5 Lessons Millennial Startups Can Learn from Jeff Bezos

5 Lessons Millennial Startups Can Learn from Jeff Bezos

by -
what you can learn from jeff bezos
Image Credit | telegraph

Of all the entrepreneurs dominating tech today, Jeff Bezos has emerged as one of the few that are still breathing after the .com bubble burst in 2000.

Bezos joined the world of the internet in 1995 and despite the huge crash, Amazon continued to breathe because of his resilience, vision and refusal to give up despite facing humongous odds. Many call him America’s foremost CEO, after Steve Jobs.

Here are 5 takeaways from Bezos’ philosophy:

1. The empty chair philosophy

During Amazon’s early days, Bezos insisted on placing an empty chair in each executive meeting. To all attendees, this was Amazon’s customer and the empty chair was to act as a reminder that no decision they made should displease the most important attendee of their meeting.

From the get-go, Bezos has been pretty clear about his desire to make Amazon a customer-obsessed firm. This customer-centric philosophy is what has made Amazon the world’s foremost e-commerce firm. Millennials will do well to remember that no matter how old, the “customer is king” belief still holds true.

“The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.” – Jeff Bezos

2. Apologizing shouldn’t hurt your ego

Back in 2009, Amazon angered users by deleting legally bought copies of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984”, because they were being sold illegally by an unnamed seller. For any firm, this would probably be deemed as a mid-level crisis.

For Bezos, however, anything that hurt his customers, hurt him. Therefore, he personally penned an informal apology letter to all users. He said, “Our ‘solution’ to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles…we will make better decisions going forward[.]

As a startup, you may feel that admitting a mistake may lose customers but refusing to do so will push them further away. In the example stated above, most firms would have simply released a press statement to apologize for the error. The worst ones would adamantly deny they were at fault. When the mistake first occurred, customers were furious. Bezos’ heartfelt plea for forgiveness won them over.


3. The two-pizza philosophy

Jeff Bezos is a firm believer in small, sovereign units. In his own words, if a team cannot be fed by two pizzas, it’s too large. In statistical terms, a team must comprise of 5 – 7 people. The Amazon Gold Box, for example, was an idea that originated during one of these two-pizza team discussions.

This attitude correlates with Bezos’ other active belief – the constant removal of waste. According to him, large teams become inefficient and usually find it hard to come to a decisive result, wasting resources along the way.

Unsurprisingly, this idea has been catching on as small businesses continue to sprout online. Firms, like AMZInsight, prefer assigning tasks to a small group of people. It gets the job done quickly and allows ideas to flow freely.


4. It’s the long-term that matters

When Amazon makes a gigantic investment, they’re almost always criticized. Ten years down the line, when the investment pays off, the same critics sing Bezos’ praises.

If a strategy or plan seems revolutionary to him, Bezos shrugs off the disapproval. He can wait half a decade to get a return on his investment but if something feels right to him, he’s got to do it now. For example, when eBooks were first introduced, Amazon was the only store to offer them at prices lower than their print editions, generating short-term losses.

Today, all eBook editions are cheaper but because of an early start, Amazon has already captured most of the market. Therefore, if you believe something will work, go for it and don’t worry about short-term returns.

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” – Jeff Bezos

5. Failure is a prerequisite to innovation

As mentioned above, Amazon began when the internet was still a baby and online commerce was growing on uncertain soil. Bezos went in fully aware of the failures waiting for him. He told his first investors that: “…there’s a 70 percent chance you’re going to lose all your money, so don’t invest unless you can afford to lose it.”

However, instead of feeling limited by imminent failure, Bezos felt powerful. He knew he was going to fail but he also knew that nothing would stop him from pushing Amazon off the ground. He felt liberated since he knew what the future held for him. Ironically, it was this mentality that set shop for his success. Expect failure but don’t let it hinder your plans. Instead, prepare to face it head on.

What have you personally learned from Jeff Bezos? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!
Matt Mikaelson is a Marketing Executive at AMZ Insight who trusts in the power of research. He specializes in data services, tech trends, marketing analysis and industry insight. It is his belief that data always tells a story, so he enjoys collecting marketing numbers, studying their impact on businesses and how they can be manipulated to market leadership visions. Matt is an expert in, and an enthusiastic student of, digital marketing, consumer behavior, content marketing, ecommerce, online marketplaces and market research.


  1. Hey Matt,

    Great article about Bezos – very timely too because I just released something highlighting his business, mindset, and E-commerce fundamentals too!

    The two-pizza point reminded me of Brad Stone’s book on Amazon and what Jeff started with as the J-team. It was just the 3 founders in the proverbial startup garage, and later he named it the S-team. This team was so small, because he refused to listen to too many people, and always kept his focus on the future and MASSIVE expansion of Amazon.

    Also, when you mentioned the empty chair philosophy it reminded me of how many business owners don’t think about their customer first; they think about what business they want to start. That’s a recipe for failure because if no one wants what you’re selling, you’re in trouble.

    Keep up the good work mate

    – Evan

  2. Matt I really loves this article. I don’t know that much about Jeff so your article gave me some insight into his quirkiness. I loved the two-pizza philosophy point. I agree that large teams are not productive. Thanks for this post.

Leave a Reply