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Watch Jeff Bezos Lay Out His Grand Vision for Amazon's Future Dominance in This 1999 Video

Many smart people attribute Amazon's success to the consistent vision that Bezos had for it from the start. Here's proof.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Many smart people attribute Amazon’s success, in part, to the consistent vision that founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had for the company even from the early years. Here’s some proof.

I came across a video, thanks to a Twitter buddy, of a 1999 presentation Bezos gave at the Association of American Publishers’ annual meeting. Amazon was just four years old at the time, but it already had $1 billion in annual sales only two years after registering just $60 million. The talk is a bit meandering — there’s a demo that takes a while to work, and Bezos more than once giddily recites anecdotes that end with sex-related punchlines — but it’s full of the kind of statements about how Amazon would stand out that convince you that this monstrosity of a business was in no way an accident.

If you’re an entrepreneur building a company, or simply interested in how one of the world’s most successful CEOs thinks about guiding a business, you should really just watch the whole 50-minute video. Bezos is alternately awkward and charming, but all in all, it’s a treat. If you want the CliffsNotes version of the CliffsNotes, though, I’ve dropped some of my favorite quotes below.

On what would distinguish Amazon: “Exhaustive selection.”

On Bezos’s decision to walk away from a good job to start a business in Amazon that he thought would likely fail: “When you’re 80, you want to minimize the number of regrets you have in your life … I think a lot of people live their lives this way. Very few are nerdy and dorky enough to call it a ‘regret minimization framework,’ but that is what I came up with.”

On where to focus fear: “We should be afraid of our customers … they’re loyal to us right up to the second that someone offers them better service … and that has been our mantra. We’re trying very hard to be a customer-focused company and not a competitor-focused company.”

On the power of customer reviews: “It’s customers helping customers make purchasing decisions. And that’s what is community … businesses cannot create community. All businesses can do is facilitate community.”

On the goal of personalized product recommendations: To “build an electronic soulmate for that customer.”

On thinking big and focusing on the customer: “Our vision at is to be the world’s most customer-centric company. We don’t view ourselves as a bookstore or a music store. We view ourselves as a customer store … that’s the place where we’re going to put extra effort to make sure we are always the best.”

On favoring growth versus profits: “ is a famously unprofitable company. And the question is: Are we concerned about it? The answer is, in the short term, no; and in the long term, of course. Every company needs to be profitable at some point in time … Our strategy, and we’ve consistently articulated this, is that we believe that this opportunity is so large that it would be a mistake for any management team not to invest in it very aggressively at this kind of critical category formation stage.”

“We don’t claim it’s the right strategy. We just claim it’s ours. But we do think it’s right. And that it would be a mistake to try to optimize for short-term profitability.”

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