Another Thing Amazon Is Disrupting: Business-School Recruiting

6. October 2017

Date: 06-10-2017
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Amazon has hired some 1,000 newly minted M.B.A.s in the past year

Jewel Lai, center, a student at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, spoke with Lindsey Windham, right, a senior marketing manager at Amazon, after a Sept. 19 information session led by Tuck alumni working at Amazon.

Amazon.com Inc., disrupter of industries from book selling to grocery shopping, has found its latest sector to upend—recruiting at the nation’s elite business schools.

The Seattle-based retail giant is now the top recruiter at the business schools of Carnegie Mellon University, Duke University and University of California, Berkeley. It is the biggest internship destination for first-year M.B.A.s at the University of Michigan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College and Duke. Amazon took in more interns from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business than either Bain & Co. or McKinsey & Co., which were until recently among the school’s top hirers of interns, according to Madhav Rajan, Booth’s dean. Read the rest of this entry »


Crowded cloud: Microsoft

20. July 2017

Date: 20-07-2017
Source: The Economist

Today the world’s largest software company reports earnings for the second quarter. Its share price is at an all-time high, elevated by expectations that the chief executive, Satya Nadella, will continue to transform the company and develop new business lines.

Mr Nadella, who is enthusiastic about artificial intelligence (AI), wants Microsoft to become an “AI-first” firm. He has pumped more time and money into Azure, its cloud-computing business, hopeful that it will account for much of the firm’s future growth.

But the company faces stiff competition from deep-pocketed rivals, such as Amazon and Google. Jefferies, an investment bank, reckons Azure will chalk up around $5bn in sales in 2017, or 21% of the market—an impressive sum but far less than Amazon Web Services, with 71%. Investors will be looking for clues as to how much new cloud business Microsoft has won. When expectations are great, even good results can disappoint.


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.


Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Doesn’t Care About Profit Margins

9. January 2013

Date: 09-01-2013
Source: Businessweek

amazon fullfilment centerAn Amazon.com fulfillment center in Ridgmont, U.K.

January in retail is a little bit like the off-season of a professional sports league. Teams dust themselves off from the grueling holiday season playoffs, evaluate their coaching staffs, and assess the balance of power in their divisions. In this month’s period of exhausted self-reflection, one of the industry’s broad conclusions is clear: Amazon.com is on its way to establishing a dangerous dynasty.

Amazon recently said it had its best holiday season ever in 2012, selling 26.5 million products around the world at a record-breaking pace of 306 items per second. Earlier this week, Amazon stock hit an all-time high, buoyed by a Morgan Stanley report that predicted the global e-commerce market will hit $1 trillion by 2016, with Amazon poised to capture nearly a quarter of that. The company is madly adding such customer freebies as new movies and television shows to its Netflix -slaying Prime Instant Video program, and its commitment to having the lowest price anywhere is increasingly exerting a gravitational effect on the strategies of rivals.

On Tuesday, Target announced a new policy of matching competitors’ prices year-round—a tactic geared toward slowing the emergence of “showrooming,” the practice by which shoppers browse in a store and then buy online, often from Amazon. Target, whose stock is also near an all-time high, is the second-largest retailer in the country, behind Wal-Mart. But if current growth rates continue, it will soon lose that title to the upstart from Seattle. Read the rest of this entry »