>> I’m Jeff Bezos.
>> What is your claim to fame? >> I’m the founder of Amazon.
>> NARRATOR: From the award-winning producers of “TheFacebook Dilemma”.
>> Richest guy in the world.
>> NARRATOR: FRONTLINE investigates Amazon.
>> Is Amazon taking over the world a good thing? >> NARRATOR: Questioning those who run the company.
>> What would you say to someone who feels as though humans areincreasingly being treated like robots? >> That’s not the experience that I had in setting it up.
>> NARRATOR: And those no longer there.
>> Most people would assume there’s a pretty high safetystandard on Amazon.
>> And that assumption would beincorrect.
>> The tools are not what I callbattle tested.
>> Some people asking if Amazonis a monopoly.
>> The question for thedemocracy is, are we okay with one company essentially winningcapitalism? >> How do you andJeff think about the call to break you guys up? >> Simply because the company’s beensuccessful doesn’t mean it’s somehow too big.
>> NARRATOR: Now on FRONTLINE.
>> Domination was very much the idea.
>> NARRATOR: “Amazon Empire”.
>> Jeff Bezos has alreadyconquered the retail frontier.
Now he’s got a plan to colonizethe planets.
>> Bezos is laying out his plansfor colonizing space.
>> Bezos is known for going big, and now he’s literally shooting for the moon.
>> NARRATOR: In May of 2019, Jeff Bezos, the richest personon the planet, unveiled his latest invention.
>> This is Blue Moon.
It’s time to go back to themoon, this time to stay.
>> Jeff has said over and overagain that the most important work he’s doing is work inspace.
What he’s built in Amazon isreally important and really interesting, and it’s, it’srevolutionized commerce.
But it’s only revolutionizedcommerce.
>> NARRATOR: Bezos’s plan is tochart a new course for the future of humanity.
>> Manufactured worlds rotated to create artificial gravitywith centrifugal force.
These are very large structures, miles on end.
And they hold a million peopleor more each.
>> NARRATOR: It’s an idea he’shad since he was a teenager.
>> This is me in high school.
And I want to highlight this quote: “The earth is finite, andif the world economy and population is to keep expanding, space is the only way to go.
” I still believe that.
>> The way Jeff Bezos sees is it is that consumerism is anexample of how today’s society lives better than our parentsdid and our grandparents.
And he wants, you know, futuregenerations to continue to have an increasingly betterlifestyle.
>> These are beautiful.
People are going to want to live here.
>> NARRATOR: Bezos unveiled his extra-terrestrial plans at atime of growing concern about the empire he’s built here onearth.
>> Amazon is the greatdisrupter, from books to retail to grocery stores.
>> NARRATOR: For more than 25 years, Jeff Bezos has beendisrupting and transforming almost every aspect of ourmodern lives.
>> Once you start connecting thedots, you see that Amazon is building all of the invisibleinfrastructure for our futures.
>> Amazon announced a healthcarepartnership.
>> Amazon is helping the C.
build a secure cloud.
>> How much of the internet doyou run? >> That’s a good question, um, it’s a lot, though.
>> NARRATOR: But in recentyears, Amazon– and Bezos– have come under scrutiny for theiraggressive tactics and expanding power.
(Bezos laughing) >> Everything that is admirableabout Amazon is also something that we should fear about it.
>> NARRATOR: For the past year, we’ve been investigating howJeff Bezos built his empire– and at what cost.
>> And so think about this.
Big things start small.
♪ ♪ >> NARRATOR: Jeff Bezos’s empirehas its roots not in Silicon Valley, but on Wall Street.
That’s where the young Princeton graduate went to work in theearly 1990s, at a secretive hedge fund called D.
>> David Shaw was the one whorevolutionized Wall Street by introducing data.
And I think Jeff really embraced that, that idea that, “Hey, ifyou have data, ultimately, you win.
” >> One of the things that David Shaw asked Jeff Bezos to do wasto go and investigate new businesses, and in particularthis new thing in the early ’90s called the World Wide Web.
(dial-up modem connecting) >> We all know that acommunications revolution is underway in this country.
>> What is the internet? >> It’s sort of the mother ofall networks.
>> It’s information highways.
>> It’s kind of like your remote control to the world.
>> NARRATOR: Bezos was quick to see the untapped potential ofthe new digital landscape and was determined to get in on it.
>> I came across this startling statistic that web usage wasgrowing at 2, 300% a year.
So, I decided I would try andfind a business plan that made sense in the context of thatgrowth, and I picked books as the first best product to sellonline.
♪ ♪Because books are incredibly unusual in one respect, andthat is that there are more items in the book category thanthere are items in any other category by far.
So, when you have that many items, you can literally build astore online that couldn’t exist any other way.
>> NARRATOR: The store he was imagining didn’t exist, so hedecided to build it himself.
♪ ♪>> The reaction to Jeff’s idea to start selling books on theinternet was pretty incredulous, you know, from a lot of thepeople close to him.
His mom tried to convince him tojust do it at night or over the weekends.
She didn’t want to see him give up his job.
>> Jeff called, and he told me that he and MacKenzie werequitting their jobs, and they were moving to Seattle andstarting a company.
I said, “Great, well, what areyou going to do?” He said, “We’re going to sellbooks.
” I said, “Nice.
” He said, “On the internet.
” I said, “Oh.
Jeff, why will anybody buy anything from you?” And he said, “Well, we’re going to have more books than anybodyelse.
” >> NARRATOR: One of the firstnames Bezos considered for his new website was Relentless.
>> Why “Relentless?” >> Relentless meant, “We move onno matter what.
” He ultimately, obviously, decided that “Relentless” wasn’t quite the right fit.
Amazon, earth’s largest river, was.
Amazon means gigantic.
>> In terms ofrelentlessness, stopping at nothing, that’s, is that an aptdescription of Jeff? >> No.
It’s not that Jeff stops at nothing, it’s that when Jeffsets his mind on a goal that he thinks he can achieve, he won’tstop until he’s proven wrong or until he achieves it.
♪ ♪ >> Jeff and MacKenzie had renteda house in Bellevue.
And then we moved to a small, second-floor office in the south part of Seattle.
>> NARRATOR: Shel Kaphan was Amazon employee number one, oneof nine former Amazon insiders who agreed to talk on camera.
>> What the company is now was nowhere in my wildestimagination.
Nowhere, so, the fact that itcould have the-the kind of position in the world that ithas now, I had no clue.
>> NARRATOR: In July 1995, Amazon.
com went live.
>> It was an incredible novelty, it was tiny and obscure, and it’s very hard to imagine, butthe entire universe that Amazon now dominates did not exist.
com, this virtual shop claims to be the world’slargest bookstore.
>> NARRATOR: It didn’t take longfor Bezos’s vision to prove prescient.
>> What makes us different is vast selection, convenience– wedeliver right to the desktop.
If our catalog were printed onpaper, it would be the size of seven New York City phonebooks.
♪ ♪ >> NARRATOR: The company quicklyoutgrew the garage and soon had more than 50 employees.
In 1996, James Marcus applied to be number 55.
>> There was a very palpable excitement in the air at thisplace, and of course at this point Jeff Bezos was the firstperson to interview every prospective employee.
So I was ushered into his office.
He wanted to see how fast you were on your feet.
He also always wanted to know your S.
>> He wanted to know your S.
scores? >> Every time, yes.
>> How old were you atthe time? >> I was 36 or 37.
>> This is the original sign that I made for Amazon.
Blue spray paint on white poster board.
>> Jeff wasn’t a figure out of folklore at that point, he wasnot the-the wealthiest man in the world.
>> Here’s my computer, Amazon.
com up on the screen.
“Hello, Jeff Bezos.
” >> He was a small, nondescript, sandy-haired man sitting at a desk with quite a large anderuptive laugh.
(laughing in multiple scenes)>> But he wasn’t threatening, he was a normal guy to a sort ofamazing extent.
>> HAL 9000 hat, very important.
Hal and I share a birthday, we’re both born on January 12.
>> It belied, you know, an enormous, Napoleonic ambition.
>> One of the people I really like, Thomas Edison, here’s amodel of his original light bulb.
He’s famous for saying, “One percent inspiration, 99 percentperspiration.
” (laughs)It turns out ideas are the easy part, execution is everything.
>> Domination was on Jeff’s mind from the beginning.
One of his sort of second-in-command people saidto me, “You have to understand that Jeff wants to sell manymore things than books.
And Jeff’s idea is that in thenear-distant future, you could buy a kayak from Amazon.
And if, and after you brought the kayak, you could figure outgood places to kayak and buy travel services from Amazon.
” So, those ambitions were very clear, and this was very earlyon.
But he was clearly thinking inthose terms from the get-go.
>> How did that ring toyou at the time? >> A little bit exciting and alittle bit nutty.
com, very goodwebsite.
You should really try it.
(Bezos laughs) >> If you signed on to work ata-a kind of futuristic bookstore, and the guy whoowned it was suddenly talking about selling, you know, everyobject in the universe, you just weren’t sure how seriously totake it.
(Bezos laughing)(Bezos screaming playfully) >> NARRATOR: Though his publicimage was often unserious.
>> That was awesome! >> NARRATOR: Inside the company, Bezos was a hard-chargingmanager relentlessly focused on the principle that would makeAmazon one of the most trusted brands in the world: thecustomer always comes first.
>> This culture of customerobsession.
Obsessive focus on customer.
Obsesses over our customers.
Totally obsessing over thecustomer experience.
>> We used to call it customerecstasy.
It means building, delivering, focusing on your customer.
And we did it, you know, in thevery, very early days at every stage.
>> NARRATOR: Jennifer Cast was there in the early days and isone of six top Amazon executives the company put forward tospeak to us.
>> Customer obsession was ourNorth Star.
And so, you know, it was a placewhere we knew we were a part of something that was new, theinternet.
There was an excitement that wewere doing something that hadn’t been done before.
It was exhilarating.
We were all aligned aroundbuilding for customers.
>> Hey, you guys.
(Bezos laughs)>> I’ve heard there was an empty chair that would oftenbe put at meetings.
>> Who was in the empty chair? >> Yeah, so that empty chair was there to remind us all tounderstand the customer, have empathy for the customer, understand the details of the customer experience.
The customer isn’t there, we have to bring forward the voiceof the customer.
(phone ringing)>> Thank you for calling Amazon.
>> NARRATOR: And Bezos quickly learned that in this new onlineworld, he could understand exactly how customers werebehaving.
>> All orders do need to beplaced online.
>> It was made clear from thebeginning that data collection was also one of Amazon’sbusinesses.
All customer behavior thatflowed through the site was recorded and tracked.
And that itself was a valuable commodity.
>> Have you visited our website? >> We could track how a customernavigated through the site.
So we could see what you lookedat, we could also see what you paused at, we could see what youput in your basket but didn’t order, we could see what you putin your basket and did order.
So that’s when we startedrealizing, “Man, this is rich.
This is rich, rich, rich.
” And so we’ve used it for everything.
>> What do you do with that information? >> That’s the data that allows us to predict, or try topredict, what books that you would like that you haven’tdiscovered yet.
>> NARRATOR: Bezos treated thesite as a laboratory, where he studied customer behavior alongwith his chief scientist Andreas Weigend.
>> I was shocked to see how predictable people are.
If you take the time of the day into account, if you take maybewhen they were last on the site, how long they were on the sitelast time, how long they’re on the site today, you know whatthey’re falling for.
>> Whoever owns, collects, thedata, if you have access to it and rights to data, then you areking.
It’s all about the data.
>> One of the most fascinatingkind of tools we have at our disposal is the ability to doactive experiments.
It’s, you know, it’s kind ofthis huge laboratory.
>> We did not think about it asexploiting, we thought about helping people make betterdecisions.
>> I was starting to feel thatthat was less respectful toward the consumer, who was, afterall, supposed to be our god, the person whose ecstasy was ourvery reason for being.
And it was closer to getting acow into a milking stall and extracting as many pails aspossible during each visit.
And that felt a little moreunsavory.
But that was the business ofAmazon.
>> Amazon has added 880, 000 newcustomers.
>> NARRATOR: While Bezos wasusing these insights to bring more and more customers intoAmazon.
>> The number of customers whouse the website has increased fourfold.
>> NARRATOR: There was one thing he hadn’t done yet.
>> The company’s never made a profit.
>> That’s right.
>> Now, why.
how does that.
how does that.
? >> It seems like a new math, doesn’t it? >> It does.
>> NARRATOR: Bezos would spend years losing money trying tobeat his competition, and he convinced investors to go alongwith it.
>> One of Jeff Bezos’ greatestaccomplishments has been his ability to get Wall Street toaccept the fact the first 20-some years, Amazon wasn’tgoing to be very profitable.
And that’s okay because they’rebuilding infrastructure that will create huge opportunitiesfor them to gain scale and gain customers and gain business.
>> NARRATOR: He spelled it out in a letter to shareholdersafter the company first went public: “It’s all about thelong term, ” he wrote, rather than short-term profits or WallStreet reactions.
>> He essentially says, “We are going to forego profits in order to take market share.
That our strategy is to lose money, which enables us then toput other companies out of business who can’t afford tolose money.
” >> NARRATOR: That strategywouldn’t sit well with critics like Stacy Mitchell, whoadvocates for small businesses.
>> In essence, at the verybeginning, he’s signaling to shareholders, “I have a strategyto monopolize the market, and that’s going to reward you, butit’s going to be far down the road, and will you come alongwith me?” And they said yes.
>> NARRATOR: Investors also recognized Bezos’ essentialadvantage over physical stores, which had to charge theircustomers sales tax, unlike online businesses.
>> So, not collecting sales tax gave Amazon a big leg up overbricks and mortar retailers.
And that was central to theirearly strategy of gaining market share as quickly as theycan.
>> What booksellers were sayingto me is that, “This is driving my customers to Amazon.
They’ll come into the store, they’ll browse, they find whatthey want, but then they’ll go buy it on Amazon, because theycan save that sales tax.
” >> So it was a very irksome, early, big issue for the book vendors, first of all, they werekind of the canaries in the mine, so to speak, and then lotsof other retailers.
♪ ♪>> Amazon has added thousands of warehouse workers and threemillion square feet of space.
>> NARRATOR: Amazon’s sales-taxadvantage would be central to its success as it expandedbeyond books, into other products.
>> And we have a fantastic selection of things you canlook at.
Electronics and then of coursetoys.
Yeah, thank you, here is, we’vegot have the friendly Pokémon.
This is more than ten times theselection that you will find in a typical, physical worldsoftware store.
>> NARRATOR: But Bezos was stilla long way from his goal of Amazon being the place where youcould buy everything online.
(drills whirring)And he saw a way to achieve it.
>> Amazon could soon become theWalmart of the internet.
>> NARRATOR: There werethousands of businesses eager to sell online.
Bezos offered them a way to do it.
>> Amazon is transforming itself from an online bookstore to anonline mall.
>> NARRATOR: He transformedAmazon into a retail platform where anyone could sell theirgoods to his customers and invited thousands of otherbusinesses to be a part of it.
>> It’s the easiest place foranybody, small or large, who wants to set up shop online tosell online, because they can access our 12 million-pluscustomers.
Anybody, all comers.
>> We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of companies withliterally tens of millions of products.
>> NARRATOR: Name-brand stores started selling on Bezos’splatform, and so did tens of thousands of smallentrepreneurs.
>> Everyone knew Amazon.
The only people that knew SuperDuperHoops.
com were theones that were searching to buy a basketball hoop and saw ourname on an advertisement.
To us it was really ano-brainer.
We knew that we would, you know, increase our sales.
First year we did 100, 000, nextyear we did a million, we did two million, four million, wewere doubling every year in the early days.
>> NARRATOR: It was great for the companies– and even greaterfor Jeff Bezos.
>> Amazon has become the mostrecognizable name in e-commerce.
>> NARRATOR: Not only would hetake a cut of everything other businesses sold, he’d also keephis own store on the platform, competing against everyone elsein the marketplace he owned and controlled.
>> He owns the Main Street.
He has the Main Street realestate.
Not just one building on thecorner, the entire Main Street.
♪ ♪>> NARRATOR: How Amazon would wield its power over the onlinemarketplace would eventually become a question for governmentregulators, but early on, there were indications.
The first to see them were book publishers.
>> Amazon took over a large market share of the publishingindustry very, very fast.
They were very quickly in aposition to demand concessions.