Who is Andy Jassy and where will Jeff Bezos go next?

Who is Andy Jassy and where will Jeff Bezos go next?
Source: Mike Segar, Reuters
The move to name Jassy as CEO indicates the importance Amazon places on its AWS branch and where the company’s priorities will likely lie in the coming years.

In an announcement on Tuesday, February 2, Amazon.com, Inc. announced that Andy Jassy will be replacing founder Jeff Bezos as Amazon’s chief executive officer. This will be the first CEO transition in the company’s history as Bezos moves into the role of executive chairman.

Who is Andy Jassy?

Andy Jassy grew up in Scarsdale, New York. He graduated Harvard College with honors and, after receiving his bachelor’s degree, went to work at MBI Inc, a jewelry and coin maker. He then returned to Harvard to get his M.B.A.

After graduating from Harvard Business School in May 1997, Jassy immediately went to work for Amazon.

“I took my last final exam at HBS, the first Friday of May in 1997, and I started Amazon next Monday,” Jassy said in a Harvard Business School podcast last year. “I didn’t know what my job was going to be, or what my title was going to be.”

Just weeks before he came aboard, Amazon had gone public in an initial public offering at US$18 per share. Of course, at the time Amazon was not the company we know it as now. In 1997, Amazon specialized in book sales and sold little else. Over the following years, Jassy would help the company expand its sales beyond books.

In 2003, Jassy was one of the thinkers to give birth to the idea of the cloud-computing platform we now know as Amazon Web Services (AWS). The idea would be that Amazon could offer some of the services it had developed for its retail arm to other companies who would operate off of the cloud.

Jassy told The Wall Street Journal the vision was that “any individual in his or her own garage or dorm room could have access to the same cost structure and scalability and infrastructure as the largest companies in the world.”

AWS has become a financial powerhouse for Amazon, reporting US$12.7 billion in sales in the final quarter of 2020. AWS also had an operating income of US$3.6 billion in the same period, more than half of Amazon’s entire operating income over the same period.

Jassy was named CEO of AWS in 2016 after spending a decade as senior vice president and heading the branch.

The move to name Jassy as CEO indicates the importance Amazon places on its AWS branch and where the company’s priorities will likely lie in the coming years.

“Andy is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have,” Bezos said in an email to employees. “He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence.”

What’s next for Jeff Bezos?

In his email to “Amazonians,” as he calls them, Bezos roughly outlined the things that he would be working on now that he has more free time. Bezos will be committing his time and energy to working on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin and The Washington Post, among others.

The Day 1 Fund is focused on decreasing homelessness and improving the quality of education for low-income families. The fund, which has been criticized for being slow in distributing the donations it receives, got a US$2 billion cash infusion from Bezos in 2018. This year, it named 42 recipients who would receive US$106 million in total.

Blue Origin is a company aiming to reduce the costs of space travel by reusing launch vehicles. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same thing Elon Musk is doing with SpaceX, which is Blue Origin’s biggest competitor. Blue Origin is hoping to launch its first mission in 2024.

The Bezos Earth Fund is a US$10 billion fund that Bezos created to fund scientists and activists working to solve the climate crisis. He announced the first 16 recipients of the fund in November, all of whom will receive a total of US$791 million in funding.

The only project that Bezos mentioned that he didn’t start himself is The Washington Post. The newspaper, famous for breaking the Watergate scandal in 1972 that brought down then-President Richard Nixon, was bought by Bezos in 2013 for US$250 million.

Despite the fear by many that the focus of the paper would shift to other things under Bezos’ ownership, employees have said that he has put his energy toward promoting the business on the digital landscape and hasn’t pushed his own agenda.

Bezos isn’t moving entirely away from Amazon either. As the executive chair he will stay on for important decisions regarding business strategy. In an email to employees announcing the move, Bezos seemed intent on further driving innovation.

“Amazon couldn’t be better positioned for the future,” he said. “We are firing on all cylinders, just as the world needs us to. We have things in the pipeline that will continue to astonish … We are leaders in areas as varied as machine learning and logistics, and if an Amazonian’s idea requires yet another new institutional skill, we’re flexible enough and patient enough to learn it.”

“Keep inventing,” he urged, “and don’t despair when at first the idea looks crazy. Remember to wander. Let curiosity be your compass. It remains Day 1.”

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