Bezos, Amazon's Ex-CEO, Believes Amazon Will One Day Be 'Dead'
Jensen Jun 12, 2021
Jeff Bezos founded Amazon on July 5, 1994. On Monday, exactly 27 years later, he stepped down as Amazon's CEO, replacing him with senior Amazon executive Andy Jassey. Under Mr Bezos, Amazon has grown into a technology giant -- but at times the billionaire seems to believe it is doomed. Bezos spoke of Amazon failing three times between 2013 and 2018, and in his last letter to shareholders in April 2021, he quoted scientist Richard Dawkins about 'staying away from death.' This is very rare for a chief executive. Under the scrutiny of demanding investors, executives often appear to be supremely optimistic about their companies' prospects. But it's the fear of failure and stagnation that seems to be driving Mr. Bezos. Here are some of the moments he talks about Amazon's 'inevitable' demise: In 2013, Bezos said that big companies only survive 'for a few decades.' Bezos showed off Amazon's automated unmanned delivery unit on a show in 2013. The department reportedly laid off dozens of research and manufacturing staff in November 2020. 'The life of the company is short... Amazon will be disrupted one day.' When asked if this fact bothered him, Bezos replied: 'I don't, because I know it's inevitable. Companies come and go, and the brightest, most important companies of any generation, if you look at them in a few decades, will be gone.' Bezos added that he hoped Amazon would outlive him. In his 2017 letter to shareholders, Mr Bezos mused on 'an excruciating decline and death'. In his 2017 letter to shareholders, Bezos discussed his 'Day One' philosophy -- which he has always insisted that every day at Amazon is 'Day One.' In that letter, he returned to a question someone had asked at the all-staff meeting: What was 'day two' like? 'A mature company may have its' second day 'decades from now, but it will come,' he says. He goes on to discuss how a company can 'avoid' the next day. In 2018, Bezos told employees: 'I expect that at some point, Amazon will fail.' One employee asked about the bankruptcies of big companies like Sears. Mr Bezos replied: 'Amazon is not too big to fail... In fact, I expect Amazon to fail at some point.' 'Amazon will go bankrupt,' he said. If you look at the big companies, they tend to live for 30-plus years, not 100-plus years.' Mr. Bezos said his job was to make that day come as late as possible. On July 5, Amazon will mark its 27th birthday, approaching Bezos's 30-year mark. In 2021, Bezos wrote in his final letter to shareholders, quoting Richard Dawkins, that 'staying away from death is something you have to work at.' 'Avoiding death is something you must strive to do. Left to itself -- this is what it looks like after it dies -- the body tends to return to a state of equilibrium with its environment. If you measure something, such as temperature, acidity, moisture, or electrical potential in an organism, you will usually find that it is quite different from the corresponding measurements in the surrounding environment. For example, our bodies are usually hotter than the environment around us, and in a cold climate we have to work hard to maintain this difference. When we die, our bodies stop working, the temperature difference starts to disappear, and we end up at the same temperature as our surroundings. Not all animals work so hard to avoid equilibrium with the temperature around them, but all do something similar. In arid countries, for example, plants and animals struggle to maintain fluid levels in their cells, running counter to the natural tendency of water to flow from cells to the dry outside world. If they fail, they die. More broadly, if organisms do not actively prevent death, they will eventually blend into their surroundings and cease to exist as autonomous organisms. That's what happens when they die.' Mr Bezos said the passage was a 'brilliant' metaphor for Amazon, illustrating the need for any company to constantly strive to be different, rather than settle for a comfortable standstill. He continued: 'The world is always trying to make Amazon more typical, trying to balance us with the environment. It will take sustained effort, but we can and must do better.'