The “lost” Jeff Bezos 1997 interview just about a year after starting Amazon.

Interviewer: “Who are you?”

“I’m Jeff Bezos”

Interviewer: “What’s your claim to fame?”

“ha, ha, ha, I am the founder of Amazon dot com”

This was filmed in June 1997 at the Special Libraries (SLA) conference by Richard Wiggans of Dr. Chuck Films. It is no longer “lost”.

My Speech to Text fast transcript:

“who are you I’m Jeff Bezos and what was your claim to fame and the
founder of amazon.com where did you get
an idea for amazon.com well three years
ago I was in New York City working for a
quantitative hedge fund when I came
across the startling statistic the web
usage was growing at 2,300 percent a
year so I decided I would try and find a
business plan that made sense in the
context of that growth and I picked
books as the first best product of saw
online which making a list like 20
different products that you might be
able to sell and books were great as the
first best because books are incredibly
unusual in one respect that is that
there are more items in the book
category and there are items than any
other category by far music is number
two they’re about two hundred thousand
active music CDs at any given time but
in the book space they’re more than
three million different books worldwide
active and printed any given time across
all languages what more than one and a
half million in English alone so when
you have that many items it literally
build a store online that couldn’t exist
any other way that’s important right now
because the web is still an infant
technology basically right now if you
can do things using more traditional
method you probably should do them using
the
traditional method what kind of
inventory do you
we inventory the best-selling books at
any given time we’re inventory in our
own warehouse only a couple of thousand
titles and then we have we do almost in
time inventory for another 400,000
titles or so we get those from a network
of electronic we order electronically
from a network of wholesalers and
distributors we order those today
they’re on our loading dock the next
morning then for another 1.1 million
titles we get those directly from 20,000
different publishers and those can take
a couple of weeks to get and then the
there are a million out of print books
in our catalog we have a callow two and
a half million books all together those
million out of print books some of them
we can get some of them we can’t but we
find them if we can and then we ship in
to our customers who kind of a search on
those what’s almost in time inventory
almost in time inventory is the phrase
we use to describe a whole selection of
books that we offer it’s basically the
things that are you know below mm
best-selling book up to the 400,000
bestseller book those are titles that we
can get from a network of more than a
dozen different wholesalers so if a
customer orders a book from us today
we order that book from our wholesalers
today
that book shows up on our loading dock
the next morning and then we can ship it
to the customer they say one of the
toughest things to do in the Internet is
to tap from mind share what was your
secret how did you move it yeah even
more generally I agree with you that you
know capturing mind share on the
Internet is extremely difficult even
more generally it’s the late 20th
century not just the internet you know

…{word count edit}…

advertising we don’t do that anymore but
at the very beginning we did little tiny
ads at the bottom of the front page of
the New York Times I thought that was
very clever of sort of using a URL as a
macro because I read expand we’re a
bookstore click here right that’s a
great way to think of it and it worked
very well I’ve been a baron I don’t know
you know the problem with that kind of
advertising is it’s extremely difficult
to track
putting up an URL for every that’s the
problems you want people to start to
learn your URL so you don’t want to
actually use a different one and it’s
very easy one of the great things about
online ads we do advertising today and
maybe 40 different different websites we
do banner ads and that advertising is
very easy to track in terms of knowing
how effective it is so we know for each
piece of creative in each venue not only
how many click throughs we get but how
many sell-through is we get how many
dollars of revenue generates per ad
dollars spent on that creative in that
venue that is a sort of a marketers you
know Nirvana certain sense well it’s an
exciting place to be on the web right
now oh it absolutely is I mean it’s just
incredible this is what’s really
incredible about this is that this is
day one this is the very beginning this
is the Kittyhawk stage of electronic
commerce we’re moving forward in so many
different areas lots of different
companies are as well in the late 20th
century it’s just a great time to be
alive you know we’re going to find out
that I think a millennia from now people
are going to look back and say wow the
late 20th century was really a great
time to be alive on this planet”