Founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, Amazon has evolved to become the world’s largest online retailer with more than $107 billion in net sales in 2015. But the company wasn’t originally incorporated as Amazon: Bezos originally named it ‘Cadabra.’ After a lawyer misheard the name as ‘cadaver,’ Bezos knew he needed to change the name of his company. Although he initially considered renaming it to Relentless, even purchasing the corresponding domain, which still redirects to the online retailer, friends advised him that the name sounded too sinister for his vision.
So Bezos flipped through the dictionary and eventually decided on ‘Amazon.’ Like the Amazon River in Brazil, he envisioned his online store being the biggest in the world. And he wanted it to be just as “exotic and different” as the rainforest. Bezos also noted that a company name starting with the letter ‘A’ would have a greater chance of being at the top of any list that was ordered alphabetically. In July of 1995, Bezos’s company went online as Amazon.com – an online bookstore.
Bezos decided to start as an online bookstore after he read a report about the internet’s future, projecting that e-commerce would grow at 2,300 percent. He created a list of 20 possible products he could market online and narrowed it to the five most promising ones: computer hardware, computer software, compacts discs, videos and books. After discussions with other contributors to the company, including John Ingram and Kevur Patel, he decided his business would sell books because of the worldwide demand for literature and their low price points.
During the first two months in business, Amazon sold books to all 50 states and to more than 45 countries. Its sales were up to $20,000/week within months. When the dot-com bubble burst at the turn of the 21st century, Amazon survived while many other e-companies saw their demise. It became a major player in the online retail game, turning its first profit in the fourth quarter of 2001. Fifteen years later, it has surpassed Walmart and is now the world’s go-to online retailer.