Jeff Bezos, the CEO and founder of Amazon, is currently the richest man in the world. With a net worth of more than $150 billion, as estimated by Forbes, Bezos recently surpassed Microsoft executive Bill Gates for that top spot following a 2017 rise in Amazon’s stock value.
Bezos was born Jeffrey Preston Jorgenson on January 12, 1964, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Ted and Jacklyn Jorgensen. At the time of his birth, his father owned a bike shop, while his mother, at the age of 17, was still attending high school. Ted and Jacklyn’s marriage ended after less than a year, and when Bezos was four years old, his mother remarried Cuban immigrant Mike Bezos who adopted Jeff and gave him his name.
During his younger years, he grew up in Texas, where his father, Mike, worked as an engineer for Exxon. He would also spend summers on his grandparents’ ranch in Cotulla, Texas. From an early age, Jeff showed an interest in the sciences and technology and once even rigged an alarm to sound when his younger siblings tried to go into his room.
When his family moved to Florida when he was in high school, Bezos began to develop a greater love for computers. While in high school, he also worked part-time as a line cook at McDonald’s. He graduated as the valedictorian of Miami Palmetto High School, as well as a National Merit Scholar. He was then admitted into Princeton where he graduated summa cum laude in 1986 with a degree in computer science and electrical engineering.
Following graduation, he worked on Wall Street for several years. While working at D.E. Shaw investment firm in 1992, he met MacKenzie Tuttle, a research associate at the firm. They married in 1993 and now have four children, three sons and a daughter, whom they adopted from China.
In 1994, Jeff abandoned his lucrative financial career to enter the world of e-commerce and moved to Seattle to open his online bookstore, which he named Amazon. He initially set up his office in the garage where he worked with a few employees. After expanding the project into a two-bedroom house and creating a test site, he invited 300 friends to test the beta version of the website. On July 16, 1995, Amazon was launched.
The success of the website was unprecedented and even surprised Bezos and his team. Within the first month, with no promotion to aid sales, the company sold books across the country as well as in 45 foreign countries. After a few months, the company was selling more than $20,000 in books per week. In 1997, the company went public and has since been a leader among e-commerce websites.
As competitors began to flood the market, Bezos continued to grow and diversify his business. In 1998, he added CDs and videos to the roster, followed by toys, electronics, and clothing. While many competitors failed to keep up, Amazon has continued to profit from its business model, earning $17 billion in annual sales in 2011. Jeff Bezos also purchased the Washington Post newspaper in 2013, adding another asset to his ever-growing empire.
As times and trends have changed, Amazon has continued to adjust as well. Through online streaming services, original movies and shows, Amazon Prime, Kindle, and other products and services, Amazon continues to outpace other e-commerce websites with its large variety of offerings.
What started as a potentially risky entrepreneurial venture housed in a garage has since turned into the largest online marketplace in the world. As Amazon continues to develop, consumers are bound to see even more amazing things from Jeff Bezos and his e-commerce behemoth in the future.