In the summer of 2003 Amazon was a fast-growing online bookstore. Nine years old, it had pioneered many innovative components of e-commerce that we take for granted today: customer reviews, a personalized shopping experience, relevant product recommendations, and frictionless buying.
Jeff Bezos had founded the company in 1994 and began selling books online. His advantage, he thought, was that he could sell a bigger selection of books than any traditional book store (or chain). And right from the start he committed to outstanding customer service. Amazon’s mission is “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”
Which is why it wasn’t an easy decision in the summer of 2003 to hire a team of 50 or so engineers, and set them upon the task of build “the operating system of the internet,” as Andy Jassy, Sr Vice President of Amazon Web Services, likes to call it.
The Leadership team took an assessment of its assets:
“We were doing an assessment ourselves, as a senior leadership team, about what Amazon was really good at. And initially you can imagine what we were talking about: we were good at retail, we were good at detail pages on our retail site website – all the things that were the primary business at the time. But as we dug deeper we realized we were really good at running these infrastructure services deep in the stack, and then we were also good at running these reliable, scalable, cost-effective data-centers. So the first realization we had was that we had a real core competence running infrastructure.”