My new goal is to get Jeff Bezos on TechTicker. That's right. Fair warning Mr. Bezos: You are the new Moby Dick. (Larry Ellison, you toyed with me for too long.)
Since I've historically been a Valley beat reporter, I've never gotten to interview the Seattle-based Amazon CEO, and I am increasingly amazed with his leadership. Om Malik put it best on TechTicker several months ago, when he said Bezos is the closest thing any Internet company has to a Steve Jobs. Before you hit that comment button: Larry and Sergey aren't CEOs, and Facebook is too young to call.
First off, there are almost no tech founders who remain CEOs from starting a company through its IPO and beyond, particularly given the short-sighted nature of Wall Street these days. The only other one I can think of is Ellison, who I've said before deserves to be the highest paid CEO in tech, for his uncanny ability to get where his business is going from a technology point of view, a market point of view and a business point of view.
But more than that, Ellison is that rare breed who can inspire and terrify his people at the same time, and exert enough authority that Wall Street doesn't question him. Ok, maybe the question him, but they'd never dream of ousting him even in the bad times. In fact, over the last few months while everyone has been saying no other tech CEO has the same value to his company as Jobs, I've argued Ellison is a less-sexy version of the exact same dynamic. (By "less-sexy," I mean he sells databases and middleware, not iPhones. I only swoon for Mr. Lacy and this man.)
Bezos is the only CEO of the Internet generation cut from Ellison cloth. He has routinely stood up to Wall Street and was often considered an absolute dog next to eBay's "monkeys-could-run-us" lean and mean business model. Nonetheless, he thumbed his nose at Wall Street with his famous chortling laugh, which you can hear in the clip below.
Similarly to Ellison, Bezos was a visionary in terms of product (cloud computing and the Kindle), knowing his customers (a brilliant user interface, pioneering recommendation engine technology that actually works, and Amazon Prime) and business (investing more money and continuing to discount quarter-after-money-losing-quarter believing volume would win out in the end).
So I know what you're thinking: What about that Internet "four year curse"? Well, it only holds true for the do-no-wrong Internet darlings like Yahoo, eBay and Google. Amazon never quite fit that. It never had a golden-goose of a business model, so it never got lazy. It never had the luxury to get lazy.
In fact, Amazon is increasingly the exception to not only the four year curse and the horrific 2008 fourth quarter, but a lot of stories I write. Back in August, I wrote about the antiquated publishing industry. One solitary bright light: The Kindle, which the fourth quarter results showed actually boosted book sales, something so counterintuitive even Amazon-bull Henry Blodget totally mis-calls it in the above video. In a time when Borders is fighting for its life and Barnes & Noble had to cut jobs for the first time in its corporate history, that's nothing short of amazing. (And as a reporter pitching a new book, I'm nothing short of grateful.) You have to wonder whether Bezos sold his soul to the devil during one of those post-2000 quarters when it looked like the company was going to go belly-up.
Then there was my December column on how stagnant ecommerce has been since the 1990s. My one exception? You guessed it: Amazon. There are a zillion small reasons why I always try to make purchases on Amazon, despite that old conventional wisdom that you can't build loyalty in ecommerce because it's so easy to click to a cheaper competitor. Among my reasons: Amazon's superior user interface and search, the ease of one-click purchasing and free overnight shipping via Amazon Prime, and the affiliate system. Amazon has given me more than $1,000 in credit this year, thanks to people clicking through my site to buy my book and other items on Amazon. Speaking of which, anyone need to do some shopping? That link is up and to the left...
So, keep up the good work Mr. Bezos, and just know that me and my camera crew are coming for you.