Most people either know Jeff Bezos as the founder of Amazon, one of the wealthiest people in the world, or both. But Bezos is also an investor, media proprietor, and commercial astronaut with an education in electrical engineering and computer science.
Now in his late 50s, Bezos has also been involved with various companies across different industries in addition to his time at Amazon.
After Bezos graduated from Princeton University in 1986, he turned down job offers from Bell Labs and Intel to instead join fintech communications start-up Fitel. Bezos was tasked with building a network for international trade and was at some point promoted to director of customer service and head of development.
Bezos transitioned into the financial industry in 1988 after he landed a job at Banker’s Trust in New York City. At Banker’s Trust – now part of Deutsche Bank – Bezos developed systems to manage client investment funds and once more found himself promoted to vice president.
After two years, he became bored and started preparations for another pivot into tech.
Bezos took a job with hedge fund D.E. Shaw in 1990 and, as a VP, was responsible for researching new business opportunities on the internet. After he learned the web had grown by 2300% in one year, Bezos decided he needed to take advantage of it.
According to Business Insider, he made a list of 20 possible products to sell online and believed books were the most viable option. Unable to persuade his employer of the merits of the idea, Bezos decided to resign and branch out on his own.
In his biography The Everything Store¸ he told author Brad Stone that the decision to relinquish his Wall Street bonus was a simple one in the context of the internet’s potential: “I knew that I might sincerely regret not having participated in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a revolutionizing event. When I thought about it that way… it was incredibly easy to make the decision.”
Bezos founded Amazon in 1994 and today, we know that his bet on the internet paid off handsomely. He started with a virtual bookstore that operated out of his garage and the Amazon website sold its first book in 1995.
Bezos stepped down as CEO in 2021 to become Executive Chairman of the Amazon Board.
Five years later, Bezos founded the spaceflight start-up Blue Origin. Space travel and the expansion of human life across the solar system had been an interest of his since high school, and the company soon purchased a sizeable tract of land in Texas to launch and test vehicles.
On July 20, 2021, the NS-16 mission transported Bezos and three others into space and returned them successfully to Earth.
The Washington Post
Bezos then paid $250 million in cash for The Washington Post Co. in 2013. Amazon was not associated with the deal, with Bezos himself becoming the sole owner of the publication once the sale was finalized.
Family-owned for its entire history, The Post as it is affectionately known was unable to escape the financial problems that had beset most print newspapers in the internet era. However, after Bezos removed the paywall in some states and reconfigured the company’s mobile platform, digital media, and software analytics, it became profitable in 2016.
Bezos Expeditions and Altos Labs
Bezos Expeditions is not an adventure company but the vehicle through which Bezos makes venture capital investments. Founded in 2005, it was one of the earliest investors in Google and has also been active in the healthcare industry.
More recently, in September 2021, Bezos co-founded the biotech company Altos Labs with Yuri Milner. Altos Labs exited stealth mode in January 2022 and has a core focus on cellular reprogramming to develop human longevity drugs.
- Jeff Bezos is the founder of Amazon and one of the wealthiest people in the world. He is also an investor, media proprietor, and commercial astronaut with an education in electrical engineering and computer science.
- After Bezos graduated from Princeton University in 1986, he turned down job offers from Bell Labs and Intel to instead join fintech communications start-up Fitel. He then worked in the financial sector for a time at Banker’s Trust and D.E. Shaw.
- At D.E. Shaw, Bezos decided he wanted to sell books online and left his well-paid role to start Amazon in 1994. Since then, he has founded space travel company Blue Origin, VC firm Bezos Expeditions, and biotech company Altos Labs.