Top Innovators

Jeff Bezos: The Great Disruptor

Jeff Bezos' vision for a new kind of retailing helped reshape banks' traditional distribution strategies.

Several of BS&T's "Top Innovators of the Decade" are recognized for their contributions to bringing banking into the world of ecommerce. But it would have been much more difficult to make those contributions without the disruption Jeff Bezos brought to the retail industry. Bezos, a computer science major, worked on Wall Street before he relocated to Seattle and in 1995 acted on his inspiration for a new kind of business: selling books over the Internet.

That company of course was Amazon.com, which reported 2010 net sales of $34.2 billion, a figure comprised not only of sales of books but also of all kinds of consumer goods (by enabling other businesses to leverage its ecommerce platform); in-the-cloud infrastructure services based on its own back-end technology platform; and its Kindle e-book (a category Amazon created), among a variety of content and technology offerings. When Time named Bezos its 1999 Person of the Year, it declared: "[His] vision of the online retailing universe was so complete, his Amazon.com site so elegant and appealing, that it became from Day One the point of reference for anyone who had anything to sell online." That year consumers bought about $15 billion in consumer goods online. In 2011, according to Forrester Research, consumer online retail sales will surpass $190 billion.