A Brief History of Amazon

It’s been 22 years and counting since Amazon launched. From humble beginnings in a garage to the world’s largest online retailer and the fourth most valuable company in the world, the story of Amazon’s history is an uncommon but appealing tale about building up a conglomerate from very little.

The Amazon Story: From Garages to Multinational Corporations

Those old enough to remember the early days of the internet and Amazon’s initial foray into the World Wide Web probably remember that it wasn’t always the online outlet store it is today. Back when it launched, Amazon only sold books while slowly building up towards bigger and better things. Jeff Bezos had visions of a company that sold more than simply books, however, suggesting he never would have been content without expanding the reach of his store.

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After cycling through several potential names (including Relentless and Cadabra, among others) Bezos settled on naming his company after the largest river in the world. Amazon.com was born. The earliest days of the company saw the business being run from Bezos’ garage, direct-ordering books from publishers to resell. With an approach that flaunted a willingness to send any book to any location, Amazon is often credited with helping to popularize the trend of online shopping that we take for granted these days.

On the other hand, Amazon’s history involves a lot of luck and solid timing on Bezos’ part. For starters, the company was founded before the dot com bubble burst and managed to build up a sizable reputation before the market became flooded with online distributors. It also didn’t turn a profit until 2001, making it a multi-year gamble that paid off big time in the end. Company meetings were held in a local Barnes and Noble in the earliest days before proper meeting spaces were secured. In a way, it could all feel strangely slap-dash.

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Over the years the fledgling upstart tried many a different avenue to compete with other retailers and online services. Between a short-lived auction service, search engine and a precursor to what Google would eventually call Google Street View, it’s hard to say those working at Amazon in the earliest days lacked vision or ambition. Legend has it Bezos expected his employees to work a 60 hour week at the minimum. If you worked for Amazon, you had to be dedicated and focused, to say the least. That trend continues today.

Its most recent undertaking? Just this year, Amazon purchased the supermarket chain Whole Foods in a potential bid to work from more physical locations and supplement its existing Amazon Prime Pantry service. That’s just the latest in a long chain of acquisitions: Audible, Zappos, Twitch Interactive and Whole Foods are just several cogs in the Amazon machine now, working under the umbrella of one of the largest corporations man has created.

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Will Amazon’s success continue? Having recently overtaken Walmart as the largest retailer in the United States, chances are the company’s explosive growth will continue in accordance with Amazon’s history. They’ve proven time and time again a surprising ability to adapt to changing marketplaces while keeping the customer in mind and many smaller businesses could take a cue or two from their corporate big brother.

For more company histories check our History of Sephora article!

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