Bezos’s Early Life and Education
Jeffrey Preston Bezos (b. 1964) was born Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to teen-aged parents.
Bezos’s parents were Jacklyn Gise, whose father was a regional director of the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in Albuquerque, and Theodore (“Ted”) Jorgensen, a man of Danish ancestry who was born in Chicago.
Bezos’s parents divorced in 1966, when he was only two years old.
Two years later, in 1968, Bezos’s mother remarried a man named Miguel (“Mike”) Bezos, a Cuban immigrant, who was a student at the University of New Mexico. That same year, Miguel adopted Jacklyn’s baby.
After the elder Bezos completed his degree, the family relocated to Houston, Texas, where Miguel took a job as an engineer with the Exxon Corporation.
Young Jeff Bezos attended River Oaks Elementary School, a Houston magnet school, for grades 4 through 6.
Jacklyn’s father owned a ranch near Cotulla, Texas, a town in the Rio Grande Valley about halfway between San Antonio and Laredo. As a boy, Jeff frequently spent his summers on his grandfather’s ranch.
A few years later, the Bezos family relocated once again, this time to Miami, Florida, where Jeff attended Miami Palmetto High School.
During his high school years, the young Bezos worked part-time as a short-order cook with McDonald’s.
Bezos was a superior student, taking science courses at the University of Florida while he was still in high school and ultimately graduating valedictorian in 1982.
Bezos’s record of academic excellence continued at Princeton University, where he earned straight A’s studying computer science and electrical engineering. In 1986, he received his Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) degree summa cum laude from Princeton.
After obtaining his bachelor’s degree, Bezos turned down job offers from Intel Corporation, Bell Labs, and others, to go to work for Fintel, a financial-technology telecommunications startup.
After a couple of years with Fintel, Bezos decided to make a move to the banking industry. In 1988, he accepted a job with Bankers Trust, where he worked as a product manager until 1990.
That year, Bezos left Bankers Trust to join a newly founded hedge fund called D.E. Shaw & Co. In his job there, he employed advanced mathematical modelling.
Four years later, in 1994, the company made Bezos a senior vice-president. He had just turned 30.
Despite the meteoric trajectory of his banking and financial industry career, Bezos was dissatisfied with working for someone else and was keeping his eye out for a chance to create his own company.
Bezos has said that in 1993 he read a news article about the exponential growth of the Internet. He decided this growth represented a golden commercial opportunity and decided to try his luck with a startup in online retail sales. He settled on the concept of an online bookstore.
Because D.E. Shaw & Co. was headquartered in New York City, that is where Bezos was living when he decided to leave the company.
After doing the requisite research, Bezos found that the state of Washington would enable him to operate his company with a very low overhead due to its minimal sales taxes.
In 1995, Bezos registered his new company in the city of Bellevue, Washington—on the eastern shore of Lake Washington, directly across the from Seattle, and coincidentally the headquarters of Bill Gates’s Microsoft.
Bezos called the company “Amazon.” He has said he chose the name for two reasons: it began with the first letter of the alphabet and it was the world’s largest river—reflecting his objective (ultimately attained!) of creating the world’s largest retailer.
Bezos was clear-eyed about the risks of his undertaking, telling early investors that he estimated the chances of their losing their money at 70%.
Far from losing their investment, they became multi-millionaires.
From the outset, Bezos intended to sell many different products. Within three years, his success with the online bookstore allowed him to begin expanding the company’s operations to other product lines, beginning with music and video.
A large part of Bezos’s business strategy was to buy up smaller competitors in the various product niches he was expanding into.
In 2000, Bezos founded Blue Origin, a private aerospace manufacturing and sub-orbital spaceflight company.
Bezos’s fortune is estimated to top $166 billion.
Selected Works by Bezos
Jeff Bezos: In His Own Words, edited Helena Hunt (2018).
Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos, edited by Walter Isaacson (2020).
Jeff Bezos: 199 Best Quotes from the Great Entrepreneur; Amazon, Blue Origin, Space Colonization, Leadership Principles, Failure and Success, edited by Olivia Longray (2020).
Jeff Bezos: In His Own Words; Taken from Interviews and Podcasts, edited by Raphael Afil (2021).
Selected Books About Bezos and Amazon
Adams, Andrew, Think Like a Titan: Lessons from Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett (2019).
Anderson, Steve and Karen Anderson, The Bezos Letters: 14 Principles to Grow Your Business Like Amazon (2019).
Brandt, Richard L., One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com (2011).
Davenport, Christian, The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos (2018).
Fernholz, Tim, Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race (2018).
Leibovich, Mark, The New Imperialists (2002).
MacGregor, J.R., Jeff Bezos: The Force Behind the Brand: Insight and Analysis into the Life and Accomplishments of the Richest Man on the Planet (2018).
McNab, Chris, Jeff Bezos: The World-Changing Entrepreneur (2022).
Pandey, Sangeeta, The Making of the Greatest Jeff Bezos (2019).
Reynolds, Elliot, Jeff Bezos: Biography of a Billionaire Business Titan (2019).
Rossman, John, The Amazon Way: Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles (2021).
Stone, Brad, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (2013).
Stone, Brad, Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire (2021).