The initial start-up capital for Amazon.com came primarily from my parents, who invested a large fraction of their life savings in something they didn't understand. They weren't making a bet on Amazon or the concept of a bookstore on the internet. They were making a bet on their son. I told them I thought there was a 70 percent chance they would lose their investment, and they did it anyway. It took more than fifty meetings for me to raise $1 million from investors, and over the course of all those meetings, the most common question was, "What's the internet?"
Unlike many other countries around the world, this great nation we live in supports and does not stigmatize entrepreneurial risk-taking. I walked away from a steady job into a Seattle garage to found my startup, fully understanding it might not work. It feels like just yesterday I was driving the packages to the post office myself, dreaming that one day we might be able to afford a forklift.
Amazon's success was anything but preordained. Investing in Amazon early on was a very risky proposition. From our founding through the end of 2001, our business had accumulated losses of nearly $3 billion, and we did not have a profitable quarter until the fourth quarter of that year. Smart analysts predicted Barnes & Noble would steamroll us, and branded us "Amazon.toast." In 1999, after we'd been in business for nearly five years, Barron's headlined a story about our impending demise "Amazon.bomb." My annual shareholder letter for 2000 started with a one-word sentence" "Ouch."