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I Went To Visit Amazon, And Then Amazon Came Looking For Me

By Scott Costa, Publisher, tED magazine

It wouldn't be a trip to Seattle without a stop at the Amazon Headquarters. And since the Washington State Convention Center is just 3 or 4 blocks from Amazon Headquarters, there was no reason to not drop by for a look at what is going on at the “online giant.”

First, just so you are aware.

It. Is. Awesome.

I know, many of you are thinking it's just a high-rise building where a lot of people go to work. It's a lot more than that. There's a buzz as employees “storm the building” in the morning, equipped with a cup of coffee, a piece of fruit, or both. The building even has a special entrance for employees who are riding their bikes to work.

In front of the building, there are 12 or so employees standing outside a box truck to let passers-by know about the latest partnerships or innovations by Amazon. On this day, the employees were hosting virtual tours of how their lives or businesses will change thanks to Amazon's partnership with Intel, which is supposed to encourage them to build their own products using Amazon's voice technology on Intel's platforms.

Here's the thing: all of those employees, and there were easily more than 100 of them walking in or moving around, are what culture and innovation and leadership and creating value for your customers looks like in real life. They walk into a building called “Day 1” which, the way Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos describes it, means the online giant will never stop behaving like a start-up. It will dream big. It will accept that not everyone will agree on all ideas. But it will constantly move toward the next goal. To witness this huge group of people moving in the direction of that goal is very inspiring.

The employees are inspired by “The Spheres” which is an area just outside of “Day 1” where employees are encouraged to “think and work differently” as a way to encourage innovation. It is described as the thing urban offices are missing, “a direct link to nature.”

Connected to “Day 1” is Amazon's first grocery store, Amazon Go. Before the purchase of Whole Foods last summer, Amazon opened its first brick and mortar grocery store designed to use Amazon technology aimed at making shopping easier. The store is still only available to Amazon employees, based on some reports that there are kinks in the process and it is not ready for the general public. But experts see many of the innovations coming to a Whole Foods near you soon.

Also coming near you soon is Amazon Business. tED magazine reported Amazon Business bought its first ad in Electrical Contractor magazine back in May of this year. The ad is certainly not worthy of a tED magazine “Best of the Best” award, since it was pretty simple and offering a $10 discount if contractors spent $100 on Amazon Business. But in October, Amazon Business is back with a two page spread. This time, its promoting “commodity” items like outlets, switches and wall plates.

This is just one of the many attempts by Amazon to make a connection with the contractor customer. Another one happened on Monday, October 9. An Amazon Vendor Management executive took the three or four block walk from the “Day 1” headquarters to the Washington State Convention Center to walk the floor at the NECA show. He met with contractors and stopped by many of the manufacturer's booths for a few minutes.

It could be that this was a “local” opportunity for Amazon, since the event is basically in the back yard of the Amazon Spheres. But combined with the two-page ad in Electrical Contractor, it is becoming more obvious that Amazon is interested in our supply chain.

One last note: at one point, the Amazon executive saw tED magazine had a booth at the NECA Show. He wanted to stop by and talk, because, as it was told to me, he knows that tED writes about Amazon a lot. I was not at the booth at the time, so it was a missed opportunity. But we know this much. They are reading about you. They are learning about you and your customers. And they are taking that walk to see what is happening with us, just like I am with them.


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