Bezos was working as a vice president at D.E. Shaw, an investment and technology development firm, when he read online that the internet was growing at a rate of 2,300 percent per year. The future billionaire began thinking about ways to build a digitally focused business to take advantage of the trend.
"It was a wake-up call," Bezos told Time Magazine in 1999. "I started thinking, O.K., what kind of business opportunity might there be here?"
Bezos left his job at D.E. Shaw and moved to Seattle to begin work on his company. After some initial research, he determined that the online sale of books offered a promising business model because there was no centralized mail-order catalog or marketplace.
Initially dubbed Cadabra Inc., Bezos renamed the company to Amazon and began working out of the garage of his home in Washington state. In 1995, he launched a beta version of Amazon.com and invited friends to check out his new online marketplace. The site opened to the general public in July 1995.
Sales grew quickly and Bezos opted to take Amazon public in 1997. The company began offering other products the following year and turned its first full-year profit in 2003.
In the years since its founding, Amazon has emerged as one of the world’s most dominant online retailers and a key driving force behind the trend toward e-commerce. In 2019, Amazon posted revenue of $280.5 billion.
Key acquisitions during Amazon’s history include grocery chain Whole Foods and smart home company Ring. The company’s subscription plan, Amazon Prime, includes a bundle of Amazon services and innovations, including one-day shipping and the Prime Video streaming service.
Amazon is one of the world’s most valuable companies, with a market capitalization of $1.38 trillion as of June 2020. Bezos owns slightly more than 11 percent of company shares.
Bezos is the world’s richest man, with a personal net worth of $165.2 billion as of this week.