2018 - 1st Party vs 3rd Party

From 3rd party selling success to a highlight of AWS services to Alexa to employees, Jeff covers a wide range of topics in this year’s letter. Most notable is the 3rd party selling success and the challenge to competitors to not only meet, but also beat the $15/hour minimum wage.

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2017 - The Written Narrative

This is the 20th shareholder letter, and my favorite. Jeff gives us three pages of updates across Amazon and talks about high standards. He includes three paragraphs about communicating via a written narrative that have transformed the way I communicate.

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2016 - Day 2 & Decision Making

Jeff was asked at an employee all-hands meeting what Day 2 looks like. Stasis, irrelevance, decline, and eventual death. So if that's the case, how do you keep it always Day 1, especially at a company the size of Amazon? If you're reading the letters chronologically, I bet you can guess the next two words. He also dives into decision making, which is one of the most interesting parts of this shareholder letter.

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2015 - Growth

Amazon became the fastest company to hit $100 billion in annual sales, and AWS hit $10 billion in annual sales at a faster pace than Amazon. Jeff goes on to compare and contrast AWS vs Amazon and again highlights Customer Obsession. After a riff on culture, Jeff talks about failure, something most companies are not ok with. He wraps up with points on sustainability and social invention.

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2014 - I Told You So

This is an "I told you so" letter from Amazon to it's naysayers, in no uncertain terms. Marketplace, Prime, and AWS were all "bold bet[s] at first, and sensible people worried (often!) that they could not work." Jeff highlights each of them in detail. This is a longer-than-usual letter, coming in at 5 pages.

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2013 - A Tour of Amazon

Jeff is taking us on a tour of various products and services from employment at Amazon to Retail to HQ space to charity. I've included the list and an interesting point or two from each section.

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2012 - Being Customer Centric

The 2012 letter is chock full of more customer testimonials and customer centric ideas from proactive refunds to author payouts to Prime benefits to price drops on AWS. It's all about the customer in this letter.

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2011 - Self-Service Innovation

The first 1.5 pages is customer testimonials for Amazon services from AWS to Kindle Direct Publish to Fulfillment by Amazon. I included two of Jeff's quotes for this letter instead of the usual one. I think he says it best.

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2010 - Solving Big Problems

Jeff opens with a bunch of computer science terms, and then goes on to illustrate how Amazon is (happily) solving technical challenges that don't have solutions either in academia or the tech world. For the nerd crowd, this letter is really worth the read. Jeff closes out the letter tying back to free cash flows. After all this letter is for shareholders, not nerds.

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2009 - A List of Achievements

This shareholder letter, as Jeff states, is "the cumulative effect of 15 years of customer experience improvements: increasing selection, speeding delivery, reducing cost structure so we can afford to offer customers ever-lower prices, and many others." It’s a list of Amazon’s achievements in the past 15 years as a public company.

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2008 - Working Backwards

Jeff opens the 2008 letter with a reference to the financial crisis plaguing the United States at that time. He reiterates Customer Obsession above all else, then talks about a common Amazon philosophy: Working Backwards. He then finishes out the letter talking to shareholders about Amazon's 'prudent spending,' justifying the outlays of cash Amazon is spending in AWS, 3P (third party) tools, digital media, and the China market.

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2007 - Kindle

This year's letter is a big push for Kindle, a device that sold out in just 5.5 hours. Jeff touts it's importance and even the wireless connection (not Wi-Fi in the original) that connected to 3G cellular networks. But most interestingly he made an analogy of Kindle to paper books as amazon.com is to physical, old school retail.

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2006 - New Business Ideas

Jeff talks all about new business ideas: one not ventured into (at the time) and retail. He discusses acquiring, Joyo.com, in China, one retail play, Fulfillment by Amazon, and one idea that would change Amazon forever, AWS. Jeff then talks about how growth is still celebrated, even though it might have a smaller impact to Amazon overall.

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2005 - Decisions

I can attest to this - Amazon is data driven. SO MUCH DATA! Data about everything. When possible, make a decision not based on gut, but based on hard numbers. But what about when you don't have the data? Or Customer Obsession tells you differently?

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2004 - Free Cash Flow

This is the first time we’ve seen charts or visualizations of any sort in one of Jeff’s letters. As someone who does not have a background in finance, I’m parsing this as a complete layman. The overall point is to illustrate Jeff's defense that free cash flow is what investors should be looking at, not a standard income statement. He goes into quite a bit of detail, including examples.

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2002 - Peculiar

I formulate my “recap” of each letter by reading and taking notes as I go, and pulling out interesting facts and quotes. I got three sentences in this letter and wrote the word “Peculiar.”

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2001 - Customer Obsession

The letter opens talking about Amazon’s financial achievements being marked by the move to institute a handsome discount, and we hear about those two words that I will forever associate with Amazon — “customer obsession.”

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2000 - Ouch.

Jeff starts off with an “ouch” and proceeds to describe good performance, despite the 80% drop in Amazon’s price-per-share from the bust of the dot-com bubble.

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1999 - What Do I Own?

After a brief recap, Jeff. solicits thank you notes from shareholders for the Amazon team, delivered to him via jeff@amazon.com. The letter then goes on to detail thoughts on a question posed to Jeff, quoted below. The rest of the letter explains the six goals for Amazon in 2000. Overall, no real business insights or takeaways here, more of a general run-of-the-mill shareholder letter.

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