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JEFF BEZOS - King of Cybercommerce by Kaya Morgan

Perhaps the world's greatest e-tailer, Jeff Bezos was named as Time magazine's "Man of the Year," making him the fourth youngest individual ever to be chosen, taking his rightful place in the noble company of Queen Elizabeth II, Charles Lindbergh and Martin Luther King Jr.

Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico when his mother was just 17, Bezos never met his biological father. When Jeff was four, his mother married Miguel Bezos, an Exxon engineer from Cuba, who moved the family to Miami. But, his fondest memories were summers spent with grandpa "Pop" Gise on his 25,000-acre ranch in Cotulla, Texas where he'd ride horses, brand cattle, fix the windmills and putter around on the Caterpillar tractor. Pop once headed the former Atomic Energy Commission's operations in a seven-state region before retiring to the ranch at an early age, and was an undeniable influence on the impressionable youth.

The family garage was transformed into a makeshift laboratory for Bezos' many experiments and ideas including a solar microwave, burglar alarm, infinity cube and countless others. So, it was no surprise when he graduated valedictorian and senior class president, going on to attend Princeton University, and walking away with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science. From there, he headed straight to Wall Street. But the world of high finance and investment funds didn't excite Bezos. With the growth of the Internet in the early 1990s, he found himself gazing into the computer screen entertaining the vision of a new future. It was clearly a light bulb moment.

After making a list of the 20 products he thought would do well on the Web, he settled on books because no bookstore was large enough to stock all the titles in print and the market wasn't dominated by any one player. Bezos made his decision by what he calls the "regret-minimization framework" where he imagined that he was 80 years old looking back at his life. Suddenly, everything became crystal clear.

He headed for the American Booksellers Association annual convention and spent the weekend taking a crash course in the book business. Now he was sure that he had to start his own online bookstore. After talking it over with wife, MacKenzie, they packed up their Chevy Blazer and headed for Seattle — the city nearest the two big booksellers and known for its computer-savvy potential recruits.

Investors thought he was crazy. The banks turned him down again and again. How could a little guy take on the corporate giants and expect to win? Converting the garage of their rented Bellevue suburb home into a workspace, hammering together wooden doors for desks — was born.
A huge (Bezos' favorite word) part of their success has been the absolute elegant and streamlined design of Amazon's web site, creating a flow experience that keeps customers coming back. Bezos often speaks of the company's "Six Core Values" — customer obsession, ownership, bias for action, frugality, high hiring bar and innovation. He also invokes a special brand of loyalty among his employees who view him as more of a colleague than a boss. And, his enthusiastic nature and explosive laugh are truly infectious.

It takes vision, drive and imagination to revolutionize the way people buy things. Today, Amazon sells not only books but CDs, videos, toys and games, electronics kitchenware, computers, software, tools, autos, travel and services too — almost everything you can think of. Someday, if Jeff Bezos has his way, Amazon will be the world's biggest store.

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More stories by journalist, Kaya Morgan, can be found by clicking the link. Contact us for reprint rights as most articles are available.

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