The Origins of Amazon: From Humble Beginnings to Global Dominance

Small Beginnings

The remarkable success story of Amazon can be traced back to one man: Jeff Bezos. Before he founded Amazon, Bezos worked as a Wall Street hedge fund executive. The idea of starting his own business was born from his fear of regretting missed opportunities.

In 1994, Bezos read a statistic about the exponential growth of internet users and the potential it held for changing the way businesses operated. Inspired by this, he left his position as vice president at D.E. Shaw & Co. and moved to Seattle, Washington. With plenty of time at his disposal, Bezos set out to identify the best product to sell online.

After considering various options such as compact discs and computer hardware, Bezos settled on selling books as his first venture. There was a constant demand for literature, including academic and non-fiction books, and managing book inventory seemed relatively simple.

The Online Bookstore

On July 5, 1994, Jeff Bezos incorporated his business under the name Cadabra, Inc., which was later changed to Amazon. Interestingly, Bezos also briefly considered naming the company Relentless, and he still owns the domain name to this day.

In July 1995, Amazon was officially founded by Bezos and his then-wife, MacKenzie Tuttle, in the garage of their rented home in Seattle. With an initial investment of approximately $250,000 from Bezos’ parents, the journey towards Amazon’s success began.

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One of Amazon’s defining features was its doorstep delivery service, which was seen as innovative at the time. Prior to Amazon, customers had no choice but to physically visit local stores to purchase their goods.


In 1998, Amazon started expanding its product offerings beyond books. The company began selling computer software and music, and their revenue reached $610 million that year. Amazon quickly grew to include consumer electronics and other product categories such as toys and tools.

During this expansion phase, Amazon also made its presence known internationally by acquiring bookstores in the UK and Germany. By the end of 1999, Amazon had established itself in over 150 countries and had shipped millions of products worldwide.

Amazon Associates Program – Pioneering Affiliate Marketing

In 2000, Amazon introduced the Amazon Associates Program, allowing third-party manufacturers and sellers to list and sell their products on the platform. This marked the mainstream adoption of affiliate marketing, where Amazon earned a commission from each product sold, while sellers benefited from Amazon’s extensive reach and influence.

During this time, Amazon also unveiled its iconic logo, an arrow-shaped smile from A to Z, which represented the vast range of products available on their platform.

New Digs

In 2001, Amazon relocated its headquarters to Belltown, Seattle. This move coincided with Amazon’s first-ever profit, solidifying the sustainability of their unconventional business model. Instead of focusing solely on immediate profits, Bezos reinvested the earnings back into the company to fuel further expansion.

The Rest of the 2000s

The 2000s were a transformative decade for Amazon. In 2002, they launched Amazon Web Services (AWS), a cloud platform that has since become the world’s largest cloud service provider and a major revenue source for Amazon. Additionally, in 2005, Amazon introduced its Prime subscription program, offering customers expedited delivery on their orders. This program proved instrumental in encouraging customer loyalty and driving Amazon’s growth.

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Amazon Brands

Around the same time that Prime was launched, Amazon started selling products under its private label brands. Initially, they focused on textiles and kitchen utensils, but in 2007, they expanded to consumer electronics under the AmazonBasics brand. Today, Amazon has an extensive lineup of private label brands covering various product categories.

HQ1 Renovations & HQ2

In 2016, Amazon renovated its main headquarters, adding newer offices, including the Day 1 building and the unique Amazon Spheres. They also invested over $5 billion in constructing their second headquarters, known as HQ2, located in Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia.

Going Offline

In 2015, Amazon made its foray into the physical retail space by opening its first store, Amazon Books, in Seattle. Since then, they have expanded their physical presence with various store formats, including Amazon Go (cashier-less convenience stores), Amazon Fresh (grocery pickup locations), and Amazon 4-star (stores with a curated selection of top-rated products). Amazon also acquired Whole Foods in 2017, adding more than 400 physical retail locations to its portfolio.

Amazon Acquisitions & Companies

Throughout its history, Amazon has acquired numerous companies, integrating them into its services and business model. Notable acquisitions include Zappos, Audible, and Goodreads. Additionally, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos privately funded Blue Origin, a space exploration company similar to SpaceX, and purchased the Washington Post.

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