Jeff Bezos is by far the most interesting of the tech industry CEOs. He’s the new “Steve Jobs” in terms of being able to attract the same type of attention to his every move.
Will he be able to guide society into a welcoming, bright digital future in the same way Steve Jobs was able to educate and show how things could become?
Bezos is a much more humanitarian version of Steve Jobs, who was an uptight hippie despite his ashram and alternate lifestyle experiences. Mr. Bezos’ style is much gentler and better suited to our times.
He’s a very impressive chief executive, a serial innovator with a strong sense of the future and the discipline to do what’s needed to get there. And he can inspire and lead a large organization.
Like Apple, he has his fanboys but they are his shareholders, a stoic bunch that’s unfazed by his stewardship of Amazon on a knife-edge of profitability, but continually reinvesting into infrastructure and customers.
It’s a brilliant strategy. How can companies, with much larger profit margins to protect, compete against Amazon’s shareholders? They’d be killed in the stock market if they fail to maintain their high margins. That means they can’t take the same risks. But they create a price umbrella for products and services that Amazon can exploit.
I once asked him, “Shouldn’t you focus on succeeding in one business instead of so many different businesses?” He answered, “Why? Why can’t we succeed in all of them?”
Amazon is a tech company but it’s not a product company, it’s a collection of many businesses. Here’s his challenge:
Predicting the future of technology is easy, it’s much harder to figure out how to be a business in that future.
So far, so good for Mr. Bezos. His successes haven’t come easily and he deserves the recognition for a hard job done well.
Reinventing the newspaper business might be a stride too far but it’s worth a try and I’m glad it’s not my money experimenting with business models. Who knows, he might come up with a winning formula that everyone can use. If not, then not much harm done — the US$250-million is only one percent of his fortune.
Steve Jobs didn’t win all the time.