Power Players

Jeff Bezos says this is what he would have done if Amazon didn't work out

Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos addresses the audience during a keynote session at the Amazon Re:MARS conference on robotics and artificial intelligence at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 6, 2019.
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images

Twenty-six years ago, Jeff Bezos had an idea that inspired him to quit his stable job at a hedge fund in New York. He moved to the suburbs of Seattle to work out of his garage and build a business that would ultimately become Amazon.

Bezos launched the business as an online book seller in 1995, and today the e-commerce behemoth has a market capitalization of over $926 billion.

"What's actually happened over the last 25 years [at Amazon] is way beyond my expectations," Bezos said during a fireside chat in India on Wednesday. "I was hoping to build a company, but not a company like what you see today."

So Bezos' gamble paid off in a huge way, but if it hadn't worked out? What would he have done?

"I would be an extremely happy software programmer somewhere," Bezos said Wednesday.

(He would, however, be a lot less rich. Today, the average salary for a software programmer is around $92,000 per year, according to Glassdoor. Bezos' current net worth is $116 billion, according to Forbes.)

"We all have passions, and you don't get to choose them," Bezos said at the 2016 Pathfinder Awards. His has always been computers, according to Wired.

In fact, a young Bezos set out pursue a career involving computers and automation. He graduated from Princeton University in 1986 with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science.

After graduation Bezos turned down job offers from a few technology companies, including Intel, Bell Labs and Anderson Consulting, and went to work "debugging code" at a telecommunications start-up called Fitel, according to Wired. After two years, Bezos left Fitel to be a software developer at Bankers Trust (which since has been acquired by Deutsche Bank).

From there, Bezos planned to leave the bank and commit to finding a job in tech, as he originally wanted, rather than continuing in financial services. But instead in 1990 he went to work for hedge fund D. E. Shaw after clicking with founder David Shaw, who was also a computer scientist.

There, Bezos was put in charge of researching potential business opportunities in what was a relatively new landscape: the internet. During a brainstorming session, Bezos came up with the idea to sell books on the internet.

Shaw actually discouraged him from leaving the company to pursue his own business, Bezos recalled on Wednesday.

"When I told my boss about this, he listened to me patiently and said, 'it's a great idea, but for somebody who did not have a job already,'" Bezos said.

But "I knew if I tried and failed, I would never regret it," said Bezos.

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