Dear Mr. Bezos in the far away America, dear Secretary of State Bear, dear members of the Logistics Hall of Fame, ladies and gentlemen
When I think of Jeff Bezos and his creation Amazon, I keep thinking about the turn of the millennium. I had just sold my software companies and, as the new director of a Fraunhofer Institute with a handful of leading representatives of the German retail trade, I was on the stage of the casino in Dortmund. The discussion at that time - as was so often the case in 2000 - revolved around the "Future of Internet-based mail order".
At the time, there was a very serious debate as to whether the proportion of mail-order e-commerce could exceed 3% or 5%. A misjudgement which, from today's point of view, is hard to believe. The discussion was culminating when a board of directors called out to me: "Listen, Mr. ten Hompel, you won't seriously believe that people will ever renounce the experience of leafing through a catalogue". The mail-order company he represented was broke 7 years later - after another tens of millions of catalogues were printed and mail-order business had long since shifted to the Internet.
Jeff Bezos was long since on the road to revolutionize Internet commerce and thus logistics. But how did it all start?
Jeffrey Preston Bezos - called Jeff Bezos - was born in Albuquerque on January 12, 1964. He was already interested in electronics in childhood and it is reported that his mother had to drive him to Radio Shack to buy transistors and chips. (That was similar with me, by the way - except that I bought some radiotubes. Now I notice that I'm not the youngest member of the Hall of Fame anymore with the recording of Jeff Bezos. It's a pity - at my age you're not often the youngest anymore.)
Bezos' interest in electrical engineering was aroused at an early age and so it is not surprising that he began studying electrical engineering and computer science at the renowned Princeton University in the early 1980s, which he successfully completed in 1986. He was one of the first generation to grow up in school and study with a personal computer.
After his studies, he worked briefly for the mobile communications company Fitel and then for the asset managers "Bankers Trust" and "D. E. Shaw". Already at that time he recognized the power of algorithms and developed programs and algorithms for the management of investment and hedge funds.
1994 was the year when it all began: The Internet boom begins and Jeff Bezos wants to be there. He becomes self-employed and founds the online bookstore Amazon in Washington. You have to remember - the first web browser (Mosaic) was released only one year before, Google was to be founded 3 years later.
From today's perspective, everything seems so logical. But in 1994 Amazon was smiled at by many and almost everyone shook their heads. Hardly anyone could see the potential of scaling Internet trade.
Jeff Bezos said then - and he still says today: "There is so much to invent. So much more will happen. You can't imagine what impact the Internet will have. It's still day one! A quote that gave the Amazon headquarters building the name "Day One North."
As we all know, Jeff Bezo's story is now written and Amazon is one of the world's largest companies with over 550,000 employees. Only under amazon. de are well over 200 million articles listed - Jeff Bezos has achieved his goal: Amazon is the "Everything Store"! And the value of the Amazon brand has long since outstripped classics such as IBM and Mac Donalds.
In addition to the urge to reinvent the world over and over again, Jeff Bezos' work is characterised by the fact that he places the unconditional benefit to the user at the centre of his work. (In contrast to the classic "customer orientation", the "unconditional customer orientation" implies the will to cannibalize one's own business.
He has brought things into our daily lives that seemed to be quite normal to us within a very short time - probably the greatest compliment for him that can be made:
Today, it seems to us quite normal to buy things on the net and to unlock our credit card data with one click.
Today, we read the positive and negative reviews online before we buy a product - 20 years ago, it would be inconceivable to show them together with the product.
Today it's quite normal to read books by Kindle - I think it's great when my wife lies next to me at night and doesn't have to turn on the lights to read.
When it comes to customer benefits, Jeff Bezos is merciless - even when it comes to his own business and precisely because of this the competition for the best possible service.