Customer obsession has driven Jeff Bezos from the day he founded Amazon as a tiny online bookseller.
So it’s no surprise that Bezos — now the richest person on the planet with an estimated net worth of $160 billion — is turning to his Amazon playbook in launching a new $2 billion philanthropic effort to address homelessness and early childhood education.
One of the most striking lines in the 530-word letter that Bezos posted Thursday morning announcing the new $2 billion Day One Fund was this: “The child will be the customer.”
Anyone even vaguely familiar with Amazon will understand the power of that simple statement, six words that could alter the course of philanthropy. It also signals that Bezos — known for his long-term problem solving and unconventional experimentation — is taking a big-time cue from Amazon.
The Seattle tech juggernaut was not successful because it was the first online retailer or cloud computing provider. It was successful because it started with the customer first and worked backwards, addressing pain points at nearly every turn. And then it flooded the problem with hyper-intense experimentation, a pace of internal entrepreneurship that’s just mind-boggling for a company that’s grown to Amazon’s size.
Look for Bezos to take a similar path as he starts to invest his money. As he noted in today’s letter, the philanthropic effort will “give us the opportunity to learn, invent and improve.”
“We’ll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon,” he wrote. “Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession.”
Bezos’ letter is short on the mechanics of how the new Day One Fund will operate. But we’ve seen this story before in the birth and boom of Amazon.
It will be fascinating to watch the next chapter evolve for Bezos, and to see whether the principles he honed at Amazon can be successfully applied to philanthropy.
The story is now unfolding, and it promises to be a dramatic page-turner.