Jeff Bezos Curated

Entrepreneur, Founder of Amazon

CURATED BY :      +44 others


  • What is Amazon all about according to you? 

  • How did you switch your career from investment banking to launching your own company?

  • What was your ambition behind launching Amazon?

  • Tell me something about your grandfather's role in your life.

  • What made you focus on book business?

  • When did you know that Amazon is going to be a much bigger online platform?

  • Do you think there is a change in the mindset of society? How does big companies like Amazon deal with the change?

  • Why did you come to India?

    The CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos said that Shah Rukh Khan was "one of the most humble people" he had ever met. He was on stage with SRK and Gully Boy director Zoya Akhtar at an event in Mumbai on Friday. As the audience cheered Bezos' remark, Shah Rukh said that he was humble because his last few films hadn't done well. Bezos almost chocked on water while trying to control his laughter.

  • 2nd question???

  • 2nd question???

  • Why you came to India?

  • How did Amazon make money after many unsuccessful attempts?

  • Was it a difficult decision to make about starting amazon.com?

  • What would he have done if Brett didn't field?

  • What is Jeff Bezos's advice for small startup to scale their business?

  • How does Jeff Bezos think about failure and how to deal with it?

  • How did jeff Bezos get involved in space?

  • What is the most important project you are working on?

  • What are the things you are really passionate about?

  • What do you think about energy security and how space travel can offer a solution to energy scarcity?

  • Where did you get the idea for amazon.com?

  • What kind of inventories do you keep?

  • What is almost in time inventory?

  • They say one of the toughest things to do is to capture mind share. What was your secret how did you do it?

  • Is it an exciting place to be where you are right now?

  • What do you think the future of humanity would be if space travel becomes reality?

  • What Jeff Bezos thinks about sleep?

  • How do You visualize the future in threats like climate change?

  • How can Amazon inspire other SMEs to deal with climate change?

  • How should SMes embrace technology in their business to get a meaningful impact?

  • How do you predict the future of India?

  • What are the factors that you think can contribute to the growth of India?

  • What will be the status of Indo- US relationship in near future?

  • What is your vision about Artificial Intelligence?

  • What is your opinion on the effect of Artificial Intelligence on Job market?

  • Any advice on how to succeed in life?

  • How do make important decisions in business and life?

  • How did you go through making the decision to drop a very good job and take the chance to start a business?

  • How new invention is important in today's business envioronment?

  • How is Amazon Prime Video working for you in India?

  • How finding a passion is important in life?

  • How do you balance work and life?

  • How to develop long term vision about business and life?

  • What is the key of inventing new things?

  • How story telling is important to inspire people?

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  • Where exactly did your ambition stem from?

    I really don't know. I've been passionate about certain things forever and I fell in love with computers in fourth grade. I got very lucky. My elementary school had a teletype that got connected to a mainframe computer that some business in downtown Houston donated a little bit of computer time too. This is, you can picture these teletypes, they had the punch tape and they had a 300 bot modem, you would dial up the phone, you'd put it in the cradle. And so we had some time sharing on that mainframe computer and none of the teachers knew how to use it so I and two other kids stayed after school and sort of figured out how to do it, figured it out and kind of taught ourselves programming from books. I think one thing is I got very lucky early in my childhood. Look, we all get gifts, we get certain things in our life that we're very lucky about, and one of the most powerful ones is who your early role models are.

  • What made you change your career from an investment banker to an entrepreneur?

    I think I'd always wanted to do it ever since I was a kid, had the idea, every time I look at something, it looks like it could be improved, there's something wrong with it so I go through it like how could this restaurant be better, so I've always had that kind of idea. By the way, before we really get into this, how about this amazing production that you and your team have put together? This is truly incredible for its originality like these boxes that you were filming live that's just crazy cool so thank you. Truly it's incredible. But I think the great thing about humans in general is we're always improving things. And so entrepreneurs and inventors, they follow their curiosity and they follow their passions and they figure something out, and then they figure out how to make it better and they're never satisfied. And you need to harness, in my view, you need to harness that energy primarily on your customers instead of on your competitors. And so I sometimes see companies and even young small start-up companies, entrepreneurs, go awry - they start to pay more attention to their competition than they do to their customers. And I think that in big mature industries that might be a winning approach in some cases, kind of close following, let other people be the pioneers and go down the blind allies, there are so many things that a new, inventive company tries won't work and so those mistakes and errors and failures do cost real money. And so maybe in a mature industry where growth rates are slow and change is very slow. But as you see in the world more and more, there aren't very many mature industries, change is happening everywhere. You see it in the automobile industry with self-driving cars, but you could go right down the line of every industry and you would see it.

  • Did your grandfather play an important role during your childhood days?

    It was in a big sense. My mom and dad but my grandfather too. My mom had me when she was 17 years old and she was still in high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico and this is in 1964. I can assure you that being a pregnant teenager in high school was not cool in Albuquerque, New Mexico at that time. So it was difficult for her. My grandfather went to bat for her - they tried to kick her out of school. They're incredible. So the gift I had is I had this incredible family.

  • Could you describe a little bit the role of your grandfather?

    It was super important for me and I spent an unusual amount of time with my grandparents, especially with my grandfather on the ranch. So he had a ranch in South Texas and I would spend my summers there from age four to 16. And when I was four, they were taking me for the summer to kind of give my parents a break, 'cause they were so young and it was useful. I was a handful I'm sure. Anyway, he created the illusion for me when I was four years old that I was helping him on the ranch which of course could not have been true but I believed it and then by the time I was 16, of course, I was actually helping on the ranch. I can fix prolapsed cattle, we did all of our own veterinary work. Some of the cattle even survived. And we fixed windmills and laid water pipelines and built fences and barns and fixed the bulldozer that you guys talked about, and so one of the things that are so interesting about that lifestyle and about my grandfather is he did everything himself. He didn't call a vet if one of the animals was sick, he figured out what to do himself.

  • Is it actually true that your brother is still a firefighter?

    He is, he's a volunteer firefighter in Scarsdale, New York. He's also the funniest person I know. When I'm with him, I'm just laughing continuously. First of all, I'm a good audience. I laugh easily but he is really very funny and my sister too, we're all very close and I have my mother to thank for that because she worked hard to make sure as we grew up that we stayed close together, and she takes all the grandkids for one week every summer so that me and my sister and our spouses can go on a trip together. So we end up spending a lot of time together.

  • Could you describe a little bit what Mackenzie’s role was?

    Well, first of all, Mackenzie, she had married this stable guy working on Wall Street, and a year after we got married, I went to her and said, "I want to quit my job, move across the country, and start this internet bookstore." And Mackenzie of course, like everybody that I explained this to, her first question was, "What's the internet?" Because nobody knew, this is 1994. But even before she could say what's the internet she said, "Great, let's go." Because she wanted to support it and she knew that I had always had this passion for invention and starting a company. And so again, I think, Mackenzie is an example of this, but I was talking about with my mom and my dad, who's a Cuban immigrant, he came to the US when he was 16 [to] a refugee camp in the Everglades - they are so loving and supportive that when you have loving and supportive people in your life like Mackenzie, my parents, my grandfather, my grandmother, you end up being able to take risk because I think it's one of those things, it doesn't, you kind of know somebody's got your back and so it's just an, I don't even think you're thinking about it logically, it's an emotional thing.

  • Do you think that unconditional love from your loved ones helps you to take risks?

    And by the way, I think it's probably true of all kinds of risks in life, not just starting a business. Life is full of different risks. So I think that when you think about the things that you will regret when you're 80, they are almost always the things that you did not do, they are acts of omission. Very rarely are you gonna regret something that you did and it failed and didn't work or whatever, but the acts of omission, and again, I'm not just talking about business things, it's like, I loved that person and I never told them and 50 years later you're gonna be like, why didn't I tell her, why didn't I go after it? So that's the kind of life regret that is very hard to be happy about when you're telling yourself in a private moment that story of your life. So I think it's, anyway, I won that lottery, I won that lottery of having so many people in my life who have given me that unconditional love, and I do think Mackenzie's definitely one of those. And so we moved and then Mackenzie, who has basically no skill in this area at all, really, I mean you're the least-suited person for this, she did our accounting for like the first year - was it the first year? Something like that. And she did it well, that's what's amazing. My wife is a novelist, she's won the American Book Award. Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning author who was Mackenzie's teacher at Princeton, said on The Charlie Rose Show that Mackenzie was her best student ever. Anyways, Mackenzie is a very talented novelist but she is not an accountant but she pulled it off. Again, we all get done what we need to get done.

  • And when did you know that Amazon is going to be something way bigger than just a bookstore?

    Well, I knew that the books, strangely, 'cause I was very prepared for this to take a really long time, I knew that the books business was gonna be successful in the first 30 days. I was shocked at how many books we sold. We were ill-prepared. We had only 10 people in the company at that time and most of them were software engineers. So everybody including me and the software were all packing boxes - we didn't even have packing tables - and we were on our hands and knees on a concrete floor packing the boxes, and at about one or two in the morning, I said to one of my software engineering colleagues "Paul, this is killing my knees, we need to get knee pads." And Paul looked at me and he's like, "Jeff, we need to get packing tables." And I was like, "Oh my God, that is such a good idea." The next day I bought packing tables and it doubled our productivity and probably saved our backs and our knees too.

  • Did she suggest that you should focus only on your book business at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey?

    No, I picked books, it is true, she's a big reader, I'm a big reader, but that's not why I picked books. I picked books because there were more items in the book category than any other category, and so you could build universal selection. There were three million in 1994 when I was pulling this idea together, three million different books active in print at any given time, and the largest physical bookstores only had about 150,000 different titles. And so I could see how you could make a bookstore online with the universal selection - every book ever printed, even the out-of-print ones - that was the original vision for the company, and so that's why books.

  • In 2002 when Amazon went almost bankrupt, what went wrong that you have something new from that?

    We had so many, there've been so many, I haven't had any existential crises, knock on wood, I don't want to jinx anything, but we've had a lot of kind of dramatic events. I remember early on, we only had 125 employees when Barnes and Noble, the big United States bookseller opened their online website to compete against us, barnesandnoble.com. We'd had about a two-year window. We opened in '95, they opened in '97, and at that time, all of the headlines and the funniest were about how we were about to be destroyed by this much larger company, we had 125 employees and $60 million a year in annual sales, $60 million with an "m" and Barnes and Noble at the time had 30,000 employees and about three billion dollars in sales. So they were giant, we were tiny and we had limited resources and the headlines were very negative about Amazon and the one that's most memorable was just "amazon.toast." And so I called an all-hands meeting, which was not hard to do with just 125 people, and we got in a room 'cause it was so scary for all of us, this idea that now we finally had a big competitor that literally everybody's parents were calling and saying, "Are you okay?" It was usually the moms calling and asking their children, are you gonna be okay? And I said, "Look, it's okay to be afraid but don't be afraid of our competitors because they're never gonna send us any money - be afraid of our customers." And if we just stay focused on them instead of obsessing over this big competitor that we just got, we'll be fine. And I really do believe that. I think that if you stay focused and the more drama there is and everything else, no matter what the drama is, whatever the external distraction is, your response to it should be to double down on the customer, satisfying them, not just satisfying them, delighting them.

  • How do you deal with the criticism made by the union and the media for low wage payment to your employees despite Amazon being the biggest job creator?

    Well, first of all, with any criticism, my approach to criticism and what I teach and preach inside Amazon is when you're criticized, first look in a mirror and decide are your critics right? If they're right, change, don't resist.

  • Do you think that the people who criticize you are right?

    No, not in this case, but we've had critics be right before and we've changed. We have made mistakes and I can go through a long list of, probably one of the early most painful ones is - it's so stupid it's hard to believe how we ever did it - but in the early on with the Kindle, maybe the first year of the Kindle or the second year of the Kindle, we had accidentally illegally sold, or given away I guess, copies of the famous novel 1984 because it had a complicated copyright history - it was in copyright in the US and not in the UK or something strange like this so it was in the public domain, but only in certain geographies, and we had screwed that up. And somehow, and this is the kind of mistake that only a corporation can make, an individual can't make this mistake because somehow it happens at the intersections of the different teams. So you've got the legal department saying, "Oh crap, we've made this mistake" and you've got the books team. Anyway, the answer that the company came up with was to, without any notice or warning, just electronically go into everybody's Kindle who had downloaded that book and just disappear it. So it would be as if we walked into your bedroom in the middle of the night, found your bookshelf, and just took that book away. And so we were rightly criticized for that and we responded to that. On the issue of working conditions, I'm very proud of our working conditions and I'm very proud of the wages that we pay. In Germany, we employ 16,000 people, we pay at the high end of the range for any comparable work.

  • What is the real substance of the conflict?

    Well, it's a good question and this is in my longer version of how to deal with critics, there are two kinds of critics: There are well-meaning critics who, they're worried it's not gonna work, but they do want it to work, so I could give you an example of customer reviews would be one of those. When we first did customer reviews 20 years ago, some book publishers were not happy about it because some of them were negative and so it was a very controversial practice at that time. But we thought it was right and so we stuck to our guns and had a deep keel on that and didn't change. But there's a second kind of critic which is the self-interested critic and they come in all shapes and sizes. So they can be any kind of institution, competitors, of course, and so when you are doing something in a new way and if customers embrace the new way, what's gonna happen is incumbents who are practicing the older way are not gonna like you and they're gonna be self-interested critics. And so you do need, as you're looking yourself in the mirror, to try and tease those two things apart. In our view, we have workers counsels of course and we have very good communications with our employees. So we don't believe that we need a union to be an intermediary between us and our employees, but of course, at the end of the day, it's always the employees' choice and that's how it should be. But for sure, we would be very naive to believe that we're not gonna be criticized. That's just part of the terrain, you have to accept that. One other thing I tell people is if you're gonna do anything new or innovative, you have to be willing to be misunderstood. If you can't afford to be misunderstood, then for goodness sake, don't do anything new or innovative.

  • Do you take the case of Amazon’s break up seriously or do you think it’s just a false rumour from the president?

    For me, again, this is one of those things where I focus on and ask our teams to focus on what we can control, and I expect, whether it's the current US administration or any other government agency anywhere in the world, Amazon is now a large corporation and I expect us to be scrutinized, we should be scrutinized, I think all large institutions should be scrutinized and examined, it's reasonable. One thing to note about us is that we have gotten big in absolute terms only very recently. So we've always been growing fast in percentage terms, but in 2010, just eight years ago, we had 30,000 employees. So in the last eight years, we've gone from 30,000 employees to 560,000 employees. So for us, it's kind of, in my mind, I'm still delivering the packages to the post office myself, you see what I'm saying? I still have all the memories of hoping that one day we could afford a forklift. And so obviously my intellectual brain knows that's just not the case anymore, we have 560,000 employees all over the world and I know we should be scrutinized and I think it's true big government institutions should be scrutinized, big non-profit institutions should be scrutinized, big universities should be scrutinized, it just makes sense. And that's, by the way, why the work that The Washington Post and the other great newspapers around the world do is so important because they're often the ones doing that initial scrutiny even before the government agencies do.

  • Do you think that there is a change in mindset in the society regarding big companies like Facebook, Google, Instagram, etc?

    I do sense, I think again, I think it's a natural instinct. I think we humans, especially in the Western world and especially inside democracies, are wired to be skeptical and mindful of large institutions of any kind. We're skeptical of our government always in the United States - state governments, local governments - I assume it's similar in Germany, it's healthy because they're big powerful institutions, the police, the military, whatever it is, it doesn't mean that you don't trust them or that they're bad or evil or anything like that, they're just, they have a lot of power and control and so you want to inspect them, maybe that's a better word, you kind of always want to be inspecting them. And I think if you look at the big tech companies, they have gotten large enough that they're going to be inspected. And by the way, it's not personal. I think where some of them, you can go astray on this if you're the founder of a company, one of these big tech companies or any other big institution, if you go astray on this you might start to take it personally, like why are you inspecting me? And I think that I wish that people would just say, "Yes, it's fine."

  • How did you deal with the criticism from the public about your purchase of The Washington Post?

    Yeah, of course, you can explain things to people but you can't understand things to people. And so all I can do is say what really my thought process was. And I was not looking to buy a newspaper. It had never even crossed my mind, and so when the opportunity came up, it had only come up because I had known Don Graham at that point for more than 15 years. Any of you who are lucky enough to know Don, knows that he is the most honorable gentleman that you'll ever meet - you know Don very well - he's a remarkable guy and he so loved The Post that he believed, even though this was a huge personal sacrifice for him because it had been in his family for so long, that he needed to find a new home for it. I think he was, there were certain purchasers he was hoping would not end up buying The Post because he wanted it to remain independent. So when he approached me with this I said, "I'm the wrong guy because I don't know anything about the newspaper business." And he said, "That's okay, 'cause we have a lot of people at The Post who know a lot about the newspaper business and what we really need is somebody who knows something more about the internet." And The Post was in a very difficult financial position at that time and so for me, I had to decide was it hopeless? And I didn't believe it was hopeless, I was optimistic that The Post could be turned around. And then second, I had to decide did I want to put my own time and energy into this? And that for me I just had to ask the simple question, is it an important institution? And the answer to that question is yes, it was very obvious to me, as soon as I thought that way. I was like, okay, I think I actually can help, I can help in two ways. I can provide financial resources while this turnaround occurs and I can also help with my internet knowledge. And then is it an institution worth saving? You bet. It's the most important newspaper in the most important capital city in the Western world. Crazy not to save that newspaper. I'm gonna be very happy when I'm 80 that I made that decision.

  • Will data security and privacy be a competitive advantage for companies or disadvantage if they are not respectful with that?

    I 100% agree with this and I think with customers, one of the reasons we have been able to extend into new business areas and new product categories, going way back, we just sold books and then we started selling music and DVDs and electronics and toys and so on and then we've extended into electronic reading with Kindle. The reason customers have been receptive in large part to our new initiatives is that we have worked hard to earn trust with them. Earning trust with customers is a valuable business asset and if you mistreat their data, they will know, they will figure it out. Customers are very smart, you should never underestimate customers.

  • Could you imagine buying and saving other newspapers as well?

    No, I get that request monthly, I really do and I tell them, no, The Post is it for me, I'm not interested in buying other newspapers. But I watched that movie and it's helpful, I love that movie and also reading Katherine Graham's memoir which won a Pulitzer Prize and is an amazing book because it gets me ready. As the owner of The Post, I know that at times The Post is gonna write stories, they're gonna make very powerful people very unhappy.

  • Will you be upset if The Washington Post starts writing critical stories about Amazon?

    Never, I would be humiliated to interfere. I would be so embarrassed. I would turn bright red and it's nothing to do with, I don't even get so far, I just don't want to. For me, it would feel icky, it would feel gross. It would be one of those things when I'm 80 years old I would be so unhappy with myself if I interfered. Why would I? I want that paper to be independent. So we have a fantastic editor in Marty Baron, we have a fantastic publisher in Fred Ryan, the head of our technology team, a guy named Shilesh, is fantastic. They don't need my help in the newsroom for sure. First of all, that's also an expert's job. It would be like me getting on the airplane and going up to the front of the plane and saying the pilots should move aside, let me do this.

  • Could you share with us briefly about the vision of Blue Origin and the idea of kind of space tourism with renewable rockets?

    This is super important to me. I believe on the longest time frame - and really here I'm thinking of a time frame of a couple hundred years, so over many decades - I believe, and I get increasing conviction with this with every passing year, that Blue Origin, the space company, is the most important work I'm doing. And so there is a whole plan for Blue Origin.

  • Would you say that retail, e-commerce, publishing are all less relevant than your space project?

    Yes and I'll tell you why. First of all, of course, I'm interested in space because I'm passionate about it and I've been studying it and thinking about it since I was a five-year-old boy, but that is not why I'm pursuing this work. I'm pursuing this work because I believe if we don't, we will eventually end up with a civilization of stasis, which I find very demoralizing. I don't want my great grandchildren's great grandchildren to lie in a civilization of stasis. We all enjoy a dynamic civilization of growth and change and let's think about what powers that. We are not really energy constrained. And so let me give you just a couple of numbers. If you take your body, your metabolic rate as a human as just an animal, you eat food, that's your metabolism, you burn about 100 watts, your power, your body is about 100, it's the same as the 100 watt light bulb, we're incredibly efficient. Your brain is about 60 watts of that, amazing. But if you extrapolate in developed countries where we use a lot of energy, on average in developed countries, our civilizational metabolic rate is 11,000 watts. So in a natural state where we're animals, we're only using 100 watts. In our actual developed world state, we're using 11,000 watts and it's growing. For a century or more, it's been compounding at a few percents a year, our energy usage as a civilization. Now if you take baseline energy usage, globally across the whole world, and compound it at just a few percents a year for just a few hundred years, you have to cover the entire surface of the Earth in solar cells. So that's the real energy crisis and it's happening soon, and by soon, I mean within just a few hundred years. And so we don't actually have that much time. So what can you do? Well, you can have a life of stasis where you cap how much energy we get to use, you have to work only on efficiency, by the way, we've always been working on energy efficiency and still, we grow our energy usage. It's not like we have been squandering energy, we have been getting better at using it with every passing decade and still, we grow it. So stasis would be very bad I think. Now take the alternative scenario where you move out into the solar system. The solar system can easily support a trillion humans, and if we had a trillion humans, we would have 1,000 Einsteins and 1,000 Mozarts and unlimited, for all practical purposes, resources from solar power and so on. Why not, that's the world that I want my great grandchildren's great-grandchildren to live in. And by the way, I believe that we'll move all heavy, in that time frame, we will move all heavy industry off of Earth and Earth will be zoned residential and light industry and it will basically be a very beautiful planet. We have sent robotic probes to every planet in this solar system now and believe me, this is the best one. It is not even close.

  • When can someone buy the first ticket to do a space tour?

    So the first tourism vehicle, we won't be selling tickets yet but we may put humans in it at the end of this year or at the beginning of next year. We're getting very close. We've been working on it for more than 10 years and we're building a very large orbital vehicle, we've been working on that for more than five years. It'll fly for the first time in 2020 and the key is reusability. So you mentioned it. We cannot, this civilization I'm talking about of getting a comfortable living and working in space and having millions of people and then billions of people and then finally a trillion people in space you can't do that with space vehicles that you use once and then throw away. It's a ridiculous costly way to get into space.

  • Why do you have a long-term approach in terms of company, products and services while on philanthropy you have a short term approach?

    And I'm gonna end up doing a mixture of things. We started doing in Seattle, there's a homeless shelter called Mary's Place run by a woman named Marty and that has really impacted my thinking on this issue because what I'm seeing is that when you, of course, I'm in favor of all the long-term-oriented philanthropy also is a good idea. So I'm not against that. It's just I'm finding I'm very motivated by the here and now there. A lot of the homelessness at Mary's Place works on is transient homelessness. So when you go study homelessness, there are a bunch of causes of homelessness. Mental incapacity issues are a very hard-to-cure problem, serious drug addiction, a very hard-to-cure problem, but there's another bucket of homelessness which is transient homelessness, which is a woman with kids, the father runs away, and he was the only person providing any income and they have no support system, they have no family. That's transient homelessness. You can really help that person. And you by the way, only need to help them for like six to nine months, you get them trained, you get them a job, they're perfectly productive members of society.

  • So what does money mean for you being the first person in history that has a net worth of three digit amount of billion?

    The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel. So that's basically, Blue Origin is expensive enough to be able to use that fortune, and I'm currently liquidating about a billion dollars a year of Amazon's stock to fund Blue Origin - and I plan to continue to do that for a long time. 'Cause you're right, you're not gonna spend it on a second dinner out. That's not what we're talking about. So for me, I'm very lucky because I feel like I have a mission-driven purpose with Blue Origin that is I think incredibly important for civilization longterm, and I am gonna use my financial lottery winnings from Amazon to fund that.

  • What does money mean to you being the first person in history who has a net worth in the three digit billions?

    The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel. So that's basically, Blue Origin is expensive enough to be able to use that fortune, and I'm currently liquidating about a billion dollars a year of Amazon's stock to fund Blue Origin - and I plan to continue to do that for a long time. 'Cause you're right, you're not gonna spend it on a second dinner out. That's not what we're talking about. So for me, I'm very lucky because I feel like I have a mission-driven purpose with Blue Origin that is I think incredibly important for civilization longterm, and I am gonna use my financial lottery winnings from Amazon to fund that.

  • What were the origins of Blue Origin?

    I started Blue Origin in 2000. We spent the first three years looking for basically every unconventional launch technology and trying to see if there was something that would be superior to chemical rockets. At the end of the three years, we concluded that chemical rockets were actually an excellent technology for launching off of the Earth’s surface and getting into space. The problem was that they needed to be reusable. So, starting in about 2003, we dedicated ourselves to making highly operable, highly reusable rocket vehicles. That is the founding of Blue Origin. We need the infrastructure to be much less expensive. Right now, the price of admission to get into space is just too high.

  • What are your first recollections of space?

    That is certainly true of me. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you. I have been fascinated with space and rocket propulsion since I was a five-year-old boy and watched the Apollo program. I watched Neil and Buzz step on the moon. There is no looking back. I love it. I pay a lot of attention to it, and I have for my entire life.

    My high school girlfriend is on record as saying that she is convinced I started Amazon just to get enough money to be able to start Blue Origin. But, it is a fact that I always had in mind this idea of getting into the space business. And of course, the financial success that I had as a result of Amazon is what allowed me to start Blue Origin.

  • How difficult would it be for you to build a business in space compared to building Amazon?

    It is totally different, in some ways. In terms of the fundamentals, I suppose it is very similar. If you look at Amazon versus Blue Origin, with Blue Origin, we are building the infrastructure. With Amazon, we were building on top of the pre-existing infrastructure. So, when I started Amazon in 1995 and opened our doors and shipped our first packages, we did not need to build a transportation network; it already existed — it was called Royal Mail and USPS, Deutsche Post, UPS, etc. — and we could rely on that infrastructure. We didn’t have to build a network, it existed. At that time, people were using dial-up modems, but it was the long-distance telephone network that provided that infrastructure. We didn’t need to build a payment system; it already existed — it was called the credit card. There was a lot of heavy lifting infrastructure already in place; I could build Amazon on top of that infrastructure.

    That is why you have seen so much dynamism and entrepreneurialism on the internet because the price of admission has been very low. The heavy lifting was already done. So, two kids in a dorm room could start Facebook and so on. That is not possible today in space because the infrastructure is either non-existent or too expensive.

    Blue Origin is a very different kind of business in that sense because what we’re trying to do is build that infrastructure. Affordable, reliable, highly available access to space. That is heavy lifting. If we can do that, then in the next phase, there can be a dynamic, entrepreneurial environment in space. Then, if I am successful with Blue Origin, then maybe two kids in a dorm room will be able to start a really important space company.

  • How difficult has it been building Blue Origin?

    From my point of view, the real thing is that it takes a lot of financial resources and a lot of patience. We need three things for Blue Origin to accomplish its mission, which is to lower the cost of access to space. The three things we need are financial resources, talent, and patience — and we have all three. Taking a long-term approach has always been one of Amazon’s strengths. And I think it is one of Blue Origin’s strengths as well. I think to do anything interesting or important in the world, you need a certain amount of willingness to think long-term — to be patient, to defer gratification. It takes a long time. All overnight successes, so far as I can see, take about 10 years.

  • How much attention do you give to Blue Origin compared to others?

    I put a lot of energy and attention into Blue Origin. Amazon is still my primary day job, and I dance into work at Amazon. I love that I get to live and work in the future. We are doing so many interesting things with machine learning, natural language understanding, computer vision, etc. I am interested in so many things that we are doing. But, my five-year-old boy passion is Blue Origin.

  • Are you amazed in this day and age, that it takes years to build satellites so as to put them up into orbit?

    Two years to build a satellite does not seem unreasonable to me. The price points drive a lot of conservatism. Is this thing space qualified? Should we really put it on the satellite? What happens if it fails? That is what I was talking about before. If you can’t replace the satellite at reasonable cost fairly quickly it drives you to be pretty conservative. I hope that we, as a civilization, find a new equilibrium there where you can replace them more quickly at a lower cost, including very importantly, lowering the launch cost.

  • Do you believe the perception to be true that the space satellite has been lacking innovation compared to the wireless industry?

    I think if you look at certain things, there has been a lot of innovation. If you look at, for example, throughput, you see that the industry has made fantastic progress over the last 20 years. But I think, in general, when people say that (lack of innovation) what they are really observing is that when something has a lifecycle of 15 years, you don’t get to do that many iterations per generation.

    Every 20 years, how many iterations do you get to do? If you’re talking about mobile phones, you basically get new versions of mobile phones every year or two with substantive upgrades, better processing speed, better displays, etc. So, the iteration cycle is very rapid. One of my hopes is that if we can be successful with Blue Origin in dramatically reducing the cost of access to space, improving availability and reliability, that there will be a new equilibrium found where satellite manufacturers and operators will replace the satellites more frequently with faster upgrades, giving them more opportunities to innovate.

  • Has there been a conservatism in this industry that has held it back?

    I think there’s a logical, reasonable, sensible conservatism. If you’re paying several hundred million dollars to build a satellite and more tens of millions of dollars to launch it, that drives a sensible conservatism — we need to change that equilibrium.

    The launch is part of what sets the equilibrium. Is it fundamental? Yes, it is, but it is not the only piece. Together with driving down launch costs, people will end up using more standardized satellites, buses, power systems, etc., and changing the payload and customizing that.

  • What are the overall ambitions of the company?

    It is the things you would expect. The three big ideas for Blue Origin and New Glenn are reducing cost, improving reliability and improving availability. The way you reduce cost is by reusability. It is the only good way to reduce cost in a very significant manner.

    New Glenn’s booster is designed for 25 flights, and the BE-4 engine is designed for 100 missions. We have done a lot to work on reliability: the entire architecture is one fault operative. We have done a lot of work on the availability: for example, there is a requirement for one sensor out not delaying the launch, so we can go ahead and launch even with one sensor out. If you look at the recovery ship where the booster is going to land, it is going to be underway, so that it can use stabilizing fins so that we can operate the recovery platform even in heavy sea states. These are the kind of things that help with availability.

    Those are the three big ideas and that’s what we’re working on. We have ironed out how we want to build the booster using our New Shepard program. We learned so much building New Shepard that we are able to incorporate all of those learnings into New Glenn.

  • Do you expect re-usability to become a standard in this industry?

    I do over time. I think it will take time but, the LNG fuel costs and the liquid oxygen costs are very low. The real cost in launching is throwing the hardware away. So, there will be a next phase where we have to work on reusability of the upper stage because that will be the next big opportunity. That’s a different problem, it’s an interesting problem. But, the biggest cost is actually with the booster so that is the right place to start.

  • Would you look to launch other businesses around space or satellites?

    We are really focused on launch right now and what the future holds is hard to say. I don’t know for sure. But really, I think the big problem that is holding everything up is the cost of launch, the reliability of launch and the availability of launch. You shouldn’t have to plan these missions out so many years in advance, and then when you get there, actually you still are delayed nine months, a year or two years. We can make tremendous progress nailing those three basics: cost, reliability, availability.

  • How quickly would you launch a satellite according to your customers demand?

    It seems like you should be able to do that very quickly. What the ultimate timeframe is, I have no idea. But, I don’t see any laws of physics that need violating to have that be very rapid. It should be possible to work on your operations and your systems to get that cycle time to be very low. It is premature to know how low that ultimately could be. But, there is no reason it can’t be fast

  • Do you think that in the future there is a good growth in space industry?

     It is always going to be hybrid and it should be hybrid. That is what makes sense. It will be hybrid GEO/LEO, ground systems, fiber optics — everything. It is all going to be part of the mix.

    I think the industry will grow to the extent that it is able to reduce its costs. If Blue Origin is successful at lowering launch costs, and if satellite manufacturers are successful at mass-producing satellites and lowering those costs and using more standardized components, then you’re going to see satellites become more competitive with terrestrial alternatives. And you’ll see more of it.

  • By how much can you lower the prices on your satellites?

    It is very hard to know. With a fully reusable vehicle, they should be able to become very low, but we will have to wait and see. I think it is very difficult to know today how low the prices can get, but they can get much lower than they are that’s for sure.

  • Will the overall communications landscape change over the next two years so that Blue Origin can focus deeply in it’s space activities?

    Our part of this mission is very clear. It is our job to get out there and hurry up and lower the cost of launch. Make it more reliable. Make it more available. That is our part of this mission. That’s heavy lifting infrastructure. I am investing about $2.5 billion in New Glenn. Then we will make that capability available for the world to use. Improving that piece of things will drive improvements everywhere.

  • Being a big fan of the TV series “The Expanse”, how did you adopt the interest of science fiction in you?

    Absolutely. I grew up reading science fiction. I spent my summers in a small town in South Texas called Cotulla, 3,000 people, about halfway between San Antonio and Laredo, and it had a tiny little town library. In that library were about 300 science-fiction books that one guy in town had donated to the library. He basically donated his entire science-fiction collection to the library. Probably 10 percent of the library was science fiction, and over the course of many summers, I just plowed my way through all of them. They were the classics, you know, Asimov and Heinlein, all of the people that you know. Today I continue with my science-fiction reading habit and find it very mind-expanding. Always makes me think. The Culture series is certainly, in terms of more modern science fiction, one of my absolute favorites. We’re not quite at that level technologically, we've got a lot of work to do before we get there, but there’s a utopian element to it that I find very attractive.

  • You’ve talked a lot about millions of people working in space which was also Professor O’Neill’s vision as well. Could you explain to us on that matter?

    Professor O’Neill was very formative for me. I read “The High Frontier” in high school. I read it multiple times, and I was already primed. As soon as I read it, it made sense to me. It seemed very clear that planetary surfaces were not the right place for an expanding civilization inside our solar system. For one, they’re just not that big. There’s another argument that I like to make, too, which is that they’re hard to get to. When we build our own colonies, we can do them in near-Earth vicinity, because people are going to want to come back to Earth. Very few people, for a long time anyway, are going to want to abandon Earth altogether. Earth is going to be a very important place to be able to come back to. You’re going to want to come and go. And if you have very few launch opportunities, and you need a lot of delta-V to get to a planetary surface, that’s going to make it very difficult to come and go. That’s going to be more of a place where you go and stay. There are a lot of other problems with planetary surfaces. But the main one is that they’re not big enough. We have the resources to build a room for a trillion humans in this solar system, and when we have a trillion humans, we’ll have a thousand Einsteins and a thousand Mozarts. It will be a way more interesting place to live. The alternative, if we stay on this planet, is not necessarily extinction. We can defend this planet, but the alternative is stasis. We will have to stop growing, which I think is a very bad future. It’s not the future that I want for my grandchildren or my grandchildren’s grandchildren. I doubt anybody in this room wants that for their descendants. We have ever-improving lives in large part because we use ever-expanding amounts of energy. You can take baseline energy use on Earth today and compound it at just a few percents a year for just a few hundred years. Not very long. The power of compounding is very non-human, and it throws people. But in just a few hundred years, we will have to cover the entire surface of the Earth in solar cells if we want to continue to grow our energy usage. And keep in mind, this covers all the things that you like: hospitals, air travel, all these things, modern childbirth, where children don’t die. We use a lot of energy to do these things. We’ve been getting more efficient at using energy with every passing decade, and still, we use more. Our metabolic rate as an animal is 100 watts. That’s how much the human body needs. If you take about 2,000 calories of food intake a day and convert that to watts, that’s our metabolic power. But our civilizational metabolic rate as members of the developed world is 11,000 watts. Do we want that to continue, or do we want to freeze that in time? If we freeze it, by the way, there are millions of people who don’t get to enjoy the 11,000 watts that the people in this room enjoy. So, we will have to leave this planet, and we’re going to leave it, and it’s going to make this planet better. We’ll come and go, and people who want to stay will stay. There will be some restrictions here. It’ll end up being zoned light industry and residential, and we’ll move all heavy, dirty industry off Earth – where, by the way, we’ll be able to do it much more effectively with 24/7 solar power. The Earth is not a very good place to do heavy industry. It’s convenient for us right now, but in the not-too-distant future, I’m talking decades, maybe 100 years, it’ll start to be easier to do a lot of the things that we currently do on Earth in space, because we’ll have so much energy. And then we can send the vitamins down to Earth. That’s going to be the Great Inversion. The beginning is, we’ll get bulk materials in space and we’ll have to send all the vitamins up, integrated circuits and things like that. We’ll have to send all of those up into space, but eventually, that will invert, and we will send the vitamins down to Earth.

  • What steps would you take to become successful in space activities?

    You have to lower the cost of access to space to do these grand things that we’re talking about. By the way, this is not something that we can choose to do. This is something we must do. We need to do a better job of communicating how important this is because this mission is so big. We need the world to support it, and the people in this room have a part in educating the world about why this is a “must-do” and not “fun to do.” We need to do this. So how do you do it? You do it step by step. Our motto at Blue Origin is “Gradatim Ferociter” – “Step by Step, Ferociously.” And by the way, for about a year, our motto was just “Gradatim.” I made that up because step-by-step is so important to me. And then I realized it’s not enough — it has to be step-by-step ferociously, and so that’s where the “Ferociter” came from. Because we don’t have a lot of time. We do have to hurry. I spent three years, from the year 2000 to 2003, looking at all the different ways you might get off Earth with different, more exotic means of propulsion. I came to the conclusion after three years that chemical propulsion is the right way to get off Earth. It’s actually a very good way, and the only problem is, the rockets need to be reusable. We can dramatically lower the cost of access to space, which will then allow us to start this long process of moving all heavy industry. It won’t be done by one company. It won’t be done by just Blue Origin. It won’t be done by just NASA. It won’t be done by any particular company. This is going to take thousands of companies, working in concert over many decades. One of the great problems in business is that people have kind of a sports metaphor in their head. That there are two competing companies, and there are a winner and a loser.  But business isn’t like sports. … In business, industries rise and fall. It is not a zero-sum game. It is often that there are multiple winners, and that’s what we’ve seen on the internet. Thousands of companies have been successful on the internet, of all scales and sizes. Some very large, like Amazon, and some medium-sized, and some small, but it’s a big group of companies. The reason all those companies can thrive on the internet is that the heavy lifting was already in place. Facebook could be started by two kids in a dorm room, and now it’s a giant mega-corporation after just a little more than a decade. Two kids in a dorm room today cannot do that as space entrepreneurs. You cannot make a giant space company in your dorm room. Not today. And the reason is that the heavy lifting infrastructure isn’t in place. When I started at Amazon, I didn’t have to build a payment system – it existed. It was the credit card. I didn’t have to build the transportation network. It existed. It was called Deutsche Post, Royal Mail, UPS, FedEx and so on. And likewise, I didn’t have to get a computer on every desk. That was already done. Microsoft had worked on that and laid that heavy infrastructure along with IBM and Intel and Apple, and a bunch of others. All those things would be multiple, tens of billions, in some cases hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of capital expenditure that no 20-year-old in their dorm room would get to deploy. That’s what it is right now to be a space entrepreneur. You get millions of dollars, not billions of dollars, but the things you want to do currently would cost billions of dollars. We have to change that and make it more like the last 20 years of the internet, where you saw unbelievable dynamism. And then, when we have that entrepreneurial dynamism in space, you will see this vision that I painted, which is really the Gerry O’Neill vision that I was deeply influenced by. That vision will happen so fast once we have that dynamism. This is the most important work I’m doing. It’s crucial. My role is to help build that heavy lifting infrastructure because I have the financial assets to do that. That will set things up for this dynamic entrepreneurial explosion that will lead to this Gerry O’Neill world.

  • Is the space effort by other non-profit organisation like NASA, a market failure?

    Well, yes, in a way. It was a government program. If you look at the Apollo program, there was no market there. It was a market failure, and the government stepped in and did it. There are other pieces of space, of course, that have found a fair exchange of value – communication satellites and so on. But the Apollo program certainly had no real commercial value. It was done for very different reasons, and I think very good reasons for the time. It’s an extraordinary achievement of mankind, but it wasn’t sustainable. By the way, it was also pulled forward. We humans should not have been able to do it in 1969. It was impossible, and we did it. When something gets pulled forward, out of sequence, it’s unlikely to be sustainable. But today, we must go back to the moon, and this time to stay.

  • What do you see as the role of Blue Origin in space activities?

    We’re building the foundation first. We’ll do stepwise whatever we need to do to get that vision to happen. So one of two things will happen: Either other people will take over the vision, or I’ll run out of money. Those are the two possibilities. That vision is so important. We’ll do it step by step. The first step is, you need to lower the cost of access to low Earth orbit. That’s the first piece. We know how to do that. It’s reusability. You have to reuse the vehicles. We have to figure out how to reuse the booster stage first and do that reliably. You have to fly it 100 times or more. It has to be truly operable reusability. The space shuttle was reusable, but only in a technical sense. The reality is that the refurbishment and inspection regime the shuttle had to go through between flights drove the costs up very high. What you need is something much more like a commercial airliner, where you fly it and you fly it again, and you have certain intervals where you serve it, and you have certain inspection regimes. Eventually, you want a commercial airliner. I’d be very satisfied right now with the kind of life cycle costs you get with, say, a jet fighter. That would be a dramatic improvement over space vehicles, and that’s where we need to head first. Once we have that, then yes, we need to build other things. Blue Origin will participate in these things – you know, lunar landers and other things, bigger and bigger vehicles. We’re not ready to do it yet. We’re working on New Glenn, which is our orbital vehicle, but we have in our mind’s eye an even bigger vehicle called New Armstrong.

  • Could you tell us about what progress is New Glenn into?

    We’ve been working on New Glenn for about five years. The second stage is expendable. The booster comes back in for re-entry. It has strakes, which gives it good “L over D” [lift-to-drag ratio] so it can fly back to the recovery ship. The ship is underway while the booster is being recovered, so it can use stabilizers to operate in heavy sea states.

  • How much will a ticket cost for a space trip through New Glenn?

    We don’t know the ticket price yet. We haven’t decided. By the way, so many people ask me, why do this suborbital mission? And the reason is practice. We’re going to be able to fly that vehicle so often, and that engine, the BE-3 engine, is the same engine that is going to be in our orbital vehicle. It will get so much exercise and practice, it’s going to be the most reliable liquid hydrogen engine in the world.

  • Are you interested in going for a public-private partnership with NASA?

    We’ve proposed something called Blue Moon. We would build a cargo lander that would take five metric tons of cargo to the lunar surface and precision-land it in a soft controlled way. And by the way, we’ll do that even if NASA doesn’t do it. We’ll do it eventually. But we could do it a lot faster if there were a partnership.

  • What are your thoughts about the White House’s Lunar Initiative?

    I am a big fan. I don’t like to skip steps, and I always thought that this idea of going to Mars without building a permanent base on the moon was … I believe it would end the same way Apollo did, where we would do it, there would be a ticker-tape parade, and then 50 years of nothing. And so I hate that idea. It’s out of sequence. The special ops guys and the firefighters around the world have this great phrase. They say “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast,” and that is true. Everything I’ve accomplished in my life has been because of that attitude. We don’t skip steps, and we’ve got to go back to the moon. We’re so lucky to have the moon. It’s so conveniently located. We now know things that we didn’t know before. We know that there is volatiles trapped in the dark craters of the moon that are perpetually shaded. We know that there’s water there. There’s ice there. There are probably other interesting things in those craters as well.

  • Did you want to achieve the title of ‘The World’s Wealthiest Man’?

  • How come you and Bill Gates who once resided in the same neighbourhood has been now recognised as one of the top two richest man in the world?

  • Would you like to tell us as to how are you going utilize those 47,000 philanthropic ideas that you have received from the people?

  • Are you focusing more on providing proper education to pre-school children?

  • Could you explain more to us about how are you going to invest two billion dollars on those 47,000 philanthropic ideas?

  • Why did you buy The Washington Post?

  • How did you deal with the criticism made by the public and the media regarding your purchase of The Washington Post?

  • Were you a smart student during your school days?

  • Could you explain to us the speech you have given as a valedictorian regarding the colonization of space?

  • Why did you decide to go to Princeton soon after graduating as a valedictorian?

  • From where did the idea of Amazon stem?

  • Did any other name come to your mind before you named your company Amazon?

  • When and how did you get the idea to sell other products apart from books?

  • What are your views on The Wall Street’s criticism of Amazon for not earning profits but just earning more customers?

  • How did you manage to save Amazon from bankruptcy during the internet recession?

  • Who gave you the idea to start Amazon Prime?

  • As a customer, did you ever receive the wrong order whenever you purchased something from Amazon?

  • Why did Amazon acquire Whole Foods Market?

  • Where did the concept to start Amazon Web Services come from?

  • Are you worried that one day the American or the European governments might come along and disrupt Amazon’s business due to its large market share?

  • How do you shield your children from the effects of your enormous wealth?

  • What was your main motive to start The Blue Origin?

  • What would you like to have as your legacy?

  • Could you talk to us about the journey of Amazon Corporation when it has earned a good market reputation in the beginning however it was also facing financial losses too?

  • Given how Amazon Corporation is grown to include a diverse range of products and services, how do you manage these disparate businesses and keep them in line with your vision?

  • Do you still follow the ‘two pizza team’ and the ‘no PowerPoint’ rules?

  • How has your leadership style changed over the years?

  • Could you explain to us about your theology that in order to be innovative one must be misunderstood?

  • If you could write a legacy about yourself, what would you like it to be?

  • Could you tell us about the Short-Term and Long-Term objectives you have that is yet to be achieve?

  • If you could write a legacy about yourself, what would you like it to be?

  • Do you agree that in the future artificial intelligence would be a benefit to the society or not?

  • After acquiring The Washington Post, are your plans proceeding the way you wanted them to?

  • Whom do you consider to be your role model?

  • How do you encourage your employees to be innovative?

  • How do you protect the mavericks from the institutions that are destroying them?

  • What are the biggest challenges you face when operating The Blue Origin?

  • What benefits do you think that Amazon Corporation receives by partnering with commercial industry?

  • How would you recommend fostering innovation specifically with an organisation like the US Air Force?

  • How do you balance innovation and risk?

  • What role does diversity play in innovation?

  • How are you recruiting and mentoring the employees in your company?

  • How do you create fun in your work environment?

  • Do you sleep well at the end of the day?

  • What leadership principles have helped you manage your businesses?

  • How do you deal with your critics?

  • What was the reason for Firephone’s failure in the commercial market?

  • What was the mistake made in the Firephone that made it a flop product?

  • Can Amazon generate a large amount of revenue?

  • How would you influence your followers who are earning less few revenue for their company?

  • You spend a total of 6 hours a year on investor relations. Could you tell us something about that?

  • How do you retain your employees during a situation of crisis?

  • What do you tell to your employees when the Amazon’s stock prices falls down over a quarter?

  • How dependent is Amazon on you these days?

  • Were you surprised with the animosity that was directed at Amazon?

  • Do you think there is a future for authors competing against other authors?

  • How do you manage to be so focused?

  • When are you planning to start delivery services through drones?

  • Do you feel that anything has changed in your life after your 50th birthday?

  • What are your views on the book that has been written about you and on Amazon?

  • Why was your wife objecting to the book that has been written about you?

  • What do you like about yourself as a father of four kids?

  • What was your intention behind acquiring The Washington Post?

  • Why are you so optimistic about the newspaper business?

  • What is your vision in space business?

  • When is your space mission going to be ready?