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Missionaries are better than mercenaries: Jeff Bezos

Zafar Anjum | Nov. 30, 2012 CEO Jeff Bezos was speaking at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) re:Invent conference in Las Vegas today

"Missionaries are better than mercenaries," said CEO Jeff Bezos at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) re:Invent conference in Las Vegas today. He was having a fireside chat with Amazon CTO Werner Vogels on stage where 6,000 techies were in attendance.

"Never catch the hot thing," said Bezos. His comment was in response to Vogel's question about Bezos' advice to new entrepreneurs. He advised budding entrepreneurs to go after things they were passionate about.

He also emphasized on building a business focused on customers. "Passion and customer-centricity will take you a long way," he said.

During the hour-long chat, Bezos talked about many issues-including his Web Services business model, a 10,000-year clock, and his plans for a space travel business.

Bezos, who is the 2012 Fortune Businessperson of the year, was very much in his elements during the talk. The Fortune magazine has called him the ultimate disrupter, and in the absence of Apple's Steve Jobs, he is said to be "the new undisputed role model for founders who want to keep control of their companies".

During the early part of the discussion, Bezos discussed the business model of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) and highlighted his belief in a low margin and high volume business. Low margins keep you aligned with customers, he said.

He likened the business model of AWS to his own company's product Kindle Fire. He said that Amazon makes money when people use the tablet. Similarly, AWS makes money as people use its services (because it is a pay as you go and scale up business).

After a while, Vogel and Bezos got into future gazing. Bezos said that big business ideas are usually very obvious but they hide in plain sight. Being an innovative businessman, he also said that his mission is to provide a platform to people who want to innovate. But innovative people also have to be ready to stomach criticism, he warned.

Vogel asked him about his two side projects: a 10,000-year clock and Blue Origin. Sensing that many might think of such a project (a 10,000-year clock?) as a madman's dream, he quipped, "moments ago the idea sounded sane."

He said he is working on a 10,000-year clock that will be located in a mountain and will have five anniversary chambers. The clock is a symbol of long-term thinking, which is what we humans need, he said.

Bezos is also interested in space travel and Blue Origin is a company that is working exactly in that area. They have been working on a third-gen development model of the space vehicle and the next one he hopes will be a production model. Bezos has made sure that the space travel rockets have a reusable (vertical landing) model because reusability ensures scalability.



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