What does Amazon and Whole Foods have to do with the Gig Economy? Funny you should ask. No really! When I mentioned this to a friend as the subject of my return to a long absence from blogging on the Gig Economy, this is the exact question she asked!! Things had finally settled down enough to where I started going over my notes where I left off and which idea I would work on when I noticed the news of this merger between Amazon and Whole Foods had been completed. The news was all a buzz with loads of clickbait Grocery Store Gloom and Doom due to some serious price drops at Whole Foods. I was already familiar with Amazon’s role in the Gig Economy from doing research on Amazon Flex and Mechanical Turk. Amazon Pantry, Fresh and Go have already been implemented as part of their move into “Grocery Profits”. Although it’s too early to tell, this Whole Foods acquisition could easily be referred to as being part of “The Grocery Plan” as it all has the essence of something big beginning to take shape.
From my extensive experience as a Metrics & Reporting Analyst I had discovered that a thing has a meaning unto itself and when you compare it to another thing that has its own meaning unto itself, the two then take on additional and expanded meanings when being compared due to the interaction between them. This is what happened when Whole Foods was added to this current Amazon comparison. Some of this involves some extrapolation and projection yet I believe I see a long term plan unfolding which Mr. Bezos is known for and quite good at. The previous posts outlined at a very high level the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Corporate America and how that is and will impact the Gig Economy. I will use this as the basic background for this subject as both of them have been involved with that to some degree. To review, I used the following topics to discuss these corporate elements; The Entrepreneur Spirit, Infinite Growth = Infinite Profits, Job Creation, The Cold Sweeping Hand, Infinite Profits > Life, and The Race to the Bottom. I will reference these categories or a variation thereof so you can see how they apply to these individual companies including this merger. Hopefully you will begin to see it in other corporations as these essential elements are quite prevalent if you take the time to look for them. There’s so much information out there on Amazon that I had a real hard time deciding what to include yet in order to tell something of a complete story I’ll be dividing it into three parts the first of which explores his history that will indicate from childhood to elementary school to high school to college and his ensuing corporate career that his entrepreneur elements have been part and parcel of his life’s journey. This is essentially the prelude to The Entrepreneur Spirit that will demonstrate that sometimes their Life’s Path have various experiences that essentially set them up to become an entrepreneur.
Amazon: From Book Seller to The Everything Store (Part 1)
The Rise of the Entrepreneur
Jacklyn Gise and Ted Jorgenson, a onetime circus performer in a unicycle troupe, gave birth to Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen on January 12, 1964 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jacklyn had just turned 17 when she gave birth to Jeff and her marriage to Ted lasted slightly over a year. Several years later she met Miguel “Mike” Bezos, a Cuban immigrant, while working as a bookkeeper at a local bank. They quickly fell in love and were married in 1968. Mike adopted Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen changing his last name to Bezos. Although Jeff was 4 years old at this time he had already previously demonstrated his budding genius. At 3 years old he no longer wanted to sleep in a crib but his mother resisted. “One day, Jackie found her little boy playing with a screwdriver. Jeff was working on the crib, trying to take it apart himself to turn it into a bed. Others noticed his persistence. Teachers at Montessori preschool noted that once Jeff was involved in a project, his concentration became so intense that they would have to life him up, chair and all, to move on to the next activity.” (Google Books) This is an early indication of knowing what he wanted and doing whatever it took to get it with a genius mentality to support it.
His father went to school to become an engineer and supported his son’s love of science. Mike eventually landed a job as an engineer at Exxon that moved Jeff and his new brother and sister, Mark and Christina, to Houston, Texas. Here he was able to expand that love of science by spending many summers of his youth with his grandfather, Lawrence Preston Gise who not only retired to a family ranch but had his own science background at DARPA working on technology and missile defense systems and then as a manager at the Atomic Energy Commission “where he supervised 26,000 employees in the AEC’s western region, including the Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore laboratories.” (Wired) He was an intelligent hardworking man who “who was able to show his grandson the high-tech world and life on the ranch at the same time.” (Google Books) Jeff is known to be a hardworking man and I’m sure he got this foundation from those many bonding summers with his grandfather where they built an automatic gate opener, fixed the Caterpillar tractor whenever it needed repair, how to weld, how to castrate and brand cattle, fixing windmills, repairing pumps, and laying pipes. On the technology side, “[h]is grandfather sparked and indulged Jeff’s fascination with educational games and toys, assisting him with the Heathkits and the other paraphernalia he constantly hauled home to the family garage… Jackie Bezos’s challenge as a parent was to stay a step ahead of, or at least next to, her prodigy. “I think single-handedly we kept many Radio Shacks in business,” she jokes.” (Wired) There were times with these kits that he didn’t need to follow their instructions.
After taking a standardized test confirming his high intelligence he was enrolled in an elementary school with a pilot program for gifted children that was a daily 40 mile roundtrip. During those years “he became enthralled with the Infinity Cube, a cube with motorized mirrors that made it capable of sending multiple reflections in many directions. When Jackie Bezos determined that $20 was too much for such a toy, Jeff had a solution. The resourceful boy obtained parts much more cheaply and built his own version of the cube.” (Google Books) Interestingly according to his teachers he had general intellectual intelligence but ”not particularly gifted in leadership” (Wired) which interestingly will be demonstrated at Amazon. This school also had a Teletype machine hooked to a mainframe computer via a modem yet none of the staff knew how it worked so he and some other students figured out how to program it and used it “playing a primitive Star Trek game, searching for cloaked Klingon ships in a three-by-three matrix.” (Wired) He also used his abilities to maintain his privacy with a little brother and sister always coming into his room so he built an alarm system on his bedroom door that went off when anyone entered his room especially his siblings.
His father received a promotion at Exxon that moved the family to Florida where he attended high school graduating valedictorian and a National Merit Scholar. Here he expanded his scientific tinkering in the garage many times with a space these such as trying to turn a vacuum cleaner into a hovercraft, a robot, or an open spine of an umbrella covered with aluminum foil for solar cooking. During a high school summer he worked as a fry cook at McDonald’s responding to all the buzzers of what to do when while being fascinated with the automation of the fries that would automatically lift out of the oil when done. His first entrepreneur enterprise was created to avoid the previous fast food adventures and created a summer education camp with his high school sweetheart for 4th through 6th graders called the DREAM Institute (Directed REAsoning Methods). They charged $150 per student and had six students sign up, two of which were his siblings. The flyers were created on his Apple II and dot matrix printer emphasizing how to use new ways of thinking. It was to be three one hour sessions for two weeks with a curriculum of science studies and reading books.
He went to college at Princeton University with the original intention of studying Theoretical Physics yet while being in the midst of other similar students he came to realize that so many of them were so much better than him so he changed his major to Computer Science and Electrical Engineering graduating Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa while also being elected to Tau Beta Pi. During his senior year he applied and received offers from Intel, Bell Labs, and Andersen Consulting but it was a full page ad in the university newspaper for a startup company called Fitel that was going to build worldwide network communications making international trading easier. He applied and accepted their offer becoming their 11th employee starting his career combining computer science and business studying stock market trends. Two years later the company was failing to grow so Jeff moved on to a role at Bankers Trust Company where “he sold software tools to the company’s pension-fund clients, but he also explored outside projects.” (Wired) “Less than one year later he became the youngest vice president in company history. Bezos managed the programming department, which was responsible for designing a communications network. Bezos was successful in what he called first-phase automation, the process of making technology work faster and more efficiently…His goal was to move to second-phase automation.” (Google Books) Yet the financial industry was working for this next phase until a head hunter found him his final corporate role as a vice president at a 2 year old hedge fund firm called D.E. Shaw. David Shaw was a computer scientist himself with a specialty “devising new trading strategies for particular financial instruments.” (Wired) The two hit it off immediately including that Jeff was “also very entrepreneurial.” (Wired) Two years later he worked his way up to becoming one of four senior vice presidents. It was also during this time that he met a coworker that would eventually become his wife. All of this experience added up to an evolving dream of taking advantage of the vastly and rapidly growing business opportunities of the budding internet. According to Brad Stone’s book, Jeff’s favorite novel is Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day” which is “about a self-erasing English butler who realizes that he has missed his chance at happiness in love—offers what Bezos calls a “regret-minimization framework”: how not to end up like the butler.” (The New Yorker) This “butler framework” is where his Entrepreneur Spirit begins….
You should now clearly see that his entire life was not only leading up to the creation of Amazon but preparing him for it as if it was all inevitable from birth. I had to leave out a lot of other things such as his intense interest in not just science but science fiction including a passion for the Star Trek television series and attending a Student Science Training Program. He wanted to be a Space Entrepreneur. Years later his high school girlfriend joked that Jeff’s “real goal foris to amass enough of a personal fortune to build his own space station…But behind the young Bezos’s space-station plans was serious intent. “He said the future of mankind is not on this planet, because we might be struck by something, and we better have a spaceship out there,” recalls Rudolf Werner, the father of Jeff’s high school girlfriend.” (Wired)
Part 2 will focus on his entrepreneur spirit where his relentless pursuit of his dreams was launched from what you’ve read in this post that continues to this very day. Stay tuned…
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Resources Quoted and Referred:
- Jeff Bezos: Amazon.com Architect | Google Books
- The Inner Bezos | WIRED
- Distinguished Tau Beta Pi Members