In July 1994 — 20 years ago this month — Jeff Bezos officially established the company that would come to be known as Amazon.com, setting up shop in the garage of his rental house on a winding suburban road in Bellevue, Wash., east of Seattle.
The garage has since been converted into a living room, but at last check the home still featured an oversized mailbox at the curb — which, according to legend, was put there to accommodate all the book catalogs that the company was receiving in its early days.
Actually, the company wasn’t originally called Amazon.com. It was first known as Cadabra, a play on the word abracadabra. However, the name was later changed because it was too often misheard as “Cadaver.”
A year after the company’s incorporation, in July 1995, Amazon.com sold its first book, “Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought.”
Credit Suisse analyst Michael Exstein marked the milestone this week, also noting the recent 52nd anniversary of the first Walmart store opening in Arkansas.
“Walmart and Amazon may be the two companies that have had the greatest impact on American retailing in post-war history,” he writes, as quoted by Barron’s. “They have both altered consumer expectations of cost and convenience, in the process throwing into flux the entrenched competition and changing the retail paradigm.”
Unlike many of its former peers, Amazon survived the dot-com crash, and the company has gone on to dominate the world of e-commerce — stirring up controversy, testing the patience of investors, and extending its reach into many other parts of the technology world, most recently with the unveiling of its Fire Phone.
As of its last report, Amazon employed nearly 125,000 people around the world.
And with that Bellevue garage in the distant past, Amazon is expanding at a rapid pace in its hometown of Seattle, redefining the South Lake Union neighborhood and developing a new three-block complex on the edge of downtown Seattle — which will come complete with its own biodomes.
We’ve contacted Amazon to find out if the company has any birthday celebrations in the works, but we can only assume, as Bezos likes say, that it’s “still Day One.”
For a comprehensive look at the company’s history, be sure to check out Brad Stone’s book, The Everything Store. Mackenzie Bezos, the wife of the founder, may not be a fan, but the book is full of insights for anyone seeking to better understand the company.
And finally, the marketing firm DFPOC put together this infographic marking the major milestones in Amazon’s history. Zoom in and scroll around for additional details.