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I believe Amazon should be scrutinised

Jeff Bezos/ Thought Leader
Filed on July 30, 2020
Amazon, Jeff Bezos

If we commit ourselves to maintaining a Day One mentality as a critical part of our DNA, we can have both the scope and capabilities of a large company and the spirit of a small one.

I founded Amazon 26 years ago with the long-term mission of making it Earth's most customer-centric company.

The idea of building an online bookstore with millions of titles-something that simply couldn't exist in the physical world-was exciting to me. It was a decision I made with my heart and not my head. When I'm 80 and reflecting back, I want to have minimised the number of regrets that I have in my life. And most of our regrets are acts of omission - the things we didn't try, the paths untravelled. Those are the things that haunt us. And I decided that if I didn't at least give it my best shot, I was going to regret not trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a big deal.

Amazon's success was anything but preordained. Investing in Amazon early on was a very risky proposition. From our founding through the end of 2001, our business had cumulative losses of nearly $3 billion, and we did not have a profitable quarter until the fourth quarter of that year.

In addition to good luck and great people, we have been able to succeed as a company only because we have continued to take big risks. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it's going to work, it's not an experiment. Outsized returns come from betting against conventional wisdom, but conventional wisdom is usually right.

In fact, Amazon has made billions of dollars of failures. Failure inevitably comes along with invention and risk-taking, which is why we try to make Amazon the best place in the world to fail.
Since our founding, we have strived to maintain a "Day One" mentality at the company. By that I mean approaching everything we do with the energy and entrepreneurial spirit of Day One. Even though Amazon is a large company, I have always believed that if we commit ourselves to maintaining a Day One mentality as a critical part of our DNA, we can have both the scope and capabilities of a large company and the spirit and heart of a small one.

Customer trust is hard to win and easy to lose. You earn trust slowly, over time, by doing hard things well-delivering on time; offering everyday low prices; making promises and keeping them; making principled decisions, even when they're unpopular; and giving customers more time to spend with their families by inventing more convenient ways of shopping, reading, and automating their homes. As I have said since my first shareholder letter in 1997, we make decisions based on the long-term value we create as we invent to meet customer needs. When we're criticised for those choices, we listen and look at ourselves in the mirror. When we think our critics are right, we change. When we make mistakes, we apologise. But when you look in the mirror, assess the criticism, and still believe you're doing the right thing, no force in the world should be able to move you. Fortunately, our approach is working.

I believe Amazon should be scrutinised. We should scrutinise all large institutions, whether they're companies, government agencies, or non-profits. Our responsibility is to make sure we pass such scrutiny with flying colours.

It's not a coincidence that Amazon was born in the US. More than any other place on Earth, new companies can start, grow, and thrive here in the US. Our country embraces resourcefulness and self-reliance, and it embraces builders who start from scratch. We nurture entrepreneurs and start-ups with stable rule of law, the finest university system in the world, the freedom of democracy, and a deeply accepted culture of risk-taking. Of course, this great nation of ours is far from perfect. Even as we remember Congressman John Lewis and honour his legacy, we're in the middle of a much-needed race reckoning. We also face the challenges of climate change and income inequality, and we're stumbling through the crisis of a global pandemic.

It's still Day One for this country, and even in the face of today's humbling challenges, I have never been more optimistic about our future.
I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today and am happy to take your questions.

Edited excerpt of the statement by Jeffrey P. Bezos, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Amazon before the US House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on  Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law


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