Why Jeff Bezos doesn't want you to be afraid of shadows

Why Jeff Bezos doesn't want you to be afraid of shadows
FILE - In this May 9, 2019, file photo Jeff Bezos speaks at an event before unveiling Blue Origin's Blue Moon lunar lander in Washington. Two U.N. experts this week called for the U.S. to investigate a likely hack of Bezos' phone that could have involved Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A commissioned forensic report found with “medium to high confidence” that Bezos' phone was compromised by a video MP4 file he received from the prince in May 2018. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)Associated Press

Hello, and welcome to this Wednesday's edition of the Insider Tech newsletter, where we break down the biggest news in tech. I'm your host Alexei Oreskovic.


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Soundtrack: This week's newsletter has been specially designed to be consumed while listening to "Summertime," by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.

This week: Jeff Bezos made a shadow in his own image. Now comes the $1.7 trillion test.

For a CEO waving goodbye, there's no rebuke more stinging than a surging stock - an in-your-face, unequivocal verdict, measured in market cap, of how happy investors are to see you go.

On the other hand, not even the most vain of CEOs wants to see their company's stock plunge when they head for the exit (if for no other reason than to protect their own financial interest tied to the company's equity).

So Jeff Bezos' surprise announcement Tuesday that he was handing over the CEO reins at Amazon after 27 years struck the perfect middle ground. Amazon's shares barely budged in after-hours trading, fluctuating less than 1% in either direction. The market, in other words, shrugged.


That's pretty astonishing when you consider that Bezos is the only CEO Amazon has ever had, and he's responsible for turning a scrappy online book vendor into the third most valuable company in the world, worth $1.7 trillion.

In any case, the regulatory threats facing Amazon, and all of Big Tech, right now are graver than they have ever been. So it's tough to imagine that Bezos, Mr. Day 1, would have concluded that his company can run on autopilot.

But don't underestimate the power in Bezos' hand-picked, and hand-made, successor. Andy Jassy, the new CEO of Amazon, was modeled as Bezos' shadow. A 24-year veteran of the company, Jassy was Bezos' first official "shadow advisor," a prestigious role that entails following the CEO around all day for 18 to 24 months, serving as his chief-of-staff, and learning every aspect of the company.

Why Jeff Bezos doesn't want you to be afraid of shadows
Jeff Bezos/Twitter/Insider

Jassy has since applied Bezos's worldview and management principles to Amazon's cloud business, turning it into giant that some analysts estimate would be worth more than $500 billion as a standalone company. As Eugene Kim and Ashley Stewart wrote in a prescient profile of Jassy this weekend, Jassy may not have the brusque edges that Bezos is known for, but the two are remarkably similar. Like Bezos, Jassy 's background is in business rather than engineering. And like Bezos, Jassy is obsessed with details such as press releases and product names.

Jassy even created a 3-day program, called Escape Velocity, to help director-level new hires rid themselves of past work habits and absorb the Amazon way. Just as Jassy downloaded Bezos' operating instructions while serving as his shadow, so Jassy's new recruits are re-programmed for life at Amazon. The "shadow" advisor role that follows Bezos is also replicated throughout the organization, with other Amazon execs having their own shadows.


It's a clever system, designed to ensure the company is stronger than any individual. But it's worth remembering, as Bloomberg's Brad Stone previously reported, that Bezos borrowed the shadow concept from another seemingly invincible tech titan, Intel.

Click here to read Eugene and Ashley's profile of Andy Jassy, Amazon's new CEO.

Why Jeff Bezos doesn't want you to be afraid of shadows
Mike Blake/Reuters; Joshua Roberts/Reuters; Skye Gould/Insider

And don't miss these other highlights of Insider's coverage on Amazon's big news:

Quote of the week

"There won't be instant millionaires made from Reg CF, but you're going to participate in the upside of everything we do at Backstage, and I think that's important."

- Arlan Hamilton on her venture capital firm's new initiative that relies 0n SEC crowdfunding rules to let ordinary people invest as little as $100 in the firm and be eligible to experience VC-like returns.


Snapshot: Here comes the Helix

A new CEO wasn't the only news Amazon announced on Tuesday. The internet giant also showed off artistic renderings for its planned office expansion in Arlington, Virginia. The new Amazon campus will include three office towers, with 2.8 million square feet of office space, and ... the helix!

The spiraling glass tower will serve as an "alternative work space" for employees, similar to the giant glass spheres at Amazon's Seattle headquarters. Two green, plant-filled walking paths will spiral outside of the Helix.

The bold design, apparently inspired by the geometry of human DNA, received mixed reviews on Twitter, with many comparing it to the poop emoji or soft serve ice cream.

Recommended Readings:

Google Cloud generated over $13 billion in revenue last year, but it's not yet profitable


US investors hunting unicorns piled into Europe at record levels in 2020. 2021 will be even bigger.

A healthcare startup serving LGBTQIA+ patients just raised $25 million, and its growth reveals a key area of opportunity for other primary care startups

Amazon and Bill Gates' energy fund are betting a startup will transform the $686 billion aviation industry with hydrogen gas

Google employees consider jumping ship for Facebook and Microsoft after firings, reorgs and mounting tension in its AI division

Alcohol delivery company Drizly was launched by cofounders in their early 20s right after college. It just sold for $1.1 billion.


Not necessarily in tech:

Robinhood makes hundreds of millions from selling customer orders. That business model is about to come into focus.

Sponsor Content:

A startup founder went from being a wedding photographer to a virtual-reality trainer. Here's how his company is reshaping corporate training.

A startup founder in London invented a product that could help reduce food waste globally. Here's how she used her industrial design degree to make it happen.

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And as always, please reach out with rants, raves, and tips at aoreskovic@businessinsider.com


- Alexei