The life and awesomeness of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is one of the most powerful figures in tech, with a net worth of roughly $57 billion.
Today his "Everything Store" sells over $100 billion worth of goods a year.
Unfamiliar with Bezos' story?
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
Jeff Bezos' mom, Jackie, was a teenager when she had him in January 1964. She had recently married Cuban immigrant Mike Bezos, who adopted Jeff. Jeff didn't learn that Mike wasn't his real father until he was 10 but says he was more fazed about learning he needed to get glasses than he was about the news.
When Bezos was 4, his mother told his biological father, who was a circus performer at one point, to stay out of their lives. When Brad Stone interviewed his father for his book "The Everything Store," the man had no idea who his son had become.
Bezos showed signs of brilliance from an early age. When he was a toddler, he took apart his crib with a screwdriver because he wanted to sleep in a real bed.
From ages 4 to 16, Bezos spent summers on his grandparents' ranch in Texas, doing farm work like repairing windmills and castrating bulls.
His grandfather, Preston Gise, was a huge inspiration for Bezos and helped kindle his passion for intellectual pursuits. At a commencement address in 2010, Bezos said Gise taught him that "it's harder to be kind than clever."
Bezos fell in love with reruns of the original "Star Trek" and became a fan of the later versions too. Early on, he thought about calling Amazon MakeItSo.com in reference to a line from Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
In school, Bezos told teachers "the future of mankind is not on this planet." As a kid, he wanted to be a space entrepreneur. Now he owns a space-exploration company called Blue Origin.
After spending a miserable summer working at McDonald's as a teen, Bezos started the Dream Institute, a 10-day summer camp for kids, with his girlfriend. They charged $600 a kid but managed to sign up six students. The "Lord of the Rings" series made the required reading list.
He eventually went to college at Princeton and majored in computer science. Upon graduation, he turned down job offers from Intel and Bell Labs to join a startup called Fitel.
After he quit Fitel, Bezos almost launched a news-by-fax service startup with Halsey Minor, who would later found CNET.
Instead, he got a job at the hedge fund D.E. Shaw. He became a senior vice president after only four years.
Meanwhile, Bezos took ballroom dancing classes as part of a scheme to increase his "women flow." Just as Wall Streeters have a process for increasing their "deal flow," Bezos thought about meeting girls analytically.
He eventually married MacKenzie Tuttle, a D.E. Shaw research associate, in 1993. She's now a novelist.
In 1994, Bezos read that the web had grown 2,300% in one year. This number astounded him, and he decided he needed to find some way to take advantage of its rapid growth. He made a list of 20 possible product categories to sell online and decided that books were the best option.
Bezos decided to leave D.E. Shaw even though he had a great job."When you are in the thick of things, you can get confused by small stuff," he said later. "I knew when I was eighty that I would never, for example, think about why I walked away from my 1994 Wall Street bonus right in the middle of the year at the worst possible time. That kind of thing just isn't something you worry about when you're eighty years old. At the same time, I knew that I might sincerely regret not having participated in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a revolutionizing event. When I thought about it that way … it was incredibly easy to make the decision."
His boss at the firm, David E. Shaw, tried to persuade Bezos to stay. But Bezos was already determined to start his own company, and felt he'd rather try and fail at a startup than never try at all.
And so Amazon was born. MacKenzie and Jeff flew to Texas to borrow a car from his father, and then they drove to Seattle. Bezos was making revenue projections in the passenger seat the whole way, though the couple did stop to watch the sunrise at the Grand Canyon.
Bezos started Amazon.com in a garage with a potbellied stove. He held most of his meetings at the neighborhood Barnes & Noble.
In the early days, a bell would ring in the office every time someone made a purchase, and everyone would gather around to see whether anyone knew the customer. It took only a few weeks before it was ringing so often the they had to make it stop.
In the first month of its launch, Amazon had already sold books to people in all 50 states and in 45 different countries, and it continued to grow. Amazon went public in 1997.
When the dot-com crash came, analysts called the company "Amazon.bomb." But it weathered the storm and ended up becoming one of the few startups that didn't get wiped out by the dot-com bust.
Amazon shares have continued to go up since the crash (until the recent market correction). It has now gone beyond selling books to selling almost everything you could imagine, including appliances, clothing, and even cloud computing services.
Jeff Bezos was a demanding boss and could explode at employees. Rumor has it he hired a leadership coach to help him tone it down.
Bezos is known for banning Powerpoint presentations at Amazon. Instead he requires his staff to turn in six-page papers on their proposals to encourage critical thinking over simplistic bullet points.
He's also known for creating a frugal company culture that doesn't offer perks like free food and massages.
In 1998, Bezos also became an early investor in Google. He invested $250,000, which was about 3.3 million shares when the company went public in 2004 — that would be worth about $2.2 billion today. (He hasn't revealed whether he kept any of his stock after the initial public offering).