Happy B-Day Amazon
Kevin Salwen on Business
10 years ago this week, a little company with mega-ambitions launched on the Web with the hype of 'Earth's Biggest Bookstore.' Amazon sold half a million dollars of books in its first six months, but then grew meteorically to $1.6 billion in revenue by the end of year 4. Since that time, the Amazon story has been one for the record books: Amazon borrowed a stunning $2 billion, continued its rocket growth, went through a round of layoffs -- and in 2003, at age 8, finally turned its first profit.
Two main things set Amazon apart from the other pacesetters in the dot-com world. Unlike eBay, Yahoo and Google, Amazon hasn't really created anything that wasn't in the physical world. You bought new products from stores before; you still do, except now it's online. (I guess you could argue that flea markets were plentiful in the physical world and that eBay simply tossed them into a centralized location, but I'd argue that eBay has changed the way many business are built.)
But the other significant difference with Amazon is that the founder, Jeff Bezos, is still running the show. Jerry Yang, Pierre Omidyar, Sergey Brin and the others have long since moved aside to allow professional managers to build their ideas from big businesses into massive ones. Not Jeff Bezos. Entrepreneurs are traditionally builders, creators, idea generators; they aren't nuts and bolts folks and often get too tied to their vision. Bezos has been able to do some things I have rarely seen entrepreneurs do (layoffs, for instance). But is he the right guy for Decade 2?
Norah Jones and Bob Dylan are the headliners at the company's 10th anniversary party. Should it be Bezos' swansong?