Brayden Haws

October 21, 2022

Executioner vs Caretaker: Amazon’s Opposing and Successful Strategies

In the last two years I have written 46 blog posts. 20% are about Amazon or reference them. I’m more obsessed with Amazon than I ever thought I would be. (My bank account and mailman can verify this). Considering how they have shaped multiple industries, they deserve to have a lot written about them.

Experimentation has been core to both Amazon and AWS throughout their lifespans. Once Bezos realized the rate at which internet was being adopted, Amazon was off to the races. They had to build the future of e-commerce, while educating customers on the market. And staying ahead of well-financed competitors.

Amazon Auctions. Z-Shops. Embedding on portals (Yahoo, AOL). All things that Amazon tried and realized were not the future of the customer experience. In building the consumer pillar of their business, Amazon was a shrewd executioner. They killed any experiment or product that did not show promise for outsized success.

As always the Acquired podcast summed this up better than I ever could:

Building the consumer business was all about shrewdness and cutting. The building of AWS was a different story.

The founding story of AWS is a little unclear (there are 4-5 different versions depending on who you ask). But the underlying principle of AWS is consistent regardless of how it started. In growing AWS, Bezos mandated that departments avoid emails and other  communication. Instead they were required to build APIs. These APIs allowed for sharing of services. The APIs and services became so useful that Amazon started to make them available to the public, under the AWS brand name. From Zack Kanter’s seminal piece “What is Amazon”:

The amount and types of services grew quickly. The rate of adoption grew just as fast.  As with the Amazon e-commerce business, not every was a big hit. But unlike that business AWS was slow to kill anything. These services had become foundations both internally, and to external businesses. So rather than once again playing the role of executor, Amazon became a caretaker. It has continued this caretaker status through the present day. AWS was built by combining rapid innovation with a high resistance for sunsetting services. If you have ever logged into the AWS console and complained about the clutter, this strategy is to blame.

Amazon Web Services.png

And Acquired explained this better than I possibly could:

It was intriguing to learn about Hulu and YouTube’s strategies. Two streamers executing opposite strategies, and both being successful. It is even more impressive to see one company, execute opposing strategies, to drive success across two products. The vision needed to approach your new product with a new strategy is world class. Few companies could do what Amazon has done. And now in this new era, with Jassy at the helm, it is hard to bet against them doing it again.

About Brayden Haws

Healthcare guy turned tech wannabe. Doing product stuff at Grow. Building Utah Product Guild⚒️. Created the PM A.M. Newsletter. Curated the Patchwork PM Bible. Built SpeakEasy. Constantly tinkering on my 🛻. Occasionally writing poor takes on product strategy and technology.

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