How did Amazon become the world’s largest e-commerce company?
Amazon started out of Jeff Bezos’s garage in Bellevue, Washington in 1994. It’s now one of the Big Five companies in the US information technology industry, along with Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook.
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This success comes down to the growth of the internet. In 1994, there were only 40 million people using the internet in the US but now over 4.66 billion people are using the internet as of January 2021.
When Amazon was launched, it sold books online but quickly expanded to sell everything from electronics and software, to food, toys, clothing and furniture. Amazon grew its revenue from $8.47 million in Q4 1996 to $16 million in Q1 1997. Despite this being considered a relatively small income, Amazon went public in 1997, at $18 per share. This gave the company a market value of about $438 million.
By 2015, Amazon had become the most valuable retailer in the US by market capitalisation – surpassing grocery store Walmart. As of July 2021, Amazon was the third-largest company in the world – behind Apple and Microsoft.
Amazon’s share price has had an equally meteoric rise. For investors, every $10,000 invested at the time of Amazon’s 1997 IPO would be worth more than $21 million today – using Amazon’s closing price on 13 July 2021 of $3,677.
What companies does Amazon own?
Amazon owns more than 100 companies across a variety of market sectors – including tech, groceries, media and medicine. Many have attributed this vast empire of businesses to Amazon’s need-to-win mentality – if it can’t dominate the market on its own, it’ll just buy the market leader.
Amazon's biggest acquisitions
Amazon’s biggest acquisition was Whole Foods in 2017, which it acquired for $13.7 billion. It provided a brick-and-mortar retail space for Amazon, as well as insights into high street shoppers.
Here are Amazon’s biggest acquisitions ranked by cost value:
- Whole Foods: 2017, Food and Beverage, Grocery and Organic Food, for $13.7 billion
- Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: 2021, Media Production and Film, for $8.5 billion
- Zoox: 2020, Autonomous Vehicles, Robotics and Transportation, for $1.2 billion
- Zappos: 2009, E-Commerce, Retail and Shoes, for $1.2 billion
- Ring: 2018, Home Security and Smart Home, for $970 million
- Twitch: 2014, Social Media, Video, Video Games and Video Streaming, for $970 million
- Kiva Systems: 2012, Hardware, Mobile, Robotics and Software, for $775 million
- PillPack: 2018, Pharmacy and E-Commerce, for $753 million
- Souq.com: 2017, Consumer Electronics, E-Commerce and Shopping, for $580 million
- Quidsi: 2010, Beauty, Child Care and E-Commerce, for $545 million
Amazon acquisition history
As Amazon owns so many companies, we’ll just take a look at the acquisition history of some of Amazon’s most famous acquisitions.
What companies does Jeff Bezos own?
Jeff Bezos owns a number of companies; naturally the most famous is Amazon. While he stepped down as CEO in Q3 2021, he’s still the largest single shareholder, with more than a 10% stake in the company.
One of the reasons cited for Bezos’s decision to vacate his position at Amazon was to focus on his other businesses. These include:
- The Washington Post – the newspaper was bought in 2013 for $250 million
- Blue Origin – the aerospace company was created in 2000 and is set to have a moon lander by 2024
- Bezos Expeditions – this company is Bezos’s personal venture capital investments firm. As of 2020, Bezos Expeditions invested in more than 66 companies including famous companies like Airbnb and Uber
- Bezos Day One Fund – a philanthropic organisation Bezos founded to help low-income families
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