Two weeks ago, I was in Seattle to meet with people from Microsoft and Amazon.
The meetings with executives from each company were off the record, so I’m not going to repeat what they said.
However, I’ll give my general impressions of each company after meeting some people, and walking around their campuses.
First up is Amazon. I only spent a half day with the company, so these are just loose impressions of the company.
A few things stood out about Amazon:
- The headquarters is basically its own neighbourhood in Seattle. Amazon’s offices are right in the heart of things in Seattle. I walked there from my hotel. At some point, the office buildings just turn into Amazon’s offices, and you don’t realise it because they’re not labelled “Amazon.” It’s a pretty neat location for a huge company. It probably helps with recruiting.
- The company is focused on customers. One of its buildings is named after its first customer. Focus on the customer was a repeated theme. This is helpful, I think, because it gives Amazon an easy way to make decisions. It starts with the customer and works from there. This was in contrast to Microsoft, which didn’t really seem to have one overriding principle guiding its decisions.
- There’s a big dog culture there. Not exactly a big deal, but I had no idea before I went. Lots of dogs everywhere, which is great if you like dogs.
- It’s a highly secretive company. Even in off the record meetings, the company’s execs were cagey. There was almost no difference between off the record statements and on the record statements. Perhaps that’s because they were just meeting me for the first time. Or, perhaps it’s because it’s a company that’s more locked-down than Apple.
- Jeff Bezos is incredibly important to employees. You get a sense that he’s one of the main reasons people are at Amazon. He commands incredible respect. If something were to happen to him, the company would probably be hosed. It’s like Apple was with Steve Jobs, only maybe more extreme. The difference between the two companies seems to be that with Apple there was/is a group of executives making decisions. (Phil Schiller, Scott Forstall, Eddy Cue all got time on stage at big Apple events when Jobs was alive.) At Amazon, it looks like Bezos is in charge of much more.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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