Lesson for Founders from Jeff Bezos’s Childhood

On 29th July, Jeff Bezos and other founders from his league came before the US House Judiciary subcommittee and gave a statement on antitrust, commercial and administrative law. It is interesting and I personally feel it is a must-read for entrepreneurs and leaders. In this article, however, I wanted to discuss how Jeff Bezos's childhood plays a role in how he takes decisions.  

The Statement

link to the original statement: https://blog.aboutamazon.com/policy/statement-by-jeff-bezos-to-the-u-s-house-committee-on-the-judiciary The entire article is a well-articulated PR letter which details how amazon is helping people. From paying 95% of their associate's education fees to creating $1 trillion in wealth for their retail shareholders since the beginning. I don't have any comments on the nature of the letter. I am more fascinated by the story in it.  

How Jeff Bezos takes Decisions

If you have been watching the news over the years, you may have seen the grand launches of a few products and services by Amazon which today are nowhere to be found. They failed. Lots of startups fail every year. No big deals. Right? Amazon is no exception. But for some reason, Amazon is one of the four companies with a valuation of more than $1 Trillion dollars (2020 ref: link) In all this, I want to take a look into the mindset of a person who knows these decisions will certainly lead to failure. When the whole world is on your back saying what you are doing is almost certainly going to fail, you start hearing a voice in your head. The voice is usually stopping you from making the decision. "This might be dangerous. Be careful" Pretty sure Jeff Bezos had a similar voice while working on the Fire Phone, or the Kindle. But for him, there was another voice. His grandfather from an old ranch in Texas. "When you have a setback, you get back up and try again." In the article, Bezos tells a story of when he used to visit his Grandfather during his summer. He describes his Grandfather as self-reliant and resourceful. From the age of 4 to 16, he saw his grandfather solve every problem by himself. The tractor breaks down? Fix it. Cattle fall sick? Treat them. This is precious. When at a young age, kid witnesses everyone around them solving problems instead of regretting their situation, it creates a lasting impression. Taking a page from Pixar's Inside out, it creates a personality trait in them.  

Am I teaching you how to raise kids?

No. I barely have any experience handling kids for more than an hour. This is me showing you what I observed. What was different about the founders who had a not-so-comfortable childhood. This Linkedin post is about founders who were 1st or 2nd generation Immigrants. link here  

Quick Detour.

3 Failure from Amazon. Everyone talks about the successes of Amazon. Prime, Alexa, Kindle and AWS are some of the most talked-about profitable services from Amazon. Besides, of course, the Amazon.com store AWS basically is the internet. Let's take the example of all the streaming services. You have Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney Plus and a bunch other. Pick any one of these and Amazon still makes money.  All these services use AWS for computing and distribution.
We were right about AWS, but the truth is we’ve also taken plenty of risks that didn’t pan out. In fact, Amazon has made billions of dollars of failures. [...] which is why we try to make Amazon the best place in the world to fail
Very quickly here are a few products, services and ventures which amazon failed at.
  1. Fire Phone. A phone which focused on a 3D screen
  2. Destinations. A short-lived venture into Travel and hotel industry
  3. endless.com. A high-end e-commerce store for shoes and clothes
Read more here and here  

What can Founders learn

When building a startup, things will mostly never go your way. We all have to deal with it. There's a reason who the majority of startups fail. When the thing doesn't go the way it was planned, most people quit. This is the pitfall most people fall into. You need to build a personality, which doesn't back down when you come face to face with failure.  The good news is it is something you can learn. If you are not natural something, you have to learn by observing people who are natural at it. You can take a page from your childhood lesions. Or cultivate it as you grow. Failure will come to you. How you face it, will dictate your life as an entrepreneur.