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Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos

Amazon.com is not known as the most lovey-dovey company. Founder Jeff Bezos has instituted a hard-charging culture, one that lacks the frills of other tech giants like Google and Microsoft.

That culture was showcased in Brad Stone’s book “The Everything Store,” and now it is on display again in a documentary film from CNBC dubbed “Amazon Rising.” The documentary aired Sunday night, and will be rebroadcast on CNBC today at 4 p.m.

The  filmmakers interview several former Amazon.com workers, including RichRelevance CEO David Selinger (who also happens to be the former CTO at Redfin who is now engaged in litigation with that company).

Here’s what Selinger had to say about working for Bezos: “I felt somewhat intellectually intimidated by him to be honest with you. He was just so smart, and so driven and so confident in himself that sometimes it just felt like I was getting squished out of the room.” When Selinger proposed selling advertisements on the home page of Amazon, Bezos responded that it was one of the stupidest ideas he had ever had.

“I think he was being subtle,” said Selinger, who joined the company in 2003. Here’s a clip of Selinger from the documentary.


Meanwhile, former Amazon employee Randy Miller explained the hard-ball tactics that the company instituted with publishers, using a tactic known as “vendor realignment.” That same playbook is being used today in Amazon’s dispute with publishing giant Hachette, utilizing its growing heft in book publishing to extract demands.


Miller and former Amazon employee John Rossman — the author of The Amazon Way and an upcoming guest on the GeekWire podcast on the weekend of July 19 —describe what it was like working for Bezos. Rossman said that Bezos had a low tolerance for “thinking small, acting small or not being extremely sharp.”

Miller said he recalls one colleague who was praying for a heart attack, rather than face Bezos’ wrath.


In addition to former executives and engineers, the film also explores working conditions at Amazon.com’s fulfillment centers with one worker saying that she felt as if she was working in a prison.

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