“If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle,” he said.
He cited Amazon’s infamous Fire phone as an example of a failure – but pointed out that work on the Fire phone assisted in the development of Amazon’s Echo smart speakers and the Alexa digital assistant.
“While the Fire phone was a failure, we were able to take our learnings (as well as the developers) and accelerate our efforts building Echo and Alexa,” Bezos said.
This philosophy – that it’s better to have failed than to never have tried in the first place – is core to how Bezos looks at his own life.
“I knew that when I was 80, I was not going to regret having tried this,” Bezos said in a 2001 interview with the Academy of Achievement. “I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed, I wouldn’t regret that. But I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. I knew that that would haunt me every day.”
In the case of Amazon, Bezos applies that same philosophy on a much larger scale.
“This kind of large-scale risk taking is part of the service we as a large company can provide to our customers and to society,” he said. “We will work hard to make them good bets, but not all good bets will ultimately pay out.”
Of course, this being a letter from the CEO of a publicly-traded company to its shareholders, Bezos has reassurance and tempering to offer as well.
As Bezos put it: “The good news for shareowners is that a single big winning bet can more than cover the cost of many losers.”
Bezos will step down as Amazon’s CEO on Monday, July 5. He’s being replaced by Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy.
Amazon launched the free multiplayer game “Crucible” in May 2020 after five years of work and millions of dollars in development. The game performed poorly against competitors, and never reached nearly enough concurrent players to make any money, Ben Gilbert reported for Insider.
Amazon was reportedly reluctant to commit to endeavors with Haven, its CEO left, and it lost financial backing. It shut down in February 2021, though the companies said they would still work together on healthcare plans for their own employees.
Amazon launched its Instagram-like visual shopping platform, Amazon Spark, in 2017.
The idea was that customers would browse a photo-heavy feed, with products featured in the photographs, as a new way to shop and discover the huge array of items sold on Amazon.com.
“Spark is not gone entirely, we’ve pivoted and narrowed the experience based on what resonated with customers,” a spokesperson for Amazon told Business Insider‘s Mary Hanbury.
On June 11, Amazon told Geekwire in an email that its Amazon Restaurants service would be shutting down.
First launched in 2015, the service delivered freshly prepared food from local restaurants to customers via Amazon’s same-day delivery network, which it also uses for Prime Now deliveries. It later expanded to 20 US cities and London before its demise.
On May 4, Amazon sent an email to users saying that it would be shutting down its Amazon Storywriter and Amazon Storybuilder features, effective June 30.
Combined, the services enabled TV and film writers to easily create scripts, which could then be submitted directly to Amazon Studios for consideration. It previously shut down the script submission program in 2018, putting the future of Storybuilder and Storywriter into question.
“After much review, we came to the decision to discontinue our pop-up kiosk program, and are instead expanding Amazon Books and Amazon 4-star, where we provide a more comprehensive customer experience and broader selection,” a spokesperson for Amazon said.
The stores were a place where customers interested in smart gadgets, such as Amazon’s Echo and Fire TV products, could see how they worked in the real world before purchasing them.
Dash buttons offered a way to reorder a consumable item on Amazon without having to think about it. Customers could link an item and preferred quantity to the button, and press it whenever they needed more. The buttons could be mounted in cupboards or on top of washing machines.
Amazon stopped offering them for sale this year, but a spokesperson told CNET they were a rousing success in that they got customers used to shopping without a screen.
“Dash button was an awesome stepping stone into the world of connected home,” Daniel Rausch, an Amazon vice president, said, later adding, “We never imagined a future where customers had 500 buttons in their home. We imagined a future where the home was taking care of itself, including replenishing everyday items that customers would rather not worry about.”
Now that the AmazonBasics microwave can automatically reorder popcorn, there’s simply no need for a separate $5 button.
Amazon stopped selling the device near the end of 2018, and its product page on Amazon.com tells customers: “This device is no longer available, however Certified Refurbished Amazon Tap is refurbished, tested, and certified to look and work like new.”
But as Amazon puts Alexa functionality in nearly everything, a portable device probably isn’t as useful.
Customers could order items such as snacks, drinks, and basic essentials from the Amazon app and use a barcode to access their purchases at designated Pickup locations. An Amazon employee would fill an Instant Pickup locker within minutes of the order being placed.
However, Amazon pulled the plug on the service, a company spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider in 2018. The company did not specify when the service ended.
Amazon Tickets launched in 2015 in the UK, a market with fewer exclusive contracts than in the US, potentially giving the retailer room to muscle in.
It closed by 2018. A planned rollout in the US was also cancelled in 2017.
Whole Foods 365
Whole Foods, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amazon, announced earlier this year that it would not be moving forward with its Whole Foods 365-branded stores.
These stores were designed to cater to younger shoppers with aisles full of budget-friendly private-label goods.
Business Insider’s Hayley Peterson reported that the brand would sunset and that no new stores would carry the 365 name. The company cited a diminishing price difference between 365 stores and regular Whole Foods stores as a reason for the change.
Amazon Fresh’s Local Market Seller
Amazon Fresh is Amazon’s fresh-grocery delivery service — its answer to home and business grocery-delivery services such as FreshDirect and Peapod.
Amazon acquired Quidsi for $545 million in 2010. Quidsi, founded by Marc Lore and Vinit Bharara, was the parent company of the early 2000s e-commerce darling Diapers.com, which expanded into Soap.com, Wag.com, BeautyBar.com, Casa.com, and YoYo.com.
Amazon Local was also shut down in 2015. A “daily deals” site similar to Groupon and LivingSocial, Local’s end was not too surprising, as the two other sites saw spectacular rises and subsequently drastic falls.
Amazon Wallet died before it ever got off the ground. Launched in 2014, it was a standalone Android app that stored gift cards and loyalty cards for different stores.
Amazon Local Register enabled small brick-and-mortar businesses to accept credit-card payments through Amazon’s payment processing with a card reader that attached to a smartphone, similar to a Square card reader.
Critics consider the Fire Phone Amazon’s first and largest failure. In October of the same year, Amazon announced a $170 million write-down “primarily related to Fire phone inventory valuation and supplier commitment costs” in its quarterly earnings report.
WebPay was Amazon’s version of PayPal in that it facilitated payments between people. It shut down in 2014, eliminated the person-to-person payments, and became Amazon Pay, a service that facilitates payments between shoppers and merchants.
Askville was similar to Yahoo Answers and Google Answers, but users were encouraged to answer questions through a gamified process.
With PayPhrase, Amazon customers could create a unique string of words that they would enter every time they wanted to check out quickly. It would be tied to a preselected payment option and address, so customers could just enter the phrase and PIN, and they were done, similar to Amazon 1-Click.