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Jeff Bezos on the Beauty of the Long-Term View
Posted by: Holly LaFon (IP Logged)
Date: March 13, 2012 10:32AM

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com (AMZN), says his firm is willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time in an article that echoes value investing philosophy. From the Economist:

INSIDE a remote mountain in Texas, a gargantuan clock is being pieced together, capable of telling the time for the next 10,000 years. Once the clock is finished, people willing to make the difficult trek will be able to visit the vast chamber housing it, along with displays marking various anniversaries of its operation. On a website set up to track the progress of this “10,000-year clock”, Jeff Bezos, who has invested $42m of his own money in the project, describes this impressive feat of engineering as “an icon for long-term thinking”.

That description applies just as much to Mr Bezos himself. The founder and chief executive of Amazon has often ruffled investors’ feathers by sacrificing short-term profits to make big bets on new technologies that, he insists, will produce richer returns for the company’s shareholders in future. He laid out this philosophy in his first letter to shareholders, penned in 1997, which was entitled “It’s all about the long term”.

Some of these gambles have paid off handsomely, transforming Amazon from an online retailer of books and other physical products into a technology behemoth with $48 billion of revenues in 2011 and strong positions in fields from cloud computing to tablet devices. They have also enhanced Mr Bezos’s reputation as a technological seer. “In the last few years there has been a re-acceleration of the rate of change in technology,” he says. His impressive ability to identify and profit from the resulting disruptions means he is widely seen as the person best placed to fill the shoes of the late Steve Jobs as the industry’s leading visionary.

Mr Bezos’s willingness to take a long-term view also explains his fascination with space travel, and his decision to found a secretive company called Blue Origin, one of several start-ups now building spacecraft with private funding. It might seem like a risky bet, but the same was said of many of Amazon’s unusual moves in the past. Successful firms, he says, tend to be the ones that are willing to explore uncharted territories. “Me-too companies have not done that well over time,” he observes.

Eyebrows were raised, for example, when Amazon moved into the business of providing cloud-computing services to technology firms—which seemed an odd choice for an online retailer. But the company has since established itself as a leader in the field. “A big piece of the story we tell ourselves about who we are is that we are willing to invent,” Mr Bezos told shareholders at Amazon’s annual meeting last year. “And very importantly, we are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.”

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