The Everything Store, by Brad Stone, is a critical and beginning-to-end (well, middle, since they still labor on) look at how Amazon came to be. Unlike many books about technology founders, Stone does not descend into "hero worship," and instead tries to stick to cold, hard facts.
"In the end, we are our choices." -Jeff Bezos
"Most companies are not those things. They are focused on the competitor, not the customer. They want to work on things that will pay dividends in two or three years, and if they don't work in two or three years they will move on to something else." -Jeff Bezos
"When a company comes up with an idea, it's a messy process--There's no 'aha' moment."
"When you are in the thick of things, you can get confused by small stuff." -Jeff Bezos
"By the first weeks of 1996, revenues were growing at 30 to 40 percent a month...nobody had any idea how to deal with that kind of growth, so they just made it up as they went along."
"One thing was bothering Kaphan around that time. He had enough experience with technology startups to know that the arrival of venture capitalists usually coincided with an influx of new, high powered executives...he wondered aloud: 'we're growing pretty quickly now. Are you going to replace me?'"
"... Marketing VPs were the equivalent of the doomed drummers in the satirical band spinal tap. Bezos plowed through them at a rapid clip, looking for someone with the same low regard for the usual way of doing things that Bezos himself had."
"Look, you should wake up worried, terrified every morning. But don't be worried about our competitors because they are never going to send us any money anyway. Let's be worried about our customers, and stay heads down focused." -Jeff Bezos
"You watch. There will be a proliferation of companies in this space, and most will die. There will be only a few enduring brands, and we will be one of them." -Jeff Bezos
"He was as stingy about handing out stock as he was about letting employees fly business class."
"Bezos insisted the company needed to master anything that touched the hallowed customer experience... 'If you are planning for more than twenty minutes ahead in this kind of environment, you are wasting your time.'"
"Bezos didn't believe in work/life balance, he believed in work/life harmony... You must do both at the same time."
"Bezos was obsessed with the customer experience, and anyone who didn't have the same single minded focus, or who he felt wasn't demonstrating the capacity for thinking big, bore the brunt of his considerable temper."
"Personalization was skipping the puns, and building a store for every customer using cold, hard data...over time it became clear that the humans couldn't compete. 'People forget that John Henry died at the end.'"
"Jeff doesn't tolerate stupidity, even accidental stupidity."
"Not surprisingly, Bezos proved to be a tenacious negotiator and a stubborn defender of his own financial interests, even when the stakes were a relatively inconsequential fraction of his net worth."
"Companies like IBM, Microsoft, and Google, he suspected, would hesitate to get into such markets because it would depress their overall profit margins...[Bezos] didn't want to repeat Steve Jobs's mistake, of pricing the iPhone in a way that was so fantastically profitable that the smartphone market became a magnet for competition."
"Jeff does a couple of things better than anyone I've ever worked for...he embraces the truth. A lot of people talk about the truth, but they don't engage their decision making around the best truth at the time. The second thing is that he is not tethered by conventional thinking. What's amazing to me is that he is bound only by the laws of physics--he can't change those--everthing else is open for discussion."
"They [Amazon] have an absolute willingness to torch the landscape around them to emerge the winner."
"Amazon executives view MAPs and similar techniques as the last vestiges of an old way of doing business--gimmicks, that inefficient companies use to protect their bloated margins."
Nick Fisher is a software engineer in the Pacific Northwest. He focuses on building highly scalable and maintainable backend systems.