How Jeff Bezos became the richest person in the world

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As of January 2018, Jeff Bezos became the wealthiest man ever to have walked the Earth. But how did he go from the breakfast shift at McDonald's to running an online goliath?

  • Who is Jeff Bezos? He’s the founder and now CEO of Amazon. He founded Blue Origin, a commercial space flight startup, and he owns the Washington Post. Oh, and he is responsible for over 100 companies.
  • How much is Jeff Bezos worth? According to Forbes, Bezos is worth $112 billion. Strictly speaking, that makes him a centi-billionaire.
  • How much does Jeff Bezos earn per minute? Around $36,000. That’s more than the average millennial earns in a year!

Success seems all so simple from the outside. But behind the billions, every great founder has a remarkable backstory. More often than not, the rest of us can learn something from their journey.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is the perfect example. This year, he became the richest man in history — but the foundations for his success today were laid several decades ago.

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Humble beginnings (Credit: JD Lasica )

What is Jeff Bezos’s back story?

Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen was born to a High School mother and a bike shop owner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Soon after, his parents got divorced. His mother, Jacklyn, went on to marry a Cuban Exxon engineer named Mike Bezos. A four-year-old Jeffrey took his new stepfather’s name.

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Bright mind (Credit: Steve Jurvetson)

As a young adult, Bezos showed great scientific promise. He attended the Student Science Training Program at the University of Florida and graduated from Princeton University in 1986 with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. While at Princeton, he was also president of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space chapter.

After graduating, Bezos wanted to start a company. Instead, he took a job working for a fintech startup before becoming the vice-president of D. E. Shaw & Co, a new Wall Street hedge fund.

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Amazon.com

When was Amazon founded?

In 1993, Jeff Bezos made a surprising decision — he gave up his hedge fund job in order to start his own business. Ecommerce was growing at 2,300% per year at the time, so he decided to create an online store. He narrowed down his niche by studying the five most profitable niches, before settling on books.

It was an inspired move. Just weeks after launching his store, Bezos was making $20,000 per month in sales.

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Online book store

What can we learn from Jeff Bezos?

Like most great entrepreneurs, Jeff Bezos has a list of great qualities:

  • Determination — both his boss and his parents told him not to start a company.
  • Entrepreneurial spirit — he sniffed out an opportunity and disrupted the market.
  • Bravery — he invested $100k of his own money before selling a single book.
  • Work ethic — in the early days, Bezos shipped every order by hand.
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Learning from Jeff

While these traits are difficult to learn, any aspiring entrepreneur can learn from Bezos’s actions:

  • Do your research — Bezos chose to sell books based purely on market research.
  • Get educated — Bezos took a three-day book selling course before starting his company.
  • Focus on a niche — Amazon sold only books for the first four years.
  • Hack the system — by ordering nine rare books alongside the one book he needed, Bezos was able to get around the minimum purchase rules set by suppliers.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail — Bezos lost millions of dollars in the dot-com crash and other failed ventures, yet he’s still the richest man alive.
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Meeting the Secretary of Defense in 2016

There is no blueprint for building a multi-billion dollar startup. But studying Jeff Bezos’s remarkable backstory gives us the next best thing.

Which successful entrepreneurs do you admire? Tell us in the comments!

The Gadget Flow Daily Digest highlights and explores the latest in tech trends to keep you informed. Want it straight to your inbox? Subscribe now.

Meet Mark Myerson

Mark is best known for writing about apps, but he also loves the tactile, hardware side of technology. Being a professional photographer, he's pretty handy with a camera, and he's a self-confessed tweetaholic.

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Yuri
Yuri

Richest man in modern times yes but not richest man in history. John D. Rockefeller easily holds that title. At his height his estimated net worth in today’s dollars is not estimated to be less then 400 billion and some estimates exceed 600 billion. Please read a book once in a while.