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How I built the Amazon empire: Four top tips from Jeff Bezos

Friday, 30 November 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

Start-ups should respond to skepticism systematically and be prepared for a fight from the very beginning, says Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who has shared his thoughts on entrepreneurship.

 

Bezos, who recently spoke to US talk show host Charlie Rose, founded Amazon in 1994 after making a cross-country drive from New York to Seattle, writing up a business plan on the way.

 

His whole motivation for launching Amazon was his “regret minimisation framework”, having initially failed to invest in the internet.

 

After leaving his job at a New York hedge fund, Bezos set up Amazon in his garage. Today, it reels in more than $48 billion, while Bezos has a net worth in excess of $23 billion.

 

 

 

Here are some of his thoughts on Amazon and entrepreneurship:

 

1. Be ready for a fight from day one

 

“I’ve been optimistic about Amazon since the early days. I was most pessimistic literally at the very beginning,” Bezos says.

 

“It took sixty meetings to raise a million dollars, which I needed to get the company started. Twenty-two people providing around $50,000 each, on average, to get me that million dollars.”

 

“That was the riskiest time for Amazon – that’s when the whole thing may never have happened. Raising that money was very, very difficult.”

 

2. Accept that you won’t win everyone over

 

“The first question people had was: What was the internet?”

 

“Of the forty people I talked to who did not invest… I mean, anyone who knew anything about the book business, for example, did not invest.”

 

“That was the most fragile moment for Amazon. Since 1997, our immediate destiny has been in our own hands.”

 

3. Work through the skepticism

 

“When you brainstorm, some people start with skepticism. You come up with a new idea and they say, ‘That can’t work and here are the seven reasons.’

 

“If you’re like I am and you don’t have a good process around that, that’s very deflating. It feels like somebody just poured cold water on your idea.”

 

“But if you set up a better process and say, ‘Okay, now we’re going to spend 15 minutes providing skepticism – picking this apart – and then we’re going to force rank all of the reasons this won’t work, and then we’re going to find solutions to each of those’, you can iterate through that.”

 

4. Be a builder, not just a dreamer

 

“I like to think of myself primarily as a builder but you’ve got to have a little bit of dreamer in you to invent.”

 

“Amazon is a team effort. We have a lot of builders at Amazon, we have a lot of inventors at Amazon, and that’s why it works. And it’s also why it’s fun.”