Back in 1994, on July 5th, an entrepreneur named Jeff Bezos started a new online store which specialised in selling books.   25 years later, the behemoth that became amazon is now predicted to have yearly revenue of around $234 trillion.  It recently became the second company to have a trillion dollar market value (Apple was the first to reach this milestone) and now accounts for 7.7% of all US retail!

It all started in his garage (as most early tech companies seem to!) when Bezos funded the business with $10,000 of his own money.   The servers hosting the website used so much power that his wife couldn’t use her hair drier in the house for fear of blowing a fuse!

Only 3 years later, Amazon went public at $18 per share which gave it a market valuation of $300 million!

Interestingly, Amazon wasn’t the original name for the company.   Instead Bezos wanted to call the company “Cadabra”.   However, lawyers warned against this as it sounded too close to “Cadaver”.

In 1998 the company expanded its product line to include CDs and DVDs.   This year also saw the expansion into Europe with online stores opening in Germany and the UK.  Now the company is a global retailer – here’s a chronological list of its worldwide openings;

1994 United States, 1998 Germany and United Kingdom, 2000 France and Japan, 2002 Canada, 2004 China, 2010 Italy, 2011 Spain, 2012 Brazil, 2013 India       and Mexico, 2014 Netherlands, 2017 Singapore, 2017 Australia, 2018 Turkey, 2019 United Arab Emirates.

In 1999 Amazon launched its 3rd party marketplace – creating the opportunity for other businesses to sell their products through the online store.  It proved to be a hit, with 250,000 customers purchasing products through the service during the first four months!

In June of 2003, the company ventured into another new field – this time offering web hosting to other companies.   Amazon had built such an extensive global network of datacenters that they could provide hosting services that nobody else could match.   Amazon Web Services is now a $25.66 billion per year operation!

In February 2002 Amazon Prime made its debut, a subscription service offering free two-day shipping for a $79 yearly fee.    The service now includes a streaming TV service that rivals Netflix for content.   If you buy regularly from Amazon, I can highly recommend Prime.   In fact, you might want to consider switching from Netflix to Prime.   There’s lots of great content and it would come with the advantage of free two-day shipping.   In the US and some parts of Canada this even gives you 1 day shipping, though I think it’ll be a while until this reaches the Maritimes!

The Amazon Kindle appeared in 2007, bringing e-books to the masses.  Codenamed “Fiona”, this revolutionary device used e-ink technology that only used battery power to change the screen content, resulting in a long battery life.   It made buying books from Amazon instant and easy with wireless downloads.

In 2008 they took a different approach to online books, with their $300 million purchase of Audible – a popular audio-book company.

In yet another new direction, in 2015 they announced Alexa and the echo smart speaker.   By now, Amazon has become a data company.   Extensive algorithms and analysis of shopping habits give them an edge over the competition.   The echo speaker is another data gathering device and has led to some controversy over what happens to the recorded conversations.

This brings us to today, where Amazon is a huge company employing over 647,500 staff in 288.4 million square feet.  And Jeff Bezos?   Well he’s not done badly from it with net worth of $158 billion, making him the world’s richest person!