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February 16, 2022 38 mins

In this episode we take a look at the man who built Amazon in his own image—Jeff Bezos, the richest man on earth.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon
customer because you guys paid progress. You guys paid probles.
This is Megacorp, an investigative podcast exposing some of the
world's most unethical corporations. This series is about Amazon. I'm

(00:23):
Jake Hanrahan, journalists and documentary filmmaker. Megacorp is produced by
H eleven for Cool Zone Media. So after eight episodes
now diving into the many scandals at the heart of Amazon,

(00:45):
I thought it was time to talk about the man
who built the empire, Jeff Bezos. As we know, Bezos
is the richest man on Earth. He founded Amazon in
and now it's one of the biggest company k needs
on the planet. Is also, as we've discovered, one of
the most controversial. But how did Bezos get to this point?

(01:08):
But if there's anyone that knows that, it's journalist Robert Evans.
He runs the Behind the Bastards podcast, which looks into
the lives of some of the worst bastards on Earth.
So I spoke to Robert Evans about Jeff Bezos. Robert
goes into a lot of detail in this so mostly

(01:28):
I'm just gonna let the interview run first. Maybe if
you can just kind of go into the early life
of Jeff Bezos, because he didn't start out as Jeff Bezos. Yeah,
he was born Jeffrey Preston Jourgensen um. And one of
the things that is I think the first and most
amazing thing about the Jeff Bezos story is that his

(01:51):
his actual father abandoned the family. And this is not
this is not like your normal story of a dude
winding up without a dad, where like it there's there's
something like really unsettling or or dark here. It's that
his his actual father is bio dad um. Theodore Jourgensen
was just like kind of a uh, kind of a

(02:12):
ship head carney who really really really loved unicycling. He
was a high wire unicyclist um, and having a kid
got in the way of his unicycling dreams. Yes, you
did hear that right, Jeff Bezos. His biological father abandoned
him when he was young to fulfill a dream of
his as a high wire unicyclist. Now, it's not funny

(02:34):
when somebody abandons the family, but what a strange start
that is. Anyway, Robot explains more, he could not get
on board with being Jeffrey's father and eventually kind of
bounced the funk out of his life and in fact
did not know that his son was Jeff Bezos and
who Jeff Bezos was really until a journalist tracked him

(02:56):
down like decades later when Amazon was a huge deal
and was like, you know, your kids like super rich
in creating what's turning into this monster company. He was
very surprised. Um, and I think is still kind of
a deadbeat unicyclist dude. So Jeff by the time he
was pretty young, Um, his mom had met a a
new dude, UM whose name was Miguel Angel Bezos Perez,

(03:22):
who was a Cuban who kind of his version of
the story. And I don't know about much about his
family back in Cuba or kind of like where they
stood and whatnot. But he was apparently as a teenager
like painting anti Castro graffiti, which got him in trouble
and at age sixteen he had to flee the country. Um,
and so he wound up in the United States. Uh.

(03:43):
He did his undergrad work at the University of Albuquerque,
So he wound up in because Bezos comes from the Southwest, right,
That's where his his family's like a lot in New
Mexico because his mom's side of the family were really
heavily involved in um, the US nuclear programs and like
nuclear missiles and and all that, all that and stuff.
Um and Miguel wound up in the same region because
the University of Albuquerque was offering free scholarships to Cuban refugees,

(04:07):
and so he met Jeffrey's mom, Jacqueline Um, when he
was working as a clerk at a bank that she
worked at two and they fell in love and married
and I think before jeff really, I don't think jeff
really remembers much time before mcguel, because Miguel's just kind
of always been his dad, And so his mom changed
the changed his last name to Bezos and that's how

(04:27):
he became Jeffrey bezos Is because this this this Cuban
immigrant dude kind of uh stepped in to his life
and took over as his dad. So he got pretty
lucky there. Um, it's a little bit of a winding story.
I think it's very funny that his dad abandoned him
to be a unicyclist, but also I don't I think
it's probably too much to say that had an effect

(04:49):
on him, because I don't think he really it doesn't
seem like he had any memory of that, you know,
so it's unlikely that that like that laid some deep
seated wound that is responsible for anything that Amazon has done. Right,
And this this guy, Miguel kind of took him under
his wing, right, Like, he seems to be quite instrumental
in you know, the way Bezos jeff Bezos so the

(05:09):
world growing up. Yeah, And I think that's why Jeffrey
kind of grows up as a a very very committed
capitalist um. Obviously, his dad is like an anti castro
activist as a kid um and then as an you know,
as an adult once he's graduated and out in the world.
Miguel works as a petroleum engineer for Exxon, So he
is like very much into kind of some of the

(05:31):
morally grayer or morally blacker aspects of of of of capitalism. Um. Like,
he's very on board with big business, and I think
his attitudes towards kind of capitalism versus socialism certainly have
an impact on young Jeffrey as he grows into an adult.

(05:57):
When did we see these things kind of manifest He
didn't go straight to Amazon. Right, he built this kind
of built you know, he built a good life for
himself already before that. Yeah. Yeah, so he's you know,
he goes to his family has number one. His his
maternal family is loaded, right, They've got he He spends
his summers as a kid on a twenty five thousand
acre ranch in Texas, which is, you know, land is

(06:19):
cheaper in Texas, but you're not poor if your family's
got twenty five thousand, twenty five. There are countries in
Europe smaller than this far um. But it also means
that Jeff like spends his childhood with his grandpa doing
a lot like practical engineering, you know, learning how to
like not just put up fences, but like build different
feeding things for livestock, doing a lot of handyman work,

(06:41):
repairing engines and stuff. So he grows up with this
like really um, like this really caught like a lot
of experience making things and and working hard and this
kind of like he's very molded both by his his
adopted father's um attitude towards free enterprise and by this

(07:02):
kind of very idyllic rural American chunk of his upbringing
where he's you know working on a farm and self
reliance and all this stuff. And of course it's self
reliance within the context of it's his grandpa's hobby farm.
You know, his grandpa does not have to make a
living with this farm. His grandfather was in the US
nuclear program for decades UM and then retired, and this

(07:23):
farm is kind of like his hobby as as a
retired man. So there's there's you get two sides of
it both, Like Jeff is kind of convinced, I've grown
up with this kind of traditional American rural self supporting,
like you tell take care of yourself, the government doesn't attitude.
But also the reason why there it's so much more

(07:43):
pleasant than a lot of people who grow up in
a rural agricultural setting is that they're rich. You know,
I grew up in a farming community, and it's it's
not most people do not have access to the resources
he had. But I'm not sure he's really aware of that.
I think he kind of sees himself as having assault
of the earth up bringing, even though that's really not
the case. Um. And he he benefits as well because

(08:05):
he's in he's farming in the summers and then during
the rest of the year, he's in Houston. Um, that's
where his family kind of winds up and he goes
to this very special He's in a public school, but
his school district has money for something. They call it
the Vanguard Program, and it's like this basically this super
special gifted and talented program where they're kind of experimenting
with with different ways of of taking care of of

(08:30):
of or or of teaching kids, and of course sort
of like molding the curriculum of the program to the
gifts of the children. And it it seems like a
good idea. It works really well for Jeff. And it's
it's you hear about stuff like this too with um
with with Bill Gates in particular, and I think Steve
Jobs kind of benefited from something similar when he was

(08:51):
a kid. Ditto um Wozniak. Where these are at the
very least upper middle class kids who benefit from a
specific kind of educational program that is not available to
most kids. So Jeff has very early access to computers. UM,
he's able to do what he wants in school rather
than kind of like do what the school wants him

(09:12):
to learn. The school is kind of go looking at Okay,
here's what Jeff's interested and here's the stuff that he's
he thinks is fascinating. Let's mold his um, his educational
program to it. UM. And he's a very competitive kid.
There's a writer who's sort of evaluating the school program
when he's like twelve or so. UM and you know,
decades later, she still had her notes on him because

(09:34):
he really struck her as UM, very intelligent, very competitive.
He was working on a science project at the time
called an infinity cube, which was this battery powered thing
with rotating mirrors that made the optical illusion of an
endless tunnel. And it was a thing he'd seen in
a store but was expensive, so he like made a
version of it for himself for cheaper. UM. He was

(09:57):
entering a bunch of local science competitions and winning them.
He's he's a very very like bright kid. Everyone kind
of pegs this, this kid out as special and they
just this whole community because again this is a public
school program. This whole community in Houston pours resources into
Jeff when he's a little kid. UM and he graduates, Uh,
he and his you know, I think when he's in
Florida by the time he graduates. Um, but he uh,

(10:22):
he starts this kind of like after school program the
summer after he graduates with another kid where they're like
teaching younger kids science stuff, doing like star gazing and
whatnot with them. Um. He has a really early interest
in space travel. Uh. He's his favorite show is Star Trek.
As a kid, he's got kind of some of these
utopian dreams and it's weird because there's this mix of

(10:42):
like these sort of utopian and Star Trek is coming
at utopia from a very left wing sort of perspective. Um,
and he's fascinated by that. But all of his heroes
are these businessmen Walt Disney and Thomas Edison, these guys
who are um, real like capitalist he os. And he
actually he prefers Disney to Edison, um because he thinks

(11:04):
Disney was better at building a team and working together,
like making them work together in a concerted direction. And
it makes sense that Disney is kind of the person
he idolizes, right, because Amazon is definitely has that sort
of thing that Disney has where they're pulling everything in
the world to them and making this kind of capitalist
katamari that that just owns everything in a space, right, Yeah, yeah,

(11:26):
so he's come from he comes from a very privileged background.
He acts like the way he talks, I agree with you.
It's as if I don't even think he's kind of
trying to present a fight narrative. He just thinks because
he was on a farm that he's from some like, oh,
I'm the salt of the earth, I'm from the dirt. Like, no,
you're from the dirt on like a twenty five thousand

(11:47):
acre farm. That's very different. You know, if he didn't
want to, if his granddad decided he was sick of
that farm, it's not like they would have starved, right, Yeah,
they could have. They could have stopped all of the
farming and kept living comfortably in the ranch house and
would have would have been And I think it's easy
when you're in the kind of position he was as
a kid to note that, like, well, we worked hard.
You know, I was up at dawn every day, we

(12:07):
didn't stop working until night. We did a bunch of
really physically and mentally difficult tasks. So that means like
I had kind of this working class experience and upbringing,
and the reality is that you're not. You don't really
know any of that, you're not really having the authentic
experience if there's not the fear of failure. I think
it's it's easy because he's working hard as a kid

(12:30):
for him to forget that. He also has a safety
net that about like half a percent of kids in
America maybe benefit from, you know. So so he goes
on then too, he doesn't exactly end up working in
the farming industry or anything like that, right, he kind
of follows his dreams of these kind of like capitalist heroes. Yeah,
he follows his dreams. He does start like a little

(12:50):
kind of educational business that does seem like a decent
thing to do. Um, and then he goes off to college.
He goes to Princeton. He seemed most of the people
he went to journalists have found other folks who were
in his class. He made really no impression on on
most people. He's very much like kind of a forgettable dude.
And in fact, one of the classmates who like sets

(13:11):
him up with a job after college, so you would
think this guy knew him well. Like when the interviewed
later after Jeff is rich and famous, it's like, yeah,
I don't remember anything but that he was smart, like
he does. He doesn't really Um, he doesn't really leave
much of an impact like bright, but not a dude
whose personality like you remember. Um and there's some weird
he doesn't like music. Um and it doesn't appear to

(13:33):
be a thing where like some people have like an
auditory processing issue right where it's uncomfortable, like for whatever reason,
music just like it doesn't feel good in their ears.
I don't think it's that because they'll play music for
other people and stuff. So with that in mind, let's
take a look at a tweet Jeff Bezos put out
on February three, twenty next to a picture of the
singer Lizzo, Bezos wrote quote, I just took a DNA tist.

(13:58):
Turns out I'm one hun present Lizzo's biggest fan. End quote. Now,
obviously that's very cringe to say. But also this is
from a guy that apparently doesn't like music. He's either lying,
disingenuous or he does actually like music. Who knows which
one it is? Just doesn't get it, you know, he
just doesn't understand why people like music, which is which

(14:20):
is interesting that some folks will claim that this is
why Apple beats Amazon to the digital music game, right,
and and then Spotify later. Like Amazon is for all
the things, they're ahead of the curvan, kind of always
behind on digital music, um, which there's a weird you know,
the stuff with Joe Rogan and Neil Young and the
fight over Spotify. There's kind of a weird parallel there

(14:41):
because Neil Young when he deletes his catalog from Spotify,
I'm sure he has an issue with Joe Rogan, but
a big part of what Young is doing is he's
he's got a deal with Amazon Music, right, and so
he's plugging Amazon Music too, you know. Convenient. They're all millionaires, right,
Like you shouldn't expect any of them to be your hero.
But yeah, so people will say that like that is

(15:01):
kind of why Amazon is consistently behind the curve when
it comes to digital music, which is which is noteworthy
just because there one thing you have to give Amazon
credit on there, the head of the curve on most things,
you know, um, but Bezos just doesn't get that, and
so they're kind of consistently behind. Um And yeah, he uh.
He eventually winds up working in a company called Fittel,

(15:24):
which is like a finance a tech finance company. This
is in the mid eighties. I think eight four eight
five is when he gets his first big boy job. Um.
And so that's this period where computers are starting to
become standard in investment banks and brokerages, but they're still
not the norm. Right there there that that process begins,

(15:45):
the more forward thinking investment banks and brokerages are putting
computers in, right, but a lot of this is still
done by analog you know, today all trading is kind
of done by these machines, and there's some human input,
but like a lot of it is these computers kind
of gambling with each other. This is the V's He's
in on the ground floor of that process, and he
is working with a company that basically gets hired by

(16:07):
these big banks and brokerages to help them set up
these networked computer banks that are initially just kind of
augmenting human decision making, but will eventually take it over
to a very large extent in finance. You know, that's
how things work now. And he is he's he's UM.
I don't think he's necessarily a huge part because he's
not a visionary part of this, right He's working for

(16:28):
the visionaries who see where the future is going to
be here, but he is also as a code or
helping to build this, so he's definitely like it's a
good internship for him in terms of he's experiencing work
with these people who have seen the future and and
helping to kind of make it with people. And he
he bounces around a few of these early fintech companies
until in nineteen eighty nine, Um, he starts having a

(16:51):
conversation with a colleague about like, Hey, you know, we're
we're setting up these computer networks, um that are that
are connecting like brokerage and allowing them to basically gamble
a lot faster. Uh, what if we were to set
up like a a networked computer intranet thing that anyone
could use to like connect to news stories which will
be curated algorithmically based on a person's interest. Um, and

(17:15):
they almost get investments in the idea you know you'll
do this is basically like how Facebook and Twitter work, right, Um,
it's a version of that. It doesn't quite happen, but
the fact that Bezos is sort of thinking about this
in nineteen nine shows that he does have a really
pretty deep understanding of where networked computing is going to
go right, Like he's not just following the trend. He's predicted, Oh,

(17:39):
this is gonna be a big deal. Um, And he's
very much ahead of the eight ball on that um.
I think in the late eight like early nineties, he
gets a job with an investment with an investment firm
that manages a hedge fund called d E. Shaw Um,
which is this as firms go, it's one of these
ones that's really ahead of the curve. They're doing a

(17:59):
lot of comput uter stuff. The guy who runs it
is hiring a lot of programmers, and Bezos is a
fucking superstar there, you know, um, his colleagues and he's
both a superstar, but he also he's clearly already thinking
about his legend. Right. People who work with him will
note that he would like keep a sleeping bag in
his office so that he could work overnight if he

(18:21):
needed to. But the main purpose of the sleeping bag
was not for him to actually sleep at work, because
he didn't do that often. He just kept it in
view so his employees would see it and like would think, oh, Jeff,
you know, we need I need to work like that,
because Jeff is like crashing at work sometimes he's using
it as a prop right, just when through it for
a second. I think this point that Robot is explaining

(18:42):
is very interesting if you look at how Amazon went
on after Bezos started it. He's always saying, hope, people
need to just work harder. But as we see here,
he allegedly used props to give the impression that he
was the hardest worker buck in the day. Now the
hardest workers are on the warehouse floor and he's telling
them I need to work as hard as him. Perhaps
he's still using props now. He's very much bought into

(19:04):
the kind of myths we say about like how you
ought to work and kind of you know, this is
how you get ahead is by being uh, you know,
the busiest, and by you know, sleeping at your desk
and and and basically living at the office. This kind
of stuff that that is huge in the tech industry, right.
This is why Google has sleeping rooms and massages on site,
and like they try to keep people at the office

(19:26):
as often as possible. Um, you know this is this
is just kind of uh, he's he wants to I
think he he understands that mythologizing as an important part
of being a founder and I think even though he's
not a founder at this point, he wants to found
a a big tech company. You know that that is
beginning to be his ambition. Um, but he's working at

(19:49):
D E. Shaw, He's doing great. He meets a woman
named mckenzy Tuttle while working at the Hedge Fund. She
graduated from Princeton to She actually studied with Tony Morrison
when she at an English degree, which is a is
weird that there's a connection between Tony Morrison and Jeff
Bezos that close, But there you go. Um, she's a
novelist and she's kind of working as a secretary in

(20:10):
this tech company and she winds up with a big
crush on Jeff. And it is one of those things
like we talked about Bill Gates. Bill Gates has gotten
in some trouble recently because he had a history of
creepily hitting on women who were his employees at Microsoft Conn. Yeah,
and some kind of connections to Epstein. We could go
out for a while about about that. Um, it does
not appear to be that kind of case with Bezos. McKenzie,

(20:32):
even though she's divorced him now, is adamant that like
she was the one who started hitting on him. Um.
She was the one who kind of pushed him to
go out with her and fell in love with him.
And it does seem they stayed together a long time
you know. Um, you know they've split up now, but
they were together like twenty years or so. Um. And
she was a big part of the creation of Amazon.

(20:52):
So whatever else, it does seem like, uh, he is
a human being who was capable of connecting with another person,
which I guess there you go. Um. Yeah, So they
she gets together with mckensey while he's working at D. E.
Shaw and he starts to this is the you know,
he's making really good money at this he's not like

(21:13):
a millionaire, but he's extremely comfortable. But he starts to
kind of chafe. Not because he likes his boss. He
likes what they're doing, but it's not his business. And
he's already had this idea that he really wants to
to to create one that he's he's kind of started
forming while talking with his boss at d Shaw. He
wanted to build something he called the Everything Store. Um.

(21:33):
So this is the early nineties, you know, this is
kind of right around the period a little before the
period that we hit eternal September, you know, where everybody
is online. This is like immediately before that happens. But
Jeff sees the potential of the Internet and recognizes that
a huge amount of commerce is going to take part
in it, and that if you, because of what the
internet is, if you could build a store with the

(21:56):
kind of distribution center necessary, you could sell every thing
to anyone, you know, as opposed to having to kind
of uh locally curate your your inventory and deal with
all of that. Like, you could have a store that
could sell everything cheaper than basically anyone else, um, and
undercut all these retail change chains, um. And he has

(22:16):
one of the the idea he has about this that's
particularly innovative. That's that's new at this point you have
to think, you know, we're talking four. He wants to
he wants the sales on the store to be heavily
driven by consumer reviews, you know. And you can see
this as kind of him branching off from this idea
he has for an algorithmically curated news service. He wants
people reviewing products to have an influence on how often

(22:40):
those products show up when other people go to the
site and he wants that to drive people to buy things,
like the reviews of customers, you know, and that is
again really new at this point because the internet, like
you have to think, if you're if you're shot, if
all of your shopping is like going to a mall
or a store, you're not buying things generally because like
of a review. You know, if you get a review,
it's like someone whose job, who works at Wired or whatever,

(23:02):
whose job is to review products, as opposed to anyone
who buys a product being able to leave a review
online and you can see, oh, eight hundred people gave
this a five star rating, and you know that means
it's probably good. Um. That's the big idea that Jeff has. Uh.
And he grows obsessed with this idea of the everything store. Um.
He starts to feel like, in the mid nineties, it's

(23:24):
probably time to do this, So he quits his high
paying job, so does Mackenzie, and he and his wife
drive to California. Um because they initially right, you know,
that's where most people would would start a tech business
in both this period and now, But he decides taxes
are too high. Um. Because the thing about e commerce, right,
and this is the way it's it works, or at

(23:44):
least it worked for a while. I think there's been
some changes. But um consumers at the time where you
would only have to pay taxes on whatever the like,
the business would only have to pay taxes based on
like the state that it resided in, you know. UM.
And so he winds up taxes in California are too high,
doesn't make sense. He goes to Washington State because it

(24:07):
has good infrastructure, UM. But it has a tiny population.
So Washington does have sales tax. But um, because it's
not a populous state. It means every state other than
Washington that people buy from in this story he's going
to be creating don't have to pay sales tax. So
this is kind of his way of minimizing the number
of customers who might have to pay sales tax on

(24:27):
products for what's going to become Amazon. UM. And he
starts with the plan to sell books UM. Mainly because
all books come from one or two there's one or
two companies in the United States that distribute all of
the books everywhere. You know, they sell the books to
the stores. They're the ones who actually they're not producing
the books, but they're the ones who are like gathering
them and putting them in warehouses and shipping them out

(24:49):
to where they need to go. So he sees, like
the book industry already has pretty good infrastructure. It would
make it easy for me to order books anywhere in
the kind tree and get them shipped to anywhere in
the country. Um. So he starts. He decides that I'm
going to start by selling books online, all books, so
it's like a bookstore. And again, this is a really
new idea at the time. You don't have to like

(25:11):
go to the bookstore and see if you can find something,
or like have them special orders something. Everything is just
available all the time. Um. They wanted to call it
Cadabra at first, and then make it so dot com
because again he's a big star trek nerd um. But
their friends thankfully talk them out of most of these things.
They go through a bunch of different names, um and

(25:33):
relentless dot Com I think is Jeff's favorite. You can
actually still go to relentless dot com today if you
type it in, it will take you to Amazon. Um.
But yeah, so they they they start this business. They
eventually land upon Amazon as a name, and it's worth
noting that like when this business uh, when when he
starts this company he puts ten grand of his own

(25:55):
money in it, which is a significant amount of money
in like uh, but it's also primarily funded by eighty
four thousand dollars in interest free loans UM, some of
them from his first employees who are people he met
in the financial tech industry UH, and pour money into
it UM and a lot of it comes from his parents,
and in fact, they eventually invest a hundred thousand dollars

(26:17):
of it in UM of their own money. So it
is this thing. It's the same deal with Elon Musk
really um where he gets his business. First business gets
started because of money that his dad UM, and his
mom and dad pump into the business. So remember, kids,
the moral of the story here is if you want
to make it big in business, all we have to

(26:40):
do is have rich parents. That's it. Jeff tells them
there's a seventy chance they're going to lose it all. Uh.
The fact that they're willing to invest that in him
says a lot both about their level of financial um
privilege and about you know, just they believe in their sons.

(27:02):
So it's this mix of like, well, that's very sweet.
But it's also this continuing story where it's like, yeah,
part of why Jeff Bezos is so successful is he
got every lucky break a motherfucker can get. You know.
It's this this consistent story with these these big tech
founders where they all have part that they all have
the best fucking luck they could possibly have had, you know,

(27:26):
jobs Gates musk Uh. It's it's a very consistent story
where it's like, yeah, you were rich, you had all
of the educational resources, you had, all of the backing
of your family, you had, um, you know, everything about
your life up to this point was geared at clearing
a path to you and making it easy. And again,

(27:48):
I think it's easy for them to miss that. I
think it's easy for a guy like Bezos to miss
that because you're still working hard. You know, um, you're
still putting in a lot of hours. But motherfucker, there's
a lot of people who work just is hard and
don't have parents who can throw a hundred thousand dollars
that their business idea. You know. So Amazon, there's a
couple of sneaky things that they start to do early on.

(28:08):
One of them is that this this this. These book
distributors have a rule where you have to order ten
copies of a book at a time for them to
ship it to you. You know, because they're selling two bookstores,
they're not selling to individuals. Amazon is not that big
at this point, so it's it would be a huge
waste of money for them to order ten copies of
of a single book UM or ten copies of books.

(28:29):
You have to order tin books at a time basically,
and they don't have enough volume initially. So what they
do is they'll order like the books that they have
orders for from their customers, and then they'll fill out
the rest of the tin with copies of books they
know are out of print, and those out of stock
orders get auto canceled, but the company will ship the
two or three orders that aren't out of stock UH
to Amazon anyway, and that saves Amazon a lot of

(28:51):
money kind of at the expense of these distributors that
they're working with. Um. They get another hundred and forty
five thousand dollars from his parents a year or so later,
because you know, it's an early company, it's it's burning
money very quickly. It loses three thousand dollars and ninety five. UM.
But you know, he Jeff does kind of say, hey,
this there's a good chance this will fail. Mom and dad.

(29:13):
Now you've put a quarter of a million bucks in.
But he also starts to investors projecting net sales of
seventy four million dollars by the year two thousand, um.
And he is way off because his actual net sales
by two thousand or one point six four billion. UM. Yeah,
Amazon grows really fucking quickly. Uh. There's all these sort
of attitudes from the early days. You know, every big

(29:35):
tech company kind of mythologizes it's early days. Um. Amazon's
first company motto is get big fast. UM. They have
an I p O in nine seven. They have this
legal fight with um um, with Barnes and Noble. And
while they're kind of doing this in these in these
early days, Jeff's writing his first letter to shareholders, you know,

(29:56):
because they have their I p O in nineties seven.
And one of the things he writes in this letter is,
this is day one for the Internet and if we
execute it well for Amazon dot com. And day one
is like a religious thing in Amazon. UM. Day one
thinking is they is the way they kind of talk
about it like you need to be thinking like it
is day one, you know, for the for the future,

(30:17):
for the Internet, for whatever it is you're working on.
You have to have this this um acceptance of kind
of infinite possibility. That's the attitude that he tries to
inculcate within his employees. UM. People work very very hard
at Amazon. They do not have initially, like they have
just a couple of warehouses at first, for like the
first big Christmas rushes they have UM. And he forces

(30:40):
his employees during one of these Christmas is to leave
their homes and families for two weeks and spend time
either working customer service lines or working in warehouses to
distribute books. UM. He keeps his workers to to a
hotel room. UM. And it's this you know, it's an
early version of what will happen later where uh yeah,
he's he doesn't you know, whatever has to happen to

(31:04):
keep the warehouses most efficient is what's going to happen.
And he's kind of you see, from the beginning, there's
not a whole lot of belief that Bezos has that
you ought to that your family life is more important
than Amazon shipping out products. Right, it's certainly not to him,
and he doesn't feel like it should be for anyone else.
And that's okay when you've got this tiny startup company

(31:26):
and everybody involved has some equity, and everybody involved is
the same kind of crazy. But as it gets bigger
and bigger, these warehouses get bigger and bigger, and these
people aren't cut into the profits. These people don't have
any kind of um buy into the organization. But he
still has the same attitude that like, well, you shouldn't
have a life outside of this if if that's going

(31:48):
to at all reduce the efficiency of the warehouse. It's
It's interesting because from the very early on you saw
what was just basically now the reason there is so
much bad US on Amazon, the reason um the Mega
code this podcast even exists, it started very early on,
you know what I mean. It starts at the very beginning.

(32:09):
There's stories that are told almost as like pride of
like employees weeping at their desks because they're so overworked. Um,
and that that's in line with like his the the
motto that he wants his employees to have is I'm peculiar,
which basically means like I'm willing to work like a
crazy person and and cut years off of my life

(32:31):
in order to make this company a success. UM. He
comes up with this list of fourteen rules UM that
are you know, his attitudes on on business and whatnot.
They're kind of like the religious founding of Amazon corporate culture. UM.
A lot of it's just kind of stuff like higher
and developed the best, which I think every company agrees

(32:53):
is important. But he also wants employees to exhibit ownership
of of the chunk of the business they're working on
UM and do deep dives to like find things that
are problems and fix them. And that is that is
that attitude of ownership I think goes both ways. He
wants employees to act as if they own the part
of Amazon that they're working on, so it's very personal

(33:13):
to them UM. But he also is going to act
as if he owns you, you know, like that's that's
his attitude, and yeah, you're a product. And there's this
very They developed this very mechanical method of analyzing employee
UM success or failure. They have these like fifty sixty
page long employee evaluations that have these that are filled

(33:33):
with numbers that are kind of like statistical uh derivations
of like how that employee is doing or this employee
is doing. Um. And employees are expected to like memorize
these different numbers that are put together by the company
to explain their success or failure and be willing to
like be able to recite them when like their manager
calls them and asks about a number. You have to

(33:55):
be able to have an answer to that kind of stuff. Um, yeah,
it's it's not And and Bezos become like is kind
of famous for his temper um. He's he's very commonly
screams at people in meetings. He likes to mock and
to ride employees when they when they fail or when
they say something that he doesn't think is like a
good enough answer. Um. He's very kind of like infamous

(34:19):
for breaking people down during meetings uh and attacking them. Um.
There's also this kind of early on attitude Amazon has
that like, if you're a woman, um, you haven't a
kid or anything is not like an excuse for uh.
And it's not even that, it's that there's this story
this woman Elizabeth Willett, who's like a former army captain

(34:39):
who gets a child and because she has a kid
now she wants to leave come to work earlier and
leave earlier so she can pick her baby up and
then go work at home like she's working the same
hours as everyone else. She just alters her schedule, but
she gets in trouble because it looks like she's leaving
earlier to her employees who are coming in later. Um,
and her boss is like, I'm not going to defend

(34:59):
you because it doesn't look good to your peers. And
this is this is you. Hear a lot of stories
like this at Amazon where um, because so much of
the employee evaluations are your coworkers, You're you're supposed to
kind of attack and poke holes in the performance of
your co workers. It's very competitive. Um, there's this really
abusive attitude towards people who you know, anything goes wrong
in their lives. If you get sick, you know, if

(35:21):
you have a death in the family. Um, even if
that doesn't actually impact your your actual work performance. If
you like miss a day, everyone who works with you
is going to attack you for it, and that's going
to be in your performance review. And so it leads
to people like breaking down again. This people weeping at
their desks is incredibly common. People just having these like

(35:42):
emotional collapses. Um, and a lot of it's driven by,
you know, because Jeff is the kind of guy who
too employees faces, will insult them and attack them and
give these very detailed breakdowns of like why they've failed him.
And he builds a system with an Amazon that is
supposed to spread that attitude out to everyone else. Like again,

(36:04):
Amazon is This is kind of I guess the most
important point and maybe even like the penultimate point I
want to make here. Amazon is. The way that it works,
the way that it treats people is an extension of
how Jeff Bezos treats people. Like he built it to
work that way. It is everything that is kind of
abusive an anti human about the company's labor practices is

(36:24):
that way because it's how Jeff thinks people should be
treated um, and it's how he treats people in person.
You know, these big, impersonal robotic systems are a reflection
of how he treats individuals who work for him, including
people who he's known for years. He's very famous for,
like somebody will like spend years and years working eighty
hour weeks and be integral to the company's success, and

(36:47):
then the instant they stumble, he fires them and replaces
them with someone else. There's no understanding of like and
you know, there's plenty of failures that Bezos makes. He
never has to pay for them, right, like him missing
out on Apple Music and you know, failing to understand
that that's an area for Amazon. He doesn't get fired
for that, but he lets people go where edges them
out and replaces them with someone younger for much smaller

(37:08):
snaffoos um. And it's yeah, it's it's I think that's
kind of the best point to end on is that
when you think about the things that are anti human,
that are really fucked up about how Amazon functions, those
things are fundamentally reflections of how Bezos treats the people
in his own life. This company is a direct reflection
of his personal morally. It was Robert Evans going into

(37:34):
the details of Jeff Bezos and how he formed Amazon
in his own image. In the next episode of Megacorp,
will be looking into how Amazon screwed over its flex drivers.
Megacorp is made by my production company H eleven for

(37:55):
Cool Zone Media. It's written, researched, and produced by myself,
Jake Hanrahan. It was also produced by Sophie Lichtman. Music
is by some black graphics by Adam Doyle and sound
engineering by Splicing Block. If you want to get in touch,
follow me on social media at Jake Underscore Hanrahan. That's

(38:20):
h a n a A h a n
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