according to Mike Bezos. They had used the early online service Prodigy to correspond with family members and to organize Jeff and MacKenzie's engagement party, so it wasn't naïveté about new technology that unnerved them. Rather, it was seeing their accomplished son leave a well-paying job on Wall Street to pursue an idea that sounded like utter madness
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Later Bezos recalled speaking at an all-hands meeting called to address the assault by Barnes & Noble. “Look, you should wake up worried, terrified every morning," he told his employees. “But don't be worried about our competitors because they're never going to send us any money anyway. Let's be worried about our customers and stay heads-down focused."15
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In early 1995, Bezos's parents, Jackie and Mike Bezos, invested $100,000 in Amazon. Exxon had covered most of the couple's living expenses when Mike worked in Norway, Colombia, and Venezuela, so the couple had a considerable nest egg and were willing to spend a good portion of it on their oldest child. “We saw the business plan, but all of that went over our heads to a large extent,” says Mike Bezos. “As corny as it sounds, we were betting on Jeff." Bezos told his parents there was a 70 percent chance they vuld lose it all. “I want you to know what the risks are, because I still want to come home for Thanksgiving if this doesn't work,” he said.
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At the time, Bezos was newly married, with a comfortable apartment on the Upper West Side and a well-paying job. While MacKenzie said she would be supportive if he decided to strike out on his own, the decision was not an easy one. Bezos would later describe his thinking process in unusually geeky terms. He says he came up with what he called a “regret-minimization framework” to decide the next step to take at this juncture of his career. "When you are in the thick of things, you can get confused by small stuff," Bezos said a few years later. “I knew when I was eighty that I would never, for example, think about why I walked away from my 1994 Wall Street bonus right in the middle of the year at the worst possible time. That kind of thing just isn't something you worry about when you're eighty years old. At the same time, I knew that I might sincerely regret not having participated in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a revolutionizing event. When I thought about it that way... it was incredibly easy to make the decision."
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In one chart, he showed that the number of bytes—a cet of binary digits — transmitted over the Web had increased by a factor of 2,057 between January 1993 and January 1994. Another graphic showed the number of packets —a single unit of datasent over the Web had jumped by 2,560 in the same span. Bezos interpolated from this that Web activity overall had gone up that year by a factor of roughly 2,300—a 230,000 percent increase. "Things just don't grow that fast,” Bezos later said. “It's highly unusual, and that started me thinking, What kind of business plan might make sense in the context of that growth?" (Bezos also liked to say in speeches during Amazon's early years that it was the Web's “2,300 percent" annual growth rate that jolted him out of complacency. Which makes for an interesting historical footnote: Amazon began with a math error.)
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As the company grew, David Shaw started to think about how to broaden its talent base. He looked beyond math and science geeks to what he called generalists, those who'd recently graduated at the tops of their classes and who showed significant aptitude in particular subjects. The firm also combed through the ranks of Fulbright scholars and dean's-list students at the best colleges and sent hundreds of unsolicited letters to them introducing the firm and proclaiming, "We approach our recruiting in unapologetically elitist fashion.”
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Bezos thought analytically about everything, including social sitsations. Single at the time, he started taking ballroom-dance classes, alculating that it would increase his exposure to what he called n+ women. He later famously admitted to thinking about how to increase his "women flow,”a Wall Street corollary to deal flow, the number of new opportunities a banker can access. Jeff Holden, who worked for Bezos first at D. E. Shaw & Co. and later at Amazon, says he was “the most introspective guy I ever met. He was very methodical about everything in his life.
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As the company grew, David Shaw started to think about how to broaden its talent base. He looked beyond math and science geeks to what he called generalists, those who'd recently graduated at the tops of their classes and who showed significant aptitude in particular subjects. The firm also combed through the ranks of Fulbright scholars and dean's-list students at the best colleges and sent hundreds of unsolicited letters to them introducing the firm and proclaiming, "We approach our recruiting in unapologetically elitist fashion.”
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"If you want to get to the truth about what makes us different, it's this," Bezos says, veering into a familiar Jeffism: "We are genuinely customer-centric, we are genuinely long-term oriented and we genuinely like to invent. Most companies are not those things. They are focused on the competitor, rather than the customer. They want to work on things that will pay dividends in two or three years, and if they don't work in two or three years they will move on to some thing else. And they prefer to be close-followers rather than inventors, because it's safer. So if you want to capture the truth about Amazon, that is why we are different. Very few companies have all of those three elements.” Toward the end of the hour we spent discussing this book, Bezos leaned forward on his elbows and asked, “How do you plan to handle the narrative fallacy?”
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There is so much stuff that has yet to be invented. There's so much new that's going to happen. People don't have any idea yet how impactful the Internet is going to be and that this is still Day 1 in such a big way. Jeff Bezos
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As many of his employees will attest, Bezos is extremely difficult to work for. Despite his famously hearty laugh and cheerful public persona, he is capable of the same kind of acerbic outbursts as Apple's late founder, Steve Jobs, who could terrify any employee who stepped into an elevator with him. Bezos is a micromanager with a limitless spring of new ideas, and he reacts harshly to efforts that don't meet his rigorous standards.
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We don’t make money when we sell things. We make money when we help customers make purchase decisions.
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Wilke elevated the visibility of his FC managers within Amazon He brought them to Seattle as often as possible and highlighted the urgency of their technical issues. During the holiday season, in what remains today his personal signature, Wilke wore a flannel shirt every day as a gesture of solidarity with his blue-collar comrades in the field. Wilke "recognized that a general manager was a difficult job and he made you feel you were in a lifelong club," says Bert Wegner, who ran the Fernley FC in those years.
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