Jeff Bezos 1997 Interview Proves Amazon Was More Than Just Luck

A rediscovered interview with Jeff Bezos that dates back to 1997 reveals what sparked the entrepreneur's visionary idea for Amazon and hints at its massive future success.

Jeff Bezos 1997 Interview Proves Amazon Was More Than Just Luck

Image: Instagram

Jeff Bezos may have one of the world’s most expensive superyachts and enjoy seemingly endless holidays around the Mediterranean, but this high-gloss billionaire lifestyle didn’t just grow on a tree. This week, a rediscovered interview reveals what sparked the entrepreneur’s visionary idea for Amazon and hints at future success.

In the video, a much younger Bezos — complete with a smattering of already-thinning hair — can be seen explaining how during his search for hedgefund investment stumbled across a pair of statistics that would change the course of his business plans and, subsequently, his entire life forever.

WATCH: The Rediscovered Interview With Jeff Bezos

Bezos’ Big Idea

Those two statistics are as follows: first, in 1997 internet usage was growing at a massive 2300% year on year according to Bezos. The speed and scale of this growth meant that a web-based business was an obvious choice for a startup business that wanted to piggyback that growth and scale at speed.

The second statistic revolves around the product Bezos would choose to sell as opposed to the platform he would sell it on. Specifically, we’re talking about books, which were Amazon’s original wares and its sole product for quite some time. Bezos recognised that books had by far and away the most distinct, sellable items of any other category he could think of at the time.

Comparing the approximate amount of books in the market to music, Bezos suggests that there were over 1.5 million books in circulation around the English-speaking world at any one time while there were only 200,000 or so CDs. If you include the non-English speaking world, which Amazon nowadays definitely does, this number becomes much, much larger. 

How Things Played Out

It goes without saying that Bezos must have been on to something, given the enormous, unparalleled success that Amazon has enjoyed in the 25 years since the interview was filmed. But where exactly does Bezos find himself in 2023 as he continues to head up one of the world’s largest businesses? 

Well, he’s engaged to his second wife, Lauren Sanchez, and the pair threw an extravagant engagement party earlier this year aboard the founder’s infamous $700m superyacht, which has itself caused much controversy in the years since it was commissioned.

Bezos’ gargantuan superyacht. Image: Boat International

Every newly married couple needs somewhere to settle down, but it seems like Bezos shan’t settle for one residence alone. Not only has he had a new $270m mansion in Beverley Hills commissioned, but he also snapped up a $100 million mansion in America’s most exclusive spot, the “Billionaire Bunker”

To top it all off, Bezos has also got absolutely yoked. Finally doing away with the slightly nerdy vibe that the billionaire emitted in his earlier years, he now looks more like a bulky Bond villain than a tech bro, and thanks to an Ocotopus-heavy diet leads the charge as our quintessential Burly Billionaire.

Bezos’ Bottom Line

Far be it from me to analyse the efforts of the world’s once-richest man, but this video seems to clarify one thing beyond doubt: the key to success in any business venture is knowing the lay of the land around you.

Identifying a wider macro-trend in the growing use of the web and then being able to couple that with all his stats about the volume of the book category allowed him to not only create a then-unique proposition but also grant himself enough headroom for the business to grow apparently forever.

Though we may all have some doubts about the way Amazon has conducted itself in recent years, you can’t deny a good idea when you hear one…