Jeff Bezos’s successor and Amazon’s upcoming CEO Andy Jassy joined the company in the late 90s. Back then Amazon focused solely on e-commerce and was years away from betting on the cloud. The now 53-year-old Jassay graduated from the prestigious Harvard Business School in 1997 and joined Amazon right after his graduation as many MBA graduates did before the dot-com bubble.
Jassy then went on to become Jeff’s first “shadow adviser”. Someone akin to being a corporate chief of staff who followed the CEO every day sat with him during the meetings and gave insights when called for. In an interesting incident, recounted in a book called “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon”, Jassy made quite an impression on Bezos by hitting him (accidentally) in the head with a paddle during a competitive game of broomball.
Jeff’s and Andy’s relationship deepened during the years when Andy served as Jeff’s shadow. Bezos trusted his younger lieutenant and gave him the task to explore a space that would later pave the way for Amazon’s success.
In 2003, Jeff instructed Andy to explore cloud computing technology. It was a huge bet on Jeff’s part as the world was still getting over the consequences of the dot-com bubble’s burst. Jeff’s aim was to see if Amazon can start offering web hosting services to other businesses and their websites.
It was a time when even the larger tech companies relied on third-party web hosting data centers. Jeff as Amazon’s CEO saw how the company itself struggled while creating an external development platform for online retailers so that 3rd party could build their own e-commerce operations.
If one looks at Amazon’s trajectory, they would see how Andy’s exploration and experimentation with cloud services took another six years of exploration and experimentation. But Jeff’s insight into the future and Andy’s continuous pursuit proved prescient.
As of today, Amazon’s web hosting platform AWS (Amazon Web Services) powers a plethora of services, websites, and services. Thanks to Amazon’s unparalleled resource deployment and finely optimized developer tools, many companies bypass building their own data center and choose Amazon to manage it. Unless a business doesn’t function at the scale of Facebook or Google, both of which have their own data centers, it’s simply better for it to be put down on AWS.
And it is Jassy who deserves all the credit for being the architect to Jeff’s cloud vision. Jeff managed AWS since its inception and went on to become its CEO after Jeff Bezos promoted him from the Senior VP role in 2016. Not only did Jassy manage the AWS and helped it stay consistent over years, but he also made the platform into Amazon’s most profitable divisions.
According to reports, in 2020, a staggering 63% of Amazon’s profits came from the Jassy managed AWS. AWS with its 63% portion of profit will make roughly more than 50$ billion in revenue in 2021. To give you a perspective, today AWS controls one-third of the world’s entire cloud infrastructure market, more than the combined portion of Microsoft and Google.
Jassy himself spoke about AWS’s amazing feat at the annual re:Invent conference and said, “If you look at AWS, as an example, to grow to a $46 billion revenue run rate with 29 percent (year-over-year) growth meant we had to grow at an incremental $10 billion in the last 12 months to get there; that is much larger than you’ll see elsewhere in the cloud.”
He also added, “It took us 123 months, or a little over 10 years, to grow to a $10 billion business. Then it took us 23 months to go from $10 to $20 billion and 13 months to go from $20 to $30 billion, and then just 12 months to go from $30 to $40 billion.”
Jassy’s leadership quirks and management personal have also been regarded as something refreshing within Amazon. Jassy is known for his exhaustive back-to-back meetings. These meetings are called the “Chop”. According to Insider’s in-depth profile on Jassy, Chop meetings are where both ideas and employees go to get chopped down to size.
The Chop was initially the name of Jassy’s first conference room at AWS. When AWS opened its new headquarters building, the single conference room turned into a 2-side-by-side conference room so that he could take back-to-back meetings without wasting much time.
He is also known for his ability to take responsibility for certain social justice issues. This was best exemplified in AWS’s decision to unlist and ban the social media platform Parler last month after the US Capital riot.
As the next CEO of Amazon, Jassy no doubt would have large Bezos sized shoes to fill. But according to him, the key to making tough calls and cultivating a better future is reinvention. In the all-digital Amazon’s re:Invent conference, Jassy said, “It’s really hard to build a business that sustains for a long period of time. To do it, you’re going to reinvent yourself, and often you’re going to have to reinvent yourself many times over.”