One guarantee when writing a book about Amazon and the Jeff Bezos empire is that it will be out of date in a few days. Brad Stone, editor at Bloomberg and author of “Amazon Sem Limites”, recently released in Brazil, knew this when he published his second work about the company.
“I’m not surprised with the space trip, what surprises me is that he and his brother embarked on the mission,” the author told leaf on Monday (7), the day Bezos nailed that he leaves Planet Earth before Elon Musk, the highest rated to the feat so far. “It’s the risk of writing about Amazon, everything changes all the time.”
If he wanted to update the book with recent facts, Stone could add more pages to the Blue Origin chapter, the shy Bezos rocket company will launch it into space, investigating a leaked report Tuesday indicating that American plutocrats like they paid little or zero taxes from 2014 to 2018 and the G7 plans to collect a heavy hand in Amazon’s taxation.
Stone’s limited timeline to tell part of the story of one of the most valuable companies in the world and other businesses spearheaded by its founder ranges from Echo, an intelligent speaker shipped with virtual assistant Alexa, to the Covid pandemic. In the last year, social restrictions have exploded internet sales and tripled the company’s profits.
In “A Loja de Tudo” (2014), the journalist wrote about pre-Alexa Amazon, with the story still fixed in the transition that led the book retailer to be the retailer of everything. Bezos, at the time, agreed to participate, but he was not happy with some passages in the book. It was through him that he had discovered the identity of his biological father. This time, he decided not to cooperate.
“Amazon without limits” is a detailed tour of how the main businesses conceived by Bezos, always at the top of the global wealth ranking, started and unfolded. Also how he went from being a nerd with a low-key private life to a bon vivant with a Hollywood bash. Stone claims to have heard about 300 employees and former employees, including senior management. “In the end, I thought the book didn’t suffer from the absence of Bezos.”
Many of the stories covered in 15 chapters have received wide press in recent years: the acquisition of Whole Foods, which introduced Amazon to the food industry, the purchase of the Washington Post, the store without human attendants, and the meteoric growth of the computer service in a cloud.
Details were not left out about the controversial contest that Amazon promoted between American cities to receive a large branch —tax benefits were one of the tie-breaking criteria—, the divorce of Bezos and Mackenzie, who filled gossip tabloids, exchanges of barbs with Donald Trump and the precarious working conditions in large distribution centers.
Based on the executives’ reports, a culture of rigor, exaggeration and Bezos’ obsession with innovation is confirmed in almost every episode. In the most ambitious projects, working hours longer than 18 hours, untimely meetings, almost impractical deadlines and excessive pressure are common.
Despite objective routines and six-page reports at each meeting, the products that excite Bezos demand a high expenditure of imagination from the teams. Employees tell about the weariness of realizing ideas that only exist in the head of the boss — he himself assumes drinking straight from the fountain of science fiction.
Some of them fail. In addition to the Fire Phone, a cell phone with a 3D screen that made Amazon give up on the niche soon after entering, there was also the one-cow burger. Discovering that hamburger production uses up to a hundred animals, Bezos tried to popularize a piece of meat made from just one. The project involved a large team, was expensive, laborious and proved to be unfeasible.
“We should build a $20 device with a brain in the cloud and completely voice-controlled,” the entrepreneur wrote to executives in 2011, a moment that marks the birth of Alexa. Shortly thereafter, Apple came up with Siri virtual assistant on the iPhone 4S.
Despite being run over by the competition, Bezos pursued, together with an ultra-secret group, the ideal of an intelligent speaker. I was convinced that a small computer intended for the home environment would bring a very different experience to a mobile assistant.
Amazon bought at least three startups for the process. It placed employees in apartments to train the devices to speak for eight hours a day. It was tasked with teams to review all recordings manually. In a spiral of trial, error, acquisitions and bickering, he started selling Echo in 2014, opening a market in which he is still the protagonist.
In addition to inventions, Amazon’s desktop gets valuable descriptions in Stone’s book. Distribution center employees do not receive a raise after three years of work, for example, unless they are promoted. Bezos doesn’t want them for a long time. “He doesn’t want them to organize themselves into unions. It’s how you use them: if they don’t help your cause, they should go.”
The company has never been recognized for selling happiness and well-being in its offices, as other technology companies do. In 2015, The New York Times report featured a corporate environment marked by fear and crying. After that, Bezos promoted changes and asked employees who felt aggrieved by managers to email him or HR. Hundreds of people would have done it.
Bezos’ personal life comes to the fore in later chapters, with a breakup that has become troubled by the paparazzi and the brother of Lauren Sanchez, TV presenter and Bezos’ new girlfriend. He leaked the couple’s intimate information. “It was a difficult personal saga to cover. Even the Trump administration got involved, it was a lot of misinformation,” says Stone.
In retrospect, the author says he has realized that the book “is essentially the story of Bezos leaving Amazon and opening his eyes to a wider world that includes politics, the Washington Post, personal life and the company of space.” In fact: Bezos leaves the presidency on the 5th and goes to space 15 days later.
“Amazon without Limits”
Brad Stone, ed. Intrinsic (512 pages)
R $ 69.90 and R $ 46.90 (ebook)