Jeff Bezos: the ‘obsessive’ Amazon founder and world’s next richest man

3. June 2017

Date: 03-06-2017
Source: The Guardian

Bezos, whose wealth has risen by $20bn in five months, could take Bill Gates’s crown within days if Amazon shares keep soaring

 Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in 1994, the early days of the internet, selling books from his garage in Seattle.

Just a few dollars more on the Amazon share price and the world will have a new richest man. Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder, is on the brink of overtaking Bill Gates to become the wealthiest person on the planet.

Bezos, 53, has been having a very good year. His net worth has risen by almost $20bn (£16bn) in the past five months to $85.2bn, putting him just behind Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, who is valued at $89.3bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Bezos’ fortune has soared thanks to a sharp rise in Amazon’s share price, which has gone up by one-third so far in 2017, valuing the company at $475bn and Bezos’s stake of roughly 17% at more than $80bn. If Amazon shares continue to rise at the same pace, Bezos will become the richest person in the world within days. Read the rest of this entry »


Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Outlines How He Tries to Keep Retail Giant in Startup Mode

13. April 2017

Date: 13-04-2017
Source: The Wall Street Journal

In a shareholder letter, Mr. Bezos stressed the importance of putting customers first and staying nimble

Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos earned a base salary of $81,840 last year, and because of his large stake in the company, has never taken stock-based compensation.

Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos says he recently thought a new show the Amazon Studios team was considering was too boring and complicated to produce. But he gave it the green light anyway because the team thought it had potential.

Mr. Bezos told his team, “I disagree and commit and hope it becomes the most watched thing we’ve ever made,” he wrote in a shareholder letter published Wednesday. “Consider how much slower this decision cycle would have been if the team had actually had to convince me rather than simply get my commitment.”

The letter, an annual exercise, offers a window into Mr. Bezos’s management philosophy, describing how he can disagree with employees but still back their projects, as well as his opposition to relying on market research and other core company tenets.

Amazon also released data on compensation, which showed Andy Jassy, who runs the Amazon Web Services cloud division, was the top earner at $35.6 million last year, including stock awards. Read the rest of this entry »


How Amazon Has Diversified

2. June 2016

Date: 02-06-2016
Source: The Wall Street Journal

A timeline of the company’s history

Amazon has grown from a pure online bookseller to one offering a dizzying array of products, services and devices. Today, Amazon competes with media companies like Netflix, hardware makers like Apple, search and advertising firms like Google and even Uber in on-demand transportation and delivery—not to mention traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.
amazon history


Tech’s ‘Frightful 5’ Will Dominate Digital Life for Foreseeable Future

21. January 2016

Date: 21-01-2016
Source: The New York Times

There’s a little parlor game that people in Silicon Valley like to play. Let’s call it, Who’s Losing?

There are currently four undisputed rulers of the consumer technology industry: Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, now a unit of a parent company called Alphabet. And there’s one more, Microsoft, whose influence once looked on the wane, but which is now rebounding.

So which of these five is losing? A year ago, it was Google that looked to be in a tough spot as its ad business appeared more vulnerable to Facebook’s rise. Now, Google is looking up, and it’s Apple, hit by rising worries about a slowdown in iPhone sales, that may be headed for some pain. Over the next couple of weeks, as these companies issue earnings that show how they finished 2015, the state of play may shift once more.

But don’t expect it to shift much. Asking “who’s losing?” misses a larger truth about how thoroughly Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft now lord over all that happens in tech. Read the rest of this entry »


What Amazon’s workplace controversy says about the future of work

23. August 2015

Date: 22-08-2015
Source: Fortune

The harsh workplace that a New York Times story recently described plaguing Amazon represents an old-fashioned business model that will almost certainly disappear soon.

This week, a New York Times profile of Amazon’s treatment of employees has provoked a debate about the future of the workplace.

The article claims that Amazon’s professional employees are well paid and work on world-changing projects, but are pushed to the breaking point in a survival-of-the-fittest climate where they tend to burn out and leave quickly.

Readers, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, say they are appalled by the anecdotes of insensitivity in the Times report. But the controversy has raised the possibility that the underlying business model portrayed in the article is legitimate or perhaps inevitable. The Times article quotes an ex-Amazon employee who says CEO Jeff Bezos has envisioned a “new workplace: fluid but tough, with employees staying only a short time and employers demanding the maximum.” Read the rest of this entry »


Amazon’s Greatest Weapon: Jeff Bezos’s Paranoia

16. November 2013

Date: 15-11-2013
Source: The Wall Street Journal

BezosJeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

Let me ask you to do something scary: Imagine you’re Jeff Bezos and you’ve just spent the morning studying your retail empire. How do you feel? Do you brim with confidence? Or do you harbor profound, unshakable paranoia about the rivals storming your gates?

I’m betting you’re paranoid. Indeed, I suspect your paranoia explains the frenzy of expansion that has gripped Amazon.com Inc. over the past few years, from its new effort to launch Sunday delivery to its move into grocery service to providing instant, face-to-face technical support on the Kindle Fire.

What could Mr. Bezos possibly have to fear? Impermanence. Mr. Bezos is in an industry, retail sales, in which every innovation is instantly pored over and copied, in which (thanks partly to him) margins are constantly driven to zero, and in which customers are governed by passing fancy and whim. Being online confers fantastic advantages to Amazon, but it also comes at a deep cost: Very little about its business is burned into customers’ minds.

Hence, frenzy: Amazon is in a race to embed itself into the fabric of world-wide commerce in a way that would make it indispensable to everyone’s shopping habits—and to do so before its rivals wise up to its plans. Read the rest of this entry »


The web giants pumping us for data

2. September 2013

Date: 02-09-2013
Source: The Guardian

As society becomes more networked, the information available to the Googles, Amazons and Facebooks of this world will increase exponentially

Rich resources … Like an oilfield, big data offers potentially huge profits for the corporations tapping into it.

Should you be looking for an example of hucksterish cynicism, then the mantra that “data is the new oil” is as good as they come. Although its first recorded utterance goes as far back as 2006, in recent times it has achieved the status of an approved corporate cliche, though nowadays “data” is generally qualified by the adjective “big”. And if you want a measure of how deeply the cliche has penetrated the collective unconscious, ponder this: a Google search for “big data” turns up more than 1.5bn results. And a search for “data mining” turns up 167m results.

The idea of big data as a metaphor for oil is seductive. It’s also revealing in interesting ways. Given that the oil business is one of the biggest industries in the history of the world, for example, the metaphor hints at untold future riches. But it conveniently skates over the fact that oil wealth overwhelmingly benefits either ruling elites in corrupt and/or authoritarian countries, or huge corporations in democratic states.

But at least oil is a physical, non-renewable resource that is extracted from the earth. Big data, on the other hand, is extracted from the activities of people and machines. As society becomes more and more networked, and as the so-called “internet-of-things” evolves, the amounts of data available to be “mined” will increase exponentially. And, unlike fossil fuels, these data reserves are infinitely renewable.

“Big data”, says Kenneth Cukier, co-author of the best book on the subject to appear so far, “will transform how we work, how we live and how we think”. He argues that, at least in the case of data, “more is not just more; more is different”, by which he means that quantitative abundance can lead to qualitative change. The availability of huge amounts of data turbocharges machine learning; for example, turning hitherto impossible tasks – like accurate, instantaneous language translation – into delivered realities.

The key question about any major technological development is: who benefits? The answer in the case of big data is: huge corporations – the Googles, Amazons and Facebooks of this world, which are the only outfits (outside of the US National Security Agency) with the computational resources to mine, analyse and process the data torrents unleashed by us as we go about our networked lives. The companies don’t talk about it this way, of course. Instead they have soothing patter about how their analytical capabilities enable them to serve you better: how the ability to analyse the web searches conducted by you and your friends enables them to provide better search results, for example; or how analysis of your online behaviour enables Amazon to suggest products that you might like; and so on.

All true, of course, but skilfully avoiding the awkward fact that you are the resource that is being mined and that the playing field that is cyberspace is tilted in favour of the corporations who have come to dominate it.

Which brings us to another aspect of the subject: open data. Since 2005, activists have been campaigning for “open government data” initiatives – demanding the publication of public datasets in machine-readable, freely reusable formats. The argument for this is impeccable: the data is collected by public bodies; it should therefore be available to the public that paid for it. The motivations behind the campaigns are likewise admirable: if the data is available, then civic-minded geeks can do useful things with it.

The open government data campaigns have been surprisingly successful in both the US and the UK. Huge swaths of public data are now available. I can download a vast spreadsheet containing details of every contract worth more than £500 entered into by my local authority, for example. And in many cases, people have already developed useful services on top of public data. For example, busitlondon.co.uk provides a helpful online tool for planning a journey by bus in London.

There’s lots more in that vein, and it’s all good stuff. At first sight, therefore, open government data looks encouraging. But there are a couple of flies in the ointment. The first is that there is a difference between open data and open government. The current Hungarian administration, for example, has been quite good at publishing public data, but is morphing into one of the most secretive and authoritarian regimes in Europe.

And then there’s that awkward question again: who benefits? Certainly the public, to some extent. But there are signs that open government data favours private companies bidding for local authority contracts. The companies know what it costs the authority to collect the refuse, for instance; but their own finances are opaque, so it’s impossible to judge whether they would really be more efficient than a public body.

And the moral? Be careful what you wish for.