The Everything Store is an enticing read if you are interested in business books. This is not an autobiography or authorized biography of Jeff Bezos, the Founder/CEO of Amazon. However, this encapsulates the story of Amazon or Jeff Bezos. One of the most striking things about reading this book was the numerous experiments carried out by Jeff Bezos or Amazon and also the equal number of failures they have had. I have listened to Jeff Bezos talk about failures, however, this book gives a good understanding of what they are.
Jeff Bezos acquired a bunch of companies prior to the dot com bust which did not work well (Pets.com, kozmo.com (delivery), and a host of others). He also personally invested in a company owned by Rajaraman and Harinarayanan (Cambrian Ventures) and sold the Intellectual property of what they developed to Bezos. He renamed it Mechanical Turk, (similar to UpWork.com, however for executing mechanical jobs and more). This was a pet Jeff project and it coincided with Amazon Web Services. However, AWS took off and Mechanical Turk was put in the back burner. This is just an example of trying numerous things.
Contract to Full Time: One of Jeff Bezos’s friends was working as a contractor in Amazon.com. He was a great friend and knew Jeff well. He wanted to join Amazon.com as a full-time employee. However, Jeff would not let him join full time and had him continue his contract. He was net picky of who he got on board with respect to hiring. He felt his friend would not be dedicated enough to Amazon.com and needed more committed people. Hiring is one of the key lessons one could learn from this.
Hiring & People Changes: Reading this book, you will be able to find the numerous people changes that have happened throughout the life of Amazon. Jeff always wanted the best working with Amazon.com and he was also very demanding. He hired some of the best engineers and also lost an equal amount of them to the competition. However, that did not deter the success of Amazon.com. Jeff was also good at hiring people with no industry experience on what they will be selling and putting them on the job.
Little things matter: When you read this book, another thing which would catch your attention is Jeff’s focus on little things. This is something he picked up from his D.E Shaw days. Like how D and E were capitals and not de. It was Amazon.com for him in the early days and he always added a .com when he pronounced it. There was another great example of how television was fixed in a conference room and he was extremely mad about it because the way it was fixed cost a lot of money to Amazon. This did not gel well with the frugal culture of Amazon. He also wanted people not to fly business class and every time he used his private jets, he always made it a point to explain that it was his personal money that was being put to use.
Shamelessly Steal Good Ideas: Jeff’s meetings with the Costco Founder, Jim Singal was fascinating. He learned that value trumps everything from the meeting and Jeff was shameless about stealing good ideas. Their trip to meet the Walmart CEO and talking about Sam Walton’s book was also a great read.
Kindle: The Kindle kind of product existed much before Amazon worked on the kindle. Marc Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning pitched an ebook reader idea to Jeff Bezos for an investment. The terms of the deal did not work out and they went ahead with Barnes and Noble. Though the initial launch was successful, it failed towards the end. However, Jeff Bezos picked up the same idea at a later date and launched Kindle. Jeff quoted the invention of Movable Printing Press by Johannes Gutenberg five hundred and fifty years ago and his new device will change how people have been reading for hundreds of years. This is another great example of not being first in the market and shamelessly stealing great ideas and inventions.
Other Interesting Notes from the book: One of his Jeff’s gifts – ‘Being able to drive and motivate employees without being personally attached to them’. A chapter ‘Millravi’ is dedicated Ravi Suria a financial analyst who covered amazon. It is amazing how much a financial analyst could bring down (or) up the stock price. The third-party seller platform was failing, however, they kept reinventing it. Frugality is something you will learn a lot throughout the book. Jeff was building the company for the long term (did not have an exit strategy). Get big fast, get the house in order are other good learnings. Five Core Principles of Amazon. Customer obsession, frugality, a bias for action, ownership, and a high bar for talent. The sixth one was Innovation. He handpicked the team of Bar Raisers (The one’s who decided on hiring a candidate) – The importance of recruiting is stressed in this book as well. Just Do It Award is giving to employees who do something significant (outside of their core job) – and there were no cash prizes (read – frugality). Back in 1999. Jeff invested in many companies including drugstore.com, pets.com, and more (multiple failures), Other failures included Amazon Auctions Kozmo. Same day delivery. Invested $60m. I went bust in 2001. One of the reasons Jeff set up the company in Seattle – Did not want to pay sales tax. (Large population in ca) and there is no state tax. Junglee was a $170m acquisition and got him connected to Ram Shriram and in turn, led to an opportunity for Jeff Bezos to personally invest in Google (which is worth billions of dollars). His hiring of Jeff Wilke, now CEO of the Worldwide Consumer Business at Amazon was also a good read. It is also interesting how the other Jeff raised up the ranks of Amazon.