Kelly's I Interview: Jeff Bezos - Q: How does it feel to be sitting on a $6bn fortune? A: I am incurably happy; MANIC GENIUS BEHIND INTERNET'S BIGGEST FIRM.HE'S the balls and brains behind the world's most famous website and biggest online retailer, amazon.com.
Six years after leaving his job at an investment bank, Jeff Bezos Jeffrey Preston Bezos (born January 12, 1964 , Albuquerque ) is the founder, president, chief executive officer, and chairman of the board of Amazon.com. Bezos, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Princeton University, worked as a financial analyst for D. E. Shaw & Co. , 37, has seen his family's fortune spiral towards $6 billion, even though amazon has never come close to making a profit. In fact, last year the company lost $896 million. But with 20 million customers in 150 countries, including 1.4 million in Britain, if any dotcom survives, it will be this one.
Bezos is far from the your average billionaire. Dressed-down, eyes bulging bulge
1. A protruding part; an outward curve or swelling.
2. Nautical A bilge.
3. A sudden, usually temporary increase in number or quantity: , manic man·ic
Relating to, affected by, or resembling mania. laughter, he is engrossing engrossing, in English law, practice of acquiring a monopoly of goods in order to sell them at an inflated price. The offense was ordinarily limited to monopolies of foods. Related practices were forestalling, i.e. and passionate about everything in his field of vision. That vision is pretty far-reaching.
From electronic newspapers to why he likes his 7,000 staff to make their own office desks to what it's like having a 12-week-old son to global domination Global Domination may refer to
KELLY'Si: OK, you're the world's biggest online bookseller, you're personally sitting on about $6billion, and the internet industry calls you a god. Would it be fair to say life's been worse?
JEFF BEZOS: Oh, I'm having a great time. I'm incurably in·cur·a·ble
1. Being such that a cure is impossible; not curable: an incurable disease.
2. happy, but then I'm incurably optimistic op·ti·mist
1. One who usually expects a favorable outcome.
2. A believer in philosophical optimism.
op as well. Always have been. When you start out on something like amazon. com, there are going to be hard days and easy days. I tell you, if you're not an optimist you just won't get through the hard days.
Ki: Why the name, amazon?
JB: Simple - Earth's biggest river, Earth's biggest selection. I registered the name in 1994, cost 50 bucks. It was one of a few I was thinking about.
The first name I actually chose was cadabra.com, as in abracadabra, but when I phoned the lawyer to incorporate the business he thought I said cadaver cadaver /ca·dav·er/ (kah-dav´er) a dead body; generally applied to a human body preserved for anatomical study.cadav´ericcadav´erous
n. .com, like corpse The physical remains of an expired human being prior to complete decomposition. Property and Possession Rights
In the ordinary use of the term, a property right does not exist in a corpse. . I swiftly realised perhaps this was a terrible name. Could say it would have been instant death for the company.
Ki: Where does it all end? Just how big do you want to be?
JB: We've still got to build a lasting company. We're pioneers and the history of pioneers isn't that good. But the ultimate goal is universal selection, a place that people can come to buy anything online. Anything.
Ki: You persuaded your parents to invest $300,000 of their retirement cash to help start you up, and it's worth $1 billion today. Would you advise a loved one to do the same with an internet stock Internet stock
The equity security of a company engaged primarily in a business associated with the Internet. Also called dot-com. today?
JB: Ha! No way! Internet stocks are so volatile, more than any other stocks in history. They're totally inappropriate for small investors Small investor
An individual person investing in small quantities of stock or bonds. This group of investors makes up a minimal fraction of total stock ownership.
small investor unless it's a tiny proportion of their portfolio that they can afford to lose.
Ki: How come you weren't so concerned for your mum and dad's cash?
JB: Ahh - they were betting on their son. That was an act of love, not an investment. And I told them there was a 70 per cent chance they'd lose the lot. Their first question was: "So, Jeff, what's the internet?" I explained it and my mother said: "You know, this sounds risky. Can't you keep your day job and do this at night?" Ha!
Ki: Clearly risk-taking runs in the family. Do you need to be like that to make a go of it in dotcoms.
JB: No question. You need to be able to do things that a rational person would consider totally foolhardy fool·har·dy
adj. fool·har·di·er, fool·har·di·est
Unwisely bold or venturesome; rash. See Synonyms at reckless.
[Middle English folhardi, from Old French fol hardi : .
Ki: What about the risk-takers over at boo.com?
JB: Ha! You should only be unreasonable to a point. Trying to open simultaneously in 18 countries is a very amateurish mistake. You've got to get it right in one place, then roll it out.
Ki: But this is the tip of an iceberg iceberg, mass of ice that has become detached, or calved, from the edge of an ice sheet or glacier and is floating on the ocean. Because ice is slightly less dense than water about one ninth of the total mass of a berg projects above the water. , isn't it? There are plenty of clowns
JB: Absolutely. This is like the Cambrian era, 550 million years ago, when single-cell life first became multi-celled. It was the greatest rate of new species ever seen, but it was also the greatest rate of extinction ever seen. Same thing here - there are going to be an awful lot of businesses that fail.
Ki: What kind of people are throwing millions at people with no idea about business? Aren't they irresponsible ir·re·spon·si·ble
1. Marked by a lack of responsibility: irresponsible accusations.
2. Lacking a sense of responsibility; unreliable or untrustworthy.
JB: Sure they are. I had to talk to 60 investors to raise a million dollars to start amazon. Now, there's not a venture capitalist Venture Capitalist
An investor who provides capital to either start-up ventures or support small companies who wish to expand but do not have access to public funding.
Venture capitalists usually expect higher returns for the additional risks taken. on the planet who'd write a cheque that small. 1999 was a year that almost anyone with almost any idea - so long as it had dotcom in its name - could raise almost an unlimited amount of capital.
Ki: How many venture capitalists did you have to go through to get your start-up cash?
JB: The VCs were totally uninterested. I got the money from what you call angels - wealthy individuals. I got 22 of them to invest about $50,000 each. That's worth about $50 million today. Not bad.
Ki: And what about the guys who turned you down? How gutted are they?
JB: I'm still friends with many of them. They tend to fall into two groups - the ones who are very philosophical about it, and the ones who just don't want to talk about it!
Ki: Given how much cash dotcoms seem to need now to get going, how did you do it with just a million?
JB: We were so lucky. We started when the net wasn't crowded. In our first year we didn't spend a single dollar on advertising, but we grew real big just on word of mouth. Today we spend a huge amount on advertising, but still most of our customers come to us by word of mouth. The best dollars spent are those we use to improve the customer experience.
Ki: Have you dropped any major clangers along the way.
JB: You've gotta got·ta
Contraction of got to: I gotta go home. realise this - to go from zero to 20 million customers in five years, you're talking to Noun 1. talking to - a lengthy rebuke; "a good lecture was my father's idea of discipline"; "the teacher gave him a talking to"
rebuke, reprehension, reprimand, reproof, reproval - an act or expression of criticism and censure; "he had to Earth's luckiest company! Even bad decisions turn out OK for us.
Example - five years ago we launched with over a million book titles. Everyone said it's too many to stock, you'll never be able to source the bottom 700,000 titles. And you know what? They were right. It was a nightmare finding those books. But that was a mistake that helped make our name. We became famous for finding anything.
Ki: What's more important to punters? That kind of service or just a great price?
JB: Nah, you can't ask them to compromise on those things. If you do, you'll fail. They go together.
Ki: You may be worth billions, but your company's never made a cent. You can't keep losing money for ever.
JB: No, of course not, but we're spending a lot now to make a lot later. We expect our US books business to be profitable for the whole of next year.
Ki: Now that you can see finally there's some money coming in, isn't it time you bought some decent desks for your staff?
JB: Ha! Never! They're great desks. I tell you, if there was an earthquake, I'd wanna wan·na
1. Contraction of want to: You wanna go now?
2. Contraction of want a: You wanna slice of pie? be under one of those desks. I built the first few myself out of old doors and now a lot of employees make their own. It's sort of a symbol of spending money on stuff that matters to customers. Customers don't care about our furniture, they don't see it. But they do get to see our computer servers, so we always have the best of the stuff that matters.
Ki: You're worth billions, but you draw less than $100,000 salary. Why?
JB: I'm very well compensated in stock. I'm not complaining.
Ki: OK, but how does it feel to wake up each morning wealthy enough to buy small countries? You must know everyone you meet's just thinking: "Come on, Bezos. Buy us a car."
JB: Ha! It's not nearly as strange as people expect. By the time you're about 25, most of the core things about you are relatively fixed - who you are, what you believe in - so the money doesn't change you as much as you'd think. I think if it happened to you when you were 15 it could be a touch detrimental det·ri·men·tal
Causing damage or harm; injurious.
Ki: This time last year you and your wife MacKenzie were still living in a poky apartment in Seattle. Now you've traded up to a big place on Lake Washington Lake Washington is the second largest natural lake in state of Washington (after Lake Chelan) and the largest lake in King County. It is bordered by the cities of Seattle on the west, Bellevue and Kirkland on the east, Renton on the south and Kenmore on the north, and surrounds . Good move?
JB: Oh, it's beautiful. It's like living in a park with great trees.
Ki: What do your neighbours This article is about an Australian soap opera. For other articles with similar names, see Neighbours (disambiguation).
Neighbours is a long-running Australian soap opera, which began its run in March 1985. do?
JB: Tell you the truth, I've been there a year and I haven't met them. Bit embarrassing, but I've been so busy.
Ki: How does it compare with your pal Bill Gates's place?
JB: Oh, Bill's place is an amazing a·maze
v. a·mazed, a·maz·ing, a·maz·es
1. To affect with great wonder; astonish. See Synonyms at surprise.
2. Obsolete To bewilder; perplex.
v.intr. showcase for technology, but it's full of very old stuff too. He has a beautiful library, filled with works from famous scientists, Leonardo Da Vinci Leonardo da Vinci (də vĭn`chē, Ital. lāōnär`dō dä vēn`chē), 1452–1519, Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, and scientist, b. near Vinci, a hill village in Tuscany. writings.
You know he wrote backwards because he was left handed and didn't want the ink to smear smear (smer) a specimen for microscopic study prepared by spreading the material across the slide.
Pap smear , Papanicolaou smear see under test. - complete genius.
Ki: Does collecting old stuff turn you on?
JB: Yeah sure. The idea turns me on a great deal, but I don't have time at this point. We're way too busy just trying to build a lasting company. Bill's a bit further down the road than we are!
Ki: You've got a new son. Does that leave you any spare time?
JB: It's amazing. We're convinced he's the cutest baby ever - shockingly unique concept, I know! But he's a great user-up of spare time. We also love to hike, read books, take adventure holidays, go the movies, whatever.
Ki: Just your average Mr and Mrs Billionaire then? How many books do get through? And do you buy them at amazon?
JB: I read about three a month and, no, I don't always shop at amazon. I just love going to great independent bookstores, spending a couple of lazy hours looking at the shelves.
Ki: What was the last book you read?
JB: Just finished a sci-fi book called Eater, all about an intelligent black hole. And, yeah, I got that one through amazon.
Ki: Do you think we'll ever see the end of printed books and newspapers?
JB: The reason reading newspapers online today is no fun is because the screens are terrible. They're not nearly as high resolution as paper, you can't move it around in the same way.
They're already developing something called electronic ink. Picture having a blank notebook, then you put this book in a little cradle, push a button and open it up and suddenly it's a complete book with words on the pages. Press another button and it's another book.
That's going to work for newspapers too. The display technology we'll have in 10 to 20 years will be so superior to paper - and they'll be flexible so you can fold them up. In the labs we do some of these things today, but it's not nearly good enough and it's still way too expensive.
Ki: What the best bit of your job?
JB: I love improving the customer experience. I teach our staff to be really anally retentive re·ten·tive
1. Having the quality, power, or capacity of retaining.
2. Having the ability or capacity to retain knowledge or information with ease: a retentive memory. in that regard - it's just so important. I also love finding super-talented people and finding the right spot for them.
Ki: And the worst bit?
JB: Sitting down with an employee and saying: "Look, it's not working. I'm going to have to let you go." That's a depressing but essential part of trying to build something.
Ki: What would you say to some bright young spark who wants to be the next Jeff Bezos?
JB: Get a job in a company that does things the best in the industry and stay for five years and really learn it. If you want to be an entrepreneur, don't do it right away - you need to learn on somebody else's dollar!
And after five or ten years find something you're very passionate about and make sure it's something that genuinely makes the customer's life better. Cause if you can't pass that acid test, it ain't gonna gon·na
Contraction of going to: We're gonna win today. work. Save yourself the time!