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Jeff Bezos Shoots for the Moon, Having Conquered Internet Shopping

May 22, 2017

by Howard Haykin


Last week, Wall Street celebrated the 20th anniversary of as a public company. The media prominently noted that Amazon’s valuation was $464 billion – twice the value of Walmart - and that $10,000 invested in the Amazon IPO would be worth today nearly $5 million.


Yes, the tributes delivered to Jeff Bezos were almost as plentiful as the number of packages delivered by Amazon Prime service in a shopping day.


Perhaps what's most extraordinary about Mr. Bezos is his foresight. While most executives are worried about the next quarter, Bezos is worried about what will happen years from now. In 2011, during an interview with Wired Magazine, Mr. Bezos succinctly explained how his ambitions and long-term approach are grounded in all his business ventures:


“If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people. But, if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that.”


In his first letter to shareholders in 1997, Bezos wrote:


“Because of our emphasis on the long term, we may make decisions and weigh trade-offs differently than some companies. We aren’t so bold as to claim that the above is the ‘right’ investment philosophy, but it’s ours, and we would be remiss if we weren’t clear in the approach we have taken and will continue to take.”


WHAT DRIVES JEFF BEZOS TO PURSUE ROCKETRY.   Jeff Bezos began his rocket company, Blue Origin, as a hobby 16 years ago. Today, he’s committing billions to the business, which currently employs more than 1,000 people. And consistent with the approach he applies to all business ventures, Mr. Bezos is looking far into the future with Blue Origin. The company's mascot is a tortoise, and the formula is to do things incrementally – because "with such high costs and risks with each rocket launch, it is important not to skip steps."


Jeff Bezos sees a long-term future with "millions of people living and working in space." But make no mistake about his intentions. While he “is investing because he wants to transform people’s lives with space capabilities, [his] expectation has always been that this will be a successful business,” according to Carissa Bryce Christensen, CEO of Bryce Space and Technology. And toward that end, Blue Origin announced in March that it had signed up its first paying customer - step one toward becoming a full-fledged business.


And that, not only, is what differentiates Jeff Bezos from most others, but is what serves as his best 'take-away points' - Live with a long-term vision while embracing the expectation that failures are necessary obstacles along the road to success.