- a good example of a purely online brand that developed
- a good example of a company led by a "personality", and the advantages and disadvantages that go along with that
In class we might have time to watch a video which was a biography of founder Jeff Bezos.

The purpose of the video was

  • to solicit discussion of some of the key personal characteristics which allow a person to "conduct E-commerce successfully"
  • understand some of the environmental circumstances that allowed to create a successful brand out of nowhere
    • opportunity
    • timing
    • growth of related technologies
    • original idea
  • to see how the success of the brand allows to get involved in other business areas apart from its core competency.
    • Amazon's toy business, recently merged with the online ventures of 

    • Toys R Us
    • claims that up to one-third of its 23 million customers are not yet aware of the company's latest offerings, such as home improvement, toys and cooking,
  • look at an example of the business model that does not turn a profit, and how they can continue to "get away with it"

On's own web site is a bio of Jeff Bezos, which can augment some of the information you would have seen in the beginning of the video.



Let's look at what the irreverent people at the Motley site have to say about the future directions of Bezos and

In an October 2000 article on, staff writers suggested
"Is Amazon Overgrown? "

" was criticized last week [Oct 2000]  for over-expanding its product offerings. Today, Amazon's Chairman and Chief  Executive Officer Jeff Bezos answered the charges, and said his company intends to expand into many more product categories."

"In an interview with Reuters, [Oct 2000] Amazon's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said: "We will continue to do deals like the photo deal and we'll also continue to enter new product categories." "This model works," continued Bezos. "Selection is an advantage, not a  disadvantage." He went on the say that he was sure his company would be profitable eventually, but wouldn't disclose when that might actually occur."

Brian Lund, Co-manager of the Rule Breaker Portfolio 
" Amazon has gotten itself in trouble in the past through diversifying into new product categories. Part of the problem was that they got into categories that they didn't fully understand, causing inventory inefficiencies in departments like toys and electronics, which wreaked  havoc on their working capital management. Another problem is that some of the categories didn't fit Amazon's medium very well. It's just not easy to sell table saws profitably on the Internet.".

Paul Commins, Rule Breaker Portfolio Writer 
"Amazon has become the ultimate risky stock bet. Now featuring a negative book value and junk-bond class debt, Amazon has never been closer to not making it."

On January 31, 2001, one of the biggest stories in the online media community was the news that would lay off a large number of people. E-commerce Times had a good article which explains the situation

"The Amazon Question: Will Investors Trade Growth for Profits?"
by Keith Regan

"News that is slashing 1,300 jobs continued to  rattle the e-commerce world  Wednesday, as analysts said reduced sales forecasts from the  bellweather company are a signal that the era of spectacular growth may have ended for the e-tail sector.  Amazon chief executive officer  Jeff Bezos and other executives blamed a cooling U.S. economy for the slowing sales. However, analysts said the more likely  culprit is the company's core business in books, music and videos, which has matured to a  point where earlier growth rates are no longer possible."


When you become a celebrity, whether it be in government, sports, entertainment or business [and Jeff Bezos has definitely become a celebrity] people will want to stick in their "two cents worth" and give you unsolicited advice.

Read the humorous, and inciteful article by Sean Carton 
titled "An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos "

"Hello! Earth to Bezos! What the hell are you doing? 

You've built a great company based on the premise that stellar service, a great brand experience, and judicious application of your users' information can make an incredible site that millions of us can't do without. In a world where commodity-based dot-coms die out faster than gnats around a bug-light, you've figured out how to stand out from the crowd, sell kajillions of books, and inspire customer loyalty just this side of fanaticism. 

And you did it all by creating a system that gathers some basic preference information from us, puts it together with information about our basic shopping habits, and then combines it with the behavior of all other users in order to help us loyal customers find new products that consistently delight and inform us. You've even taken the rarely heard customer's voice  and incorporated it into the site, allowing customers to see what other people like and don't like in order to make better buying decisions. The result? The dot-com poster-child that the  rest of us mere mortals can only aspire to. 

And now you're throwing it all away."

Carton's ponts are based on the fact that made a point of collecting info from the customer to allow them to to better satisfy customer interests during repeat visits to the site - yet the good will created by that might be lost of Amazon goes ahead and starts sharing that private profile info with othe group member companies.

An interesting "unflattering" article about a speech Bezos gave. The writer mentions's patents.

"'s two controversial software patents - one of which he's used to sue his main competitor, Nor did he mention the latest  patent, issued only days ago for collaborative filtering, a method of sorting millions of customer  preferences electronically to help new customers choose products and services. 
This third patent has been called by CNET news sources the kind of development that could "spell trouble for dozens of e-commerce sites that use similar technology to recommend books, videos or  other products to customers." .