Born in 1964 in New Mexico, Bezos had an early love of computers and studied computer science and electrical engineering at Princeton University. After graduation, he worked on Wall Street, and in 1990 he became the youngest senior vice president at the investment firm D.E. Shaw.
Four years later, Bezos quit his lucrative job to open Amazon.com, an online bookstore that became one of the Internet’s biggest success stories. In 2013, Bezos purchased The Washington Post, and in 2017 Amazon acquired Whole Foods.
Jeff Bezos’ Family
Jeff Bezos was born on January 12, 1964, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to a teenage mother, Jacklyn Gise Jorgensen, and his biological father, Ted Jorgensen.
The Jorgensens were married less than a year. When Bezos was 4 years old, his mother remarried Mike Bezos, a Cuban immigrant.
Jeff Bezos’ Education
Bezos graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1986 with a degree in computer science and electrical engineering.
Bezos showed an early interest in how things work, turning his parents’ garage into a laboratory and rigging electrical contraptions around his house as a child.
He moved to Miami with his family as a teenager, where he developed a love for computers and graduated valedictorian of his high school. It was during high school that he started his first business, the Dream Institute, an educational summer camp for fourth, fifth and sixth graders.
Career in Finance
After graduating from Princeton, Bezos found work at several firms on Wall Street, including Fitel, Bankers Trust and the investment firm D.E. Shaw. In 1990, Bezos became D.E. Shaw’s youngest vice president.
While his career in finance was extremely lucrative, Bezos chose to make a risky move into the nascent world of e-commerce. He quit his job in 1994, moved to Seattle and targeted the untapped potential of the Internet market by opening an online bookstore.
Founder and CEO of Amazon.com
Bezos opened Amazon.com, named after the meandering South American river, on July 16, 1995, after asking 300 friends to beta test his site. In the months leading up to launch, a few employees began developing software with Bezos in his garage; they eventually expanded operations into a two-bedroom house equipped with three Sun Microstations.
The initial success of the company was meteoric. With no press promotion, Amazon.com sold books across the United States and in 45 foreign countries within 30 days. In two months, sales reached $20,000 a week, growing faster than Bezos and his startup team had envisioned.
Amazon.com went public in 1997, leading many market analysts to question whether the company could hold its own when traditional retailers launched their own e-commerce sites. Two years later, the start-up not only kept up, but also outpaced competitors, becoming an e-commerce leader.
Bezos continued to diversify Amazon’s offerings with the sale of CDs and videos in 1998, and later clothes, electronics, toys and more through major retail partnerships.
While many dot.coms of the early ’90s went bust, Amazon flourished with yearly sales that jumped from $510,000 in 1995 to over $17 billion in 2011.
As part of Bezos’ 2018 annual shareholder letter, the media tycoon said the company had surpassed 100 million paid subscribers for Amazon Prime. By September 2018, Amazon was valued at more than $1 trillion, the second company to ever hit that record just a few weeks after Apple.
At the end of 2018, Amazon announced it was raising the minimum wage for its workers to $15 per hour. The company has still been criticized for its working conditions and grueling pace, with workers protesting during Prime Day in July 2019.
Amazon Instant Video & Amazon Studios
In 2006, Amazon.com launched its video-on-demand service. Initially known as Amazon Unbox on TiVo, it was eventually rebranded as Amazon Instant Video.
Bezos premiered several original programs with the launch of Amazon Studios in 2013. The company hit it big in 2014 with the critically-acclaimed Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle.
The company produced and released its first original feature film, Spike Lee‘s Chi-Raq, In 2015.
In 2016, Bezos stepped in front of the camera for a cameo appearance playing an alien in Star Trek Beyond. A Star Trek fan since childhood, Bezos is listed as a Starfleet Official in the movie credits on IMDb.
In early 2018, The Seattle Times reported that Amazon had consolidated its consumer retail operations in order to focus on growing areas including digital entertainment and Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant.
Amazon released the Kindle, a handheld digital book reader that allowed users to buy, download, read and store their book selections, in 2007.
Bezos entered Amazon into the tablet marketplace with the unveiling of the Kindle Fire in 2011. The following September, he announced the new Kindle Fire HD, the company’s next-generation tablet designed to give Apple’s iPad a run for its money.
“We haven’t built the best tablet at a certain price. We have built the best tablet at any price,” Bezos said, according to ABC News.
In early December 2013, Bezos made headlines when he revealed a new, experimental initiative by Amazon, called “Amazon Prime Air,” using drones to provide delivery services to customers. He said these drones would be able to carry items weighing up to five pounds and be capable of traveling within a 10-mile distance of the company’s distribution center.
The first Prime Air delivery took place in Cambridge, England, on December 7, 2016.
Bezos oversaw one of Amazon’s few major missteps when the company launched the Fire Phone in 2014. Criticized for being too gimmicky, it was discontinued the following year.
Bezos had been eyeing the food delivery market, and in 2017 Amazon announced it had acquired the Whole Foods grocery chain for $13.7 billion in cash.
The company began offering in-store deals to Amazon Prime customers and grocery delivery in as little as two hours, depending on the market. As a result, Walmart and Krogers also began offering meal delivery to its customers.
Owner of The Washington Post
On August 5, 2013, Bezos made headlines worldwide when he purchased The Washington Post and other publications affiliated with its parent company, The Washington Post Co., for $250 million.