Updated on 17 June 2020
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Amazon’s history is most certainly wild and chock-full of controversy. Nonetheless, at its core, it’s one of the most famous business success stories about how perseverance against all odds and staying on the critical path is the only way to transform vision into reality. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, started the venture as an online book retailer on July 5, 1994, but the business has expanded over the years to sell almost anything one can think of and is now one of the most valuable companies in the world.
The name wasn’t Bezos’ first or even second choice – “Relentless” and “Cadabra” represented his top two options. He eventually took a shine to “Amazon” not only because of the exotic allure, but also because it’s the largest and longest river in the world, and that would fit really well with his grand vision for the store. If you’re curious, check out our Jeff Bezos timeline for more insights into the life of the man behind it all.
They broke ground within the first couple of months, with sales exceeding $20,000 per week. By 1997, Amazon was already claiming to be the largest bookstore in the world, which prompted Barnes & Noble to sue for false allegations. One year later, Walmart sued Amazon for stealing trade secrets by employing former execs from the retail giant. Both were settled out of court and Amazon weathered the storm.
Amazon starts exploring new growth areas and, in 2005, ventures into the realm of cloud computing services with AWS, and crowdsourcing with Mechanical Turk. Although they’re relatively new to the game, the company quickly becomes a dominant player in the field of cloud computers. Currently, an extensive amount of the Internet infrastructure belongs to them.
With the Kindle launch in 2007, it takes just 3 years for e-books to outsell hardbacks, a record milestone Amazon proudly announces in July 2010. Perhaps as a tribute to the original driving engine of the business, five years later Amazon inaugurates its very first brick and mortar bookstore in Seattle. 2015 is also the year that marks the launch of Underground, a platform that connects gamers with app creators and offers the latter a feasible way to monetize their software based on the time a user spends in it.
The year 2016 brings cyberpunk movies one step closer to reality with the introduction of Amazon Prime Air, which successfully completes its very first drone delivery on December 14. On the same note, the company’s vision to completely shift the shopping paradigm is furthered in 2018, with the launch of a no-cashier grocery store.
In 2019, Amazon settles on the location for their second headquarters, named simply HQ2: Northern Virginia. No major milestones were broken this year. Well, if we don’t count the $11.6 billion in profit and $280 billion in revenue. We’re still waiting to see how 2020 pans out but given the staggering number of 150 million customers with Amazon Prime, we’re not worried.
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