From the first quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of 2019, Amazon revenue increased from $3 billion to nearly $60 billion, according to Statista. That journey started out in a garage in Bellevue, Washington, where founder Jeff Bezos took orders and drove shipments to the post office himself. Now, Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world, and Amazon is the world’s leading online retailer, with nearly half the market share in the U.S.
Jeff Bezos was born in Albuquerque in 1964 when his mom was just 16 years old. His mother and stepdad later moved the family to Miami, where Jeff graduated valedictorian and showed great interest in how things worked.
His childhood seems to have been eclectic, including summers spent working on a farm and caravaning across the nation with his grandparents. Bezos thought about majoring in theoretical physics at Princeton, according to his biographer Brad Stone, but went to work in finance in New York.
About a year after he got married, Jeff took note of the rapid growth of online shopping. He thought he’d do well selling books online and got the green light from his wife to quit his well-paying job and launch Amazon.
The milestones that mark the tech giant’s rapid ascent are both inspiring and humbling to brick and mortar and e-commerce based retailers.
- 1994: Founder Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie start an online bookstore in their Seattle garage. The couple planned to capitalize on the area’s reputation as a tech incubator and take advantage of Washington’s sales-tax-free status. Bezos funded the company with $10,000 of his own money.
- 1997: Amazon goes public at $18 per share for a valuation of $300 million. In its filing, the company warned that it expected heavy losses for the foreseeable future as it ramped up its technology to take on competitor Barnes & Noble. It closed at $1.86 on the first day of trading.
- The same year, the growing company opens a second distribution center in New Castle, Delaware.
- 1998: Amazon breaks into music with 125,000 titles. Its share price hits $10.42.
- 1999: Amazon secures a patent on 1-Click buying and fiercely defends the technology until the patent expires in 2017. zShops, forerunners of Amazon’s third-party shopping marketplace, open to sell hard-to-find items, such as rare books. Shares sell for nearly $80 each. The customer base begins to skyrocket.
- The same year the tech giant lays off 15% of its employees following the dot-com bubble burst.
- Time Magazine names Bezos its Person of the Year, titling him “the king of cybercommerce.”
- 2002: With a share price of $19.12, Amazon announces it will begin selling over 400 brands of clothing. Today, buyers shop for everything from toys and electronics to kitchenware and bikes.
- 2003: Amazon launches its web hosting business and its share price rises to $34.07. The company licenses its platform to sites such as Borders.com and Target.com. Amazon Web Services now dominates cloud hosting and is a major revenue source for the company.
- 2005: Amazon Prime launches. With an original cost of $79 per year, the program offered two-day shipping on all orders. One hundred million people now use Prime.
- 2007: The electronic reader Amazon Kindle debuts at $399.
- 2008: Amazon buys audiobooks company Audible, acquiring its library of 80,000 programs. Audible holds 41% of the audiobook market.
- 2009: Continuing its trend of buying out the competition, Amazon purchases the shoe site Zappos, and its share price climbs to $88.79.
- 2013: In a controversial move, Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post for $250 million of his own money. Amazon’s share price hits $300.99.
- 2014: In a move that costs the company nearly $1 billion, Amazon purchases the game streaming site Twitch and pulls the gaming developer toward the AWS cloud platform.
- 2015: Amazon opens its first physical bookstore and its share price more than doubles to $628.35. Amazon now has 15 bookstores in the US.
- 2017: Amazon buys out Whole Foods and its share price jumps to $987.71. The distribution systems of the two companies merge, and Prime members start to receive discounts. The deal cements Amazon’s slow move into the grocery market.
- 2018: Amazon hits a $1 trillion market cap and a share price of $2,039.51. The company raises its minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Besides the millions of products and thousands of brands offered at Amazon.com, the company sells many products under the Amazon logo. Two of its signature products are Alexis and Echo.
Alexis is a personal assistant capable of voice interaction, setting alarms, music playback, streaming podcasts and providing a number of other lookups and services. Alexa has moved into the smart home market as a centralized command point for smart devices.
Echo is the platform for Alexa and holds a wealth of consumer data and valuable information on purchasing decisions.
Walmart vs. Amazon
Amazon’s current major competitor is Walmart, and the tech giant exceeded its competitors market cap in 2015 after 18 years of steady growth and strategic acquisitions. Since then, Amazon’s market cap has risen to more than $350 billion. Meanwhile, Walmart’s market cap fell by roughly $75 billion. In 2018, Amazon’s worth was 2.5 times that of Walmart.
Amazon’s success is unprecedented in the history of commerce. Its critics argue that the company’s growth has come at the cost of fair competition and local businesses. But that’s an all too familiar refrain from companies, such as Borders and Barnes & Noble, that couldn’t keep up and were pushed to the periphery of the market or completely out of it.