19 Jul 2021

Behind the scenes of the largest online seller Amazon

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 3:09 pm on 19 July 2021

Amazon isn't tethered to the laws of corporate gravity, says Bloomberg news executive editor Brad Stone.  

He explains how the e-commerce giant raises questions about the distribution of money and power in his book, Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire. 

Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 6, 2019.

Photo: AFP

Amazon Unbound is the second book Stone has written about Amazon, the first The Everything Store came out in 2013. 

“I kind of think about it as the Old Testament, it covers the early years of Amazon and Bezos didn’t like the book all that much. His wife at the time Mackenzie gave me a one-star review but time heals all wounds and they kind of came around.” 

Bezos however, didn't want to speak to Stone for Amazon Unbound. 

Stone says he didn’t set out to write the press release version of Amazon’s history. 

“The funny thing is, with these billionaires and these business titans, when you tell their story there’s a lot of good, there’s a lot of reasons to admire them but then obviously there are the controversial aspects of their biography, of their company history and I tried not to shy away from those.” 

In fact, the public perception of Bezos and other billionaires is really at a low point, he says. 

But does that bother Bezos? 

“I think it’s clear that Bezos doesn’t really care. He’s going to spend money how he wants to spend money.” 

With new products, like Alexia or Kindle, Bezos is all in, Stone says. 

“There’s no limit to what he’ll invest to who he’ll hire, and that’s this concept of being unbounded. He’s basically deputized executives to go and build these businesses.” 

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Photo: Supplied

“It was Bezos really not obeying any limits and being committed to his vision that got them there.” 

Amazon’s slogan is ‘Always day one’, referring to thinking of things consumers will want before they know they want them. 

“For Bezos it really represents a start-up mentality to keep inventing and keep investing and have a long-term perspective. It’s kind of a mantra at the company and he talks about day two being stasis and death.” 

Big companies tend to slow down over the years, but Amazon hasn’t, he says. “It’s like a boulder running down hill and that’s scary depending on your perspective. It might be quite promising if you’re an Amazon investor, but the growth even as it gets larger has gotten faster and this is something that governments and anti-trust experts have to contend with, is this company getting too powerful?” 

At the end of the day, Stone says if it wasn’t Amazon delivering those packages, or figuring out Cloud technology, it would be another company. 

“Amazon and all of those technology shifts it represents are simply here to stay.” 

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