Jeff Bezos, Thinking Like a VC, says Amazon is “the Best Place in the World to Fail.”

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Business Insider summarizing an interview Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos gave to the Washington Post where he talked amongst other things about the Fire Phone:

“If you think that’s a big failure, we’re working on much bigger failures right now. And I am not kidding. And some of them are going to make the Fire Phone look like a tiny little blip,” Bezos said in an interview with The Washington Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, on Wednesday. (…)

“The size of your mistakes needs to grow along with” the company, Bezos said. “If it doesn’t, you’re not going to be inventing at scale that can actually move the needle.”

​Everyone knows by now that Amazon is, essentially, run like a collection of startups. Bezos revealed in this interview that Amazon’s management has come to the obvious conclusion. They look at the big picture of their “startups” like a VC looks at their portfolio:

The great thing is when you take this approach, a small number of winners pay for dozens, hundreds of failures. And so every single important thing that we have done has taken a lot of risk taking, perseverance, guts, and some of them have worked out, most of them have not.

​It is easy to look at Amazon’s huge successes like AWS, the marketplace or even the Echo and Alexa and oversee the huge flops that came with Amazon’s approach from Amazon Destinations and the Fire Phone to A9, which is still around but was originally supposed to become a search engine and advertising giant the same like Google is today.

Business Insider:

This approach has led to a number of failed projects, like its hotel-booking site, Amazon Destinations, and auction site, Amazon Auction. But it’s also led to massive successes, such as its Amazon Web Services and the Amazon Echo, which is why Bezos likes to call the company “the best place in the world to fail.”

Keep this in mind when thinking about rumors on Amazon building a global logistics arm.

There was recently a good portrait of Jeff Bezos in Fortune, which gives even more insight into how Bezos works and thinks, and subsequently how Amazon is run:

Bezos is preternaturally consistent. He still preaches customer focus and long-term thinking. Yet of necessity, as Amazon has become massive—and as he has indulged his eclectic and time-consuming pursuits—he has become the sort of leader who empowers others. “He was at the center of everything at the beginning. The leadership was Jeff Bezos,” says Patty Stonesifer, the former Microsoft msft executive and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO who has been on Amazon’s board for 19 years. “Today it’s not a hub-and-spoke connecting to him. He has become a great leader of leaders.” Indeed, his evolution portends dramatic repercussions far and wide: The possibilities of a less tethered Jeff Bezos are equal parts exciting (imagine what he’ll do) and terrifying (pity whom he’ll crush). (..)

It’s all too much for Bezos to micromanage, and he acknowledges picking his spots. His latest passion is for higher-end fashion, an area Amazon has been upgrading in recent years; Bezos says he is focused on Amazon’s plans for its own private label. “I think there’s so much opportunity for invention there,” he says. “It’s very hard to do online. It’s fragmented offline. People value a curatorial approach.” This, he says, is a significant departure for Amazon. “We didn’t curate a selection of books.” As for Bezos’s other areas of focus at Amazon, he says he’s spending time on “certain elements of AWS, but out a few years,” as well as on Alexa and the company’s fulfillment centers. As for specifics, “I can’t really share any because it’s too much of a road-map kind of issue.” (…)

He says Amazon’s annual planning process—and the detailed narratives its managers prepare for them—allows Bezos to closely “audit” the company’s efforts. Otherwise, says Wilke, “I would say his style has gone from being more prescriptive to teaching and refining.”

The portrait in Fortune is very good read.

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3 comments

  1. […] his Washington Post interview, which we referenced yesterday already, Jeff Bezos also talked about Echo and the Alexa platform behind […]

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  2. […] Jeff Bezos, Thinking Like a VC, says Amazon is “the Best Place in the World to Fail.” […]

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  3. […] Jeff Bezos, Thinking Like a VC, says Amazon is “the Best Place in the World to Fail.” […]

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