Jeff Bezos loves failure. He often describes it as a necessity for invention, innovation, and eventually success. Fortunately, Bezos has a perfect example in the infamous Fire Phone flop.
Martin Baron, executive editor of the Bezos-owned Washington Post, on Wednesday asked Amazon’s CEO about the smartphone’s failed rollout.
“If you think that’s a big failure, we’re working on much bigger failures right now — and I am not kidding,” he said. “Some of them are going to make the Fire Phone look like a tiny little blip.”
Amazon debuted the Fire Phone in 2014, initially priced at $199 with a two-year contract. Sales plummeted in the weeks and months following the phone’s release. Execs on the Fire Phone team later acknowledged that they didn’t get the price right when they launched.
Critics also said the company focused too much on high-tech features, such as a dynamic perspective technology that used head-tracking sensors to give the user a 3D view into the phone. Eventually, Amazon had to write down $170 million in costs associated with Fire Phone inventory.
Bezos cited Amazon’s disastrous foray into the smartphone market as an example of the company’s healthy innovative spirit.
“It is our job, if we want to be innovative and pioneering, to make mistakes and as the company has gotten big — we have $100 billion-plus in annual sales, 250,000-plus people — the size of your mistakes needs to grow along with that,” he said.
The interview was part of the Transformers conference, hosted by The Washington Post.
Bezos said that Amazon operates on the same model that most venture capital firms use. A small percentage of wins pay for all the losses.
“You need to be making big, noticeable failures,” he said. “The great thing is that, when you take this approach, a small number of winners pay for dozens, hundreds of failures, and so every single important thing we’ve done has taken a lot of risk, risk-taking, perseverance, guts, and some have worked out. Most of them have not. That has to happen at every scale level all the way down.”