Jeffrey P. Bezos was born on January 12, 1964, in Albuquerque, New Mexico to his teenage mother, Jacklyn (Jackie) and Ted Jorgenson. Jackie’s marriage to his father lasted a little over a year. When Jeffrey was four years old, Jackie met and married Mike Bezos, who was born in Cuba. Mike Bezos escaped Cuba to the United States when he was only 15, and worked his way through the University of Albuquerque.Miguel (Mike) Bezos adopted Jeffrey and moved the family to Houston where Mike became an engineer working at Exxon.
Jeffrey didn’t find out that Mike was his adopted father until he was 10 years old, but it didn’t bother him at all. “The reality, as far as I’m concerned, is that my Dad is my natural father. The only time I ever think about it, genuinely, is when a doctor asks me to fill out a form,” Jeff told Wired in 1999.
Jeffrey’s maternal grandparents were early settlers who lived in Texas. Over the generations they had acquired a large ranch near Cotulla where young Jeffrey enjoyed his summers working with them. Jeffrey learned many different things while working at his grandparent’s ranch, such as laying pipe and fixing windmills and showed a keen interest in the mechanics of things. Even at a very early age, Jeffrey displayed some interest in how things work when, as a toddler, he tried to take his crib apart. He also showed his mechanical aptitude when he created an electric alarm to keep his younger siblings out of his room and turning his parents’ garage into a laboratory for a variety of inventions and experiments.
Jeffrey’s maternal grandfather, Lawrence Preston “Pop” Gise worked for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission as a regional directed before retiring to his ranch near Cotulla. Jeffrey learned much of his love for space exploration and technology from Lawrence Gise and was quoted as telling his teachers that “The future of mankind is not on this planet.”
Jeffrey’s family moved to Miami, Florida when he was in his teens, where Jeff attended Palmetto Senior High School. While attending Palmetto Senior High, Jeffrey enrolled in the Student Science Training Program at the University of Florida, where he received a Silver Knight Award. Jeffrey proved to be an outstanding student in High School, where he was made high school valedictorian and was a National Merit Scholar.
During his summers as a teen, Jeffrey worked for McDonalds for a while, but found it to be “a miserable experience”. He quit work at McDonalds and he and his girlfriend started Jeffrey’s first foray into the business world, by opening up the DREAM institute, a 10-day summer camp for kids. They charged $600 per kid, but managed to sign up 6 kids.
Upon graduating from Palmetto Senior High, Jeffrey enrolled in Princeton University and planned on studying physics. However, his love for computers made him change his mind and he ended up summa cum laude, with two Bachelor of Science degrees, one in Electrical engineering and the other in Computer Science. While attending Princeton, Jeffrey was elected to the honor societies of Phi Beta Kappa as well as Tau Beta Pi. During his time at college, he also served as the President of the Princeton chapter of the “Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.
After graduating Princeton in 1986, he turned down job offers from Intel and Bell laboratories to go to work for a startup company called Fitel that was building a network to conduct international trade. Jeff left Fitel shortly after and went to work for Bankers Trust where he quickly rose to the vice presidency, but was quickly swept away by the investment Firm D.E. Shaw where he was named the youngest vice president in 1990. It was also at this time that he met his wife Mackenzie.
In 1994, Bezos made a very risky move, leaving his lucrative career in finance to move into the world of ecommerce, much to the chagrin of his young wife. He quit his job, moving to Seattle to start up an online bookstore. He set up his business in his small two-bedroom house with extension cords running through the house to the garage. Jeffrey then set up three Sun microstations and started the first test site, asking 300 friends and acquaintances to test it out. With the code running perfectly with few glitches, on July 16, 1995 he opened his site, telling his 300 beta testers to spread the word that Amazon was open for business.
Within a month, Amazon had sold books in all 50 states and 45 foreign countries and by September it had sales of over $20,000 a week, growing faster than Jeffrey, his wife or his friends ever thought possible. When Amazon when public in 1997, many market analysts showed skepticism on whether the fledgling company would be able to hold its own when giants such as Barnes and Noble and Borders entered the internet bookselling market. But, as Jeffrey and his team continued to improve the site, offering features that were at the time unheard of, such as one-click shopping and online customer reviews, after two years the market value of Amazon was greater than both Amazon and Borders combined, with Borders making a deal with Amazon to handle all of its Internet traffic.
When Bezos originally opened Amazon to investors, he had told his original investors that there was a good chance they would lose their investment. His parents, Mike and Jackie were not to be discouraged, however and invested a major portion of their life savings, $300k into the business. His mother stated that they weren’t betting on the Internet, they were betting on Jeff. By the end of the decade, their original investment which gave them a six percent share in Amazon made them billionaires and almost one third of the company, for several years, was held by members of the Bezos family.
Jeffrey Bezos continued to add on to Amazon’s offering of books to include CD’s and Videos, clothes and electronics and wife variety of merchandise offered through major retail partnerships. During the 90’s when many dot.com’s went under Amazon continued to grow and succeed, with sales going from a little over half a million dollars in 1995, to over $15 billion in 2011.
In 2007, Amazon offered the Amazon Kindle to the public which allowed end-users to download and read books. This move saw an immediate increase in profits, which Jeffrey invested in his other interest of space exploration, by opening Blue Origin. Blue Origin, based in Seattle, is dedicated to developing technologies that promises to someday make commercial space travel a reality.
In 2011, Amazon made his mark on the tablet world when it offered the Kindle Fire and the following September, Bezos announced the next generation tablet, the Kindle Fire HD which he said was built to give Apple iPod a run for its money. In a report by ABC news, Bezos is quoted as saying “We haven’t just built the best tablet for a certain price. We’ve built the best tablet at any price!”
In 2013, Bezos shocked Wall Street when he made one of his most impressive acquisitions to date, by acquiring the Washington Post for $250 million. Bezos plans to take the Washington Post in new directions over the next decade, by utilizing the internet and find out what the readers really want. “We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment,” he said in an interview with the employees of The Post.
Recently, in December of 2013, Bezos made headlines again when he unveiled his plans for Amazon to develop “Amazon Prime Air” which will be made up of small remote controlled drones which will provide deliveries to customers. Bezos says that the drones are capable of carrying up to 5 pounds and flying with in a 10 mile radius of the distributions centers. Benzos expects the drones to be a reality by the end of the decade.