It could all have been so different. In the summer of 1994, as Jeff Bezos drove towards Seattle with just the bare bones of a business idea, he made a call to attorney Todd Tarbert about incorporating his planned venture in the state of Washington. Naturally, Tarbert wanted to know the new company's name.
"Cadabra, Inc.," Bezos said over the cell phone. "Like Abracadabra."
To which Tarbert replied "Did you say Cadaver?"
Six years on and Amazon.com is alive and well, buoyed by a business model which has made it e-commerce's foremost player and every Internet pundit's favourite case study. Still, with only the initial landrush over, it seems a strange time for a business history. Amazon.com's forward strategy is no secret. "Our US books business was profitable in the month of December ", Bezos explained at the annual shareholders meeting in May 1999. "I believe that if we had been better able to organise ourselves, we shouldn't have had that business be profitable...A rational set of shareholders would penalise the management team of a company for being unable to better figure out how to allocate the capital in order to invest more aggressively in this critical category formation time". Not surprisingly, then, The Amazon.com--Get Big Fast is no official study but whatever its status, Spector's enthusiastic narration and genuine, but not uncritical, passion for his subject makes it work. He writes with a journalistic zip on Bezos's personal history, his company's inception and early growth through IPO and expansion from books into other retail categories to becoming the e-commerce leader of today. Well-chosen anecdotes add to the romance, such as Bezos instructing his Manhattan removal firm to "head west" until he could call them with a decision on where he would be moving to set up his business. Spector assesses Amazon.com's relationship with traditional retailers and publishers ("The publishing industry, in the midst of a two-year downturn in sales and an avalanche of returned books, began noticing that Amazon.com was becoming one of their largest customers, and possibly the solution to their doldrums".). He tries to get inside company culture and casts an appraising eye over the business plan as well as outlining the challenges which the business has faced and overcome in its short history.
The Amazon.com--Get Big Fast is that rare thing, a business book and a page-turner. Though by no means the first or last word on the subject, Spector's account has all the drama of the business revolution it describes. Now, whatever did happen to Cadaver.com? --Iain Campbell
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A generally engrossing study of the company Financial Times -- Financial Times
This inspirational rags-to-riches tale will spur on even more entrepeneurs to make their virtual millions -- Mirror