Hello, my name is Jeff Bezos. I started Amazon.com about 15 years ago. I have tons of stories from the early days. We started the company in my house. We didn’t have enough electric power in the house at a certain point. We only had about four employees then, but we already had enough computers and computer servers. We had to stream these big, orange extension cords from every room in the house to get enough power into the room where the office was. So we were basically…all the circuit breakers were flipping. We couldn’t plug a vacuum cleaner in anywhere without flipping all the circuit breakers. We finally had to move to a real office. When we launched the store, we made a very early mistake. It’s one of my favorite software bugs of all time. We found that customers could order a negative quantity of books and we would credit their credit card with the price and I assume wait around for them to ship us the books. We fixed that one. It’s fixed. And we’ve made a bunch of other mistakes over time, but we’ve learned a lot. My whole body is covered in scar tissue. We initially programmed a bell to ring every time we got an order. And I’m very pleased to say that within the first 30 days of doing business that bell got annoying. So we had to turn it off. It was a great moment when we were examining every order that came into Amazon. And there was always a fear in placing the order. And the first order we got from a stranger, I remember there were a half dozen of us all gathered around after the bell rang when we examined the order. And I remember saying is that your mom? It’s not my mom! And thus it began. A lot has happened over the last 15 years. As I said, we’ve made some mistakes. But we’ve learned some things. And I want to tell you everything I know. I can guarantee you everything I know - it’s a very short list. This won’t take long. And it’s complete too.
The first thing I know is that you need to obsess over customers. I can tell you we’ve been doing this from the very beginning and it’s the only reason Amazon.com exists today in any form. We’ve always put customers first - when given the choice of obsessing over competitors or obsessing over customers, we always make the choice to obsess over customers. We pay attention to what our competitors do but it’s not where we put our energy or get our motivation from. We like to start with customers and work backwards and that is the key thing that I know and it covers a lot of other mistakes. If you are truly obsessed over customers it will cover a lot of errors.
The second thing I know is invent. It’s really important to invent. Any time we have a problem, we never accept either/or thinking. We try to figure out a solution that gets both things and that often requires invention. But you can invent your way out of any box if you can believe you can. And what we talk about is inventing on behalf of customers. It’s not a customer’s job to invent for themselves. You need to listen to customers. If you don’t listen to customers, you will go astray. But they won’t tell you everything so you will need to invent on their behalf. Some of the recent things – kindle, Ec2 (the elastic compute cloud) we would have never gotten to these things if we hadn’t focused on invention. These are large things – but there are small things too.
And then the third thing is think long term. This is really critical – any company that wants to put customers first, that wants to invent on behalf of customers – has to be willing to think long-term. And it’s actually much rarer than you might think. I find that most of the initiatives that we undertake may take 5-7 years before they pay any dividends for the company. They may start paying dividends for customers right away, but they often take a long time to pan out for shareholders and the company. So that ability to think in 5-7 year time frames really is very, very useful for us and is definitely one of the things that requires and allows a willingness to be misunderstood. If you think long-term, many of the inventions you come up with will be disruptive and may not be understood in the early innings and it’s always been very important to think long-term so that we can tolerate being misunderstood. We’ve been called Amazon.toast, Amazon.con; many different things that are not appropriate for a video. And if we think we’re right, then we continue. If we think we’re wrong, then we fix it. We change it. So it’s important to really think about those things but not to buckle to standard pressures that force short-term thinking. It’s a huge competitive advantage to think long-term and you get to serve customers much better.
All right. That’s all that I know, really. I know one more thing that I’ll save for the end. But this is a very exciting day. Zappos is a company I have long admired and for an important reason. Zappos has a customer obsession which is so easy for me to admire. It is the starting point for Zappos. It’s the starting point and ending point for them and that is very key factor for me – and I get all weak kneed when I see a customer obsessed company and Zappos is certainly that. Zappos as a company also has a unique culture. I’ve seen a lot of companies and I have never seen a company with a culture like Zappos’. And that kind of unique culture is a significant asset and I’m super excited about that. I’ve spent a lot of time talking with Fred and Alfred and Tony and I have a good feeling for how important that culture is to the Zappos brand, the Zappos customers and the Zappos employees. And that culture and Zappos brand are huge assets that I value very much and I want to see those things continue. You’re in such great hands with Fred, Alfred and Tony - that’s a really big deal. I’ve seen a lot of leaders in companies and I’ve not seen people better than those three.
There’s a lot of growth ahead of us with Zappos. This is the beginning. I’m totally excited about what can be accomplished over time. My belief is that we haven’t seen anything yet. As much as Zappos has accomplished, and it’s a lot, with that unique culture and that great brand and those terrific leaders, I know it’s just the very beginning. And that bring s me to the final thing that I know –
It’s always Day 1. There’s always more invention in the future, always more customer innovation, new ways to obsess over customers. I’m super excited about Zappos. Thank you.