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Jeff Bezos email to employees: 'Keep inventing, and don't despair when at first the idea looks crazy'

·Former Correspondent
·6 min read
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Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon (AMZN), sent an email to the e-commerce giant's employees on Tuesday announcing that after 27 years, he will step down as CEO.

The 57-year-old, who authored one of the most famous shareholder letters ahead of Amazon's public debut in 1997, reminded the 1.3 million employees it’s still "day one."

"Keep inventing, and don't despair when at first the idea looks crazy. Remember to wander. Let curiosity be your compass. It remains Day 1," he wrote.

Bezos, who’s worth an estimated $188 billion, will step down as CEO in the third quarter. He'll assume the title of executive chairman, and Andy Jassy, the CEO of the highly lucrative Amazon Web Services (AWS) business, will take the helm as CEO at that time.

"We've done crazy things together, and then made them normal,” Bezos wrote. “We pioneered customer reviews, 1-Click, personalized recommendations, Prime's insanely-fast shipping, Just Walk Out shopping, the Climate Pledge, Kindle, Alexa, marketplace, infrastructure cloud computing, Career Choice, and much more. If you get it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. And that yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive.”

Bezos added that the company is the "most inventive right now." He also asserted that the company "couldn't be better positioned for the future" and is "firing on all cylinders." Amazon topped $100 billion in quarterly revenue for the first time on Tuesday.

"We have things in the pipeline that will continue to astonish,” he said. “We serve individuals and enterprises, and we've pioneered two complete industries and a whole new class of devices. We are leaders in areas as varied as machine learning and logistics, and if an Amazonian's idea requires yet another new institutional skill, we're flexible enough and patient enough to learn it.”

Giving the nod to his friend Warren Buffett's famous line of "tap dancing to work,” Bezos wrote: "As much as I still tap dance into the office, I'm excited about this transition."

He continued: "Millions of customers depend on us for our services, and more than a million employees depend on us for their livelihoods. Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it's consuming. When you have a responsibility like that, it's hard to put attention on anything else."

While Bezos says he'll remain engaged in important initiatives at Amazon, stepping back provides the time to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, and The Washington Post.

"I've never had more energy, and this isn't about retiring. I'm super passionate about the impact I think these organizations can have," he noted.

Below is the full email:

Fellow Amazonians:

I’m excited to announce that this Q3 I’ll transition to Executive Chair of the Amazon Board and Andy Jassy will become CEO. In the Exec Chair role, I intend to focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives. Andy is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have. He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence.

This journey began some 27 years ago. Amazon was only an idea, and it had no name. The question I was asked most frequently at that time was, “What’s the internet?” Blessedly, I haven’t had to explain that in a long while.

Today, we employ 1.3 million talented, dedicated people, serve hundreds of millions of customers and businesses, and are widely recognized as one of the most successful companies in the world.

How did that happen? Invention. Invention is the root of our success. We’ve done crazy things together, and then made them normal. We pioneered customer reviews, 1-Click, personalized recommendations, Prime’s insanely-fast shipping, Just Walk Out shopping, the Climate Pledge, Kindle, Alexa, marketplace, infrastructure cloud computing, Career Choice, and much more. If you get it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. And that yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive.

I don’t know of another company with an invention track record as good as Amazon’s, and I believe we are at our most inventive right now. I hope you are as proud of our inventiveness as I am. I think you should be.

As Amazon became large, we decided to use our scale and scope to lead on important social issues. Two high-impact examples: our $15 minimum wage and the Climate Pledge. In both cases, we staked out leadership positions and then asked others to come along with us. In both cases, it’s working. Other large companies are coming our way. I hope you’re proud of that as well.

I find my work meaningful and fun. I get to work with the smartest, most talented, most ingenious teammates. When times have been good, you’ve been humble. When times have been tough, you’ve been strong and supportive, and we’ve made each other laugh. It is a joy to work on this team.

As much as I still tap dance into the office, I’m excited about this transition. Millions of customers depend on us for our services, and more than a million employees depend on us for their livelihoods. Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming. When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else. As Exec Chair I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions. I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring. I’m super passionate about the impact I think these organizations can have.

Amazon couldn’t be better positioned for the future. We are firing on all cylinders, just as the world needs us to. We have things in the pipeline that will continue to astonish. We serve individuals and enterprises, and we’ve pioneered two complete industries and a whole new class of devices. We are leaders in areas as varied as machine learning and logistics, and if an Amazonian’s idea requires yet another new institutional skill, we’re flexible enough and patient enough to learn it.

Keep inventing, and don’t despair when at first the idea looks crazy. Remember to wander. Let curiosity be your compass. It remains Day 1.

Jeff

Julia La Roche is a correspondent for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.