Success and failure often go hand in hand according to Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos who recently told shareholders that the company needs to “occasionally have multi billion-dollar failures” to ensure that it is “experimenting at the right scale” for a business of its size.
In his annual letter to shareholders, Bezos reminded them of how the tech giant’s Fire Phone failed miserably while its Echo line of smart speakers has done incredibly well despite being a huge departure from the company’s product lineup at launch, saying:
“Development of the Fire phone and Echo was started around the same time. 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. No customer was asking for Echo. This was definitely us wandering. Market research doesn’t help. If you had gone to a customer in 2013 and said “Would you like a black, always-on cylinder in your kitchen about the size of a Pringles can that you can talk to and ask questions, that also turns on your lights and plays music?” I guarantee you they’d have looked at you strangely and said “No, thank you.””
Taking risks to innovate
While the Echo certainly paid off better in the long run than the Fire Phone, both projects are prime examples of how Amazon has taken risks on innovative projects that sometimes pay off and sometimes don’t.
Only 35,000 Fire phones were sold in total according to The Guardian whereas Amazon has sold over 100m Echo Alexa-enabled devices with over 150 third-party products available.
Bezos also hailed the success of its 10 automated Amazon Go stores saying 90 percent of retail is still offline.
He ended his letter by explaining how the majority of merchandise sold through Amazon is offered by third-parties while challenging competitors such as Walmart to match or beat Amazon’s $15-per-hour minimum wage.
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