Jeff Bezos stepping away from being the CEO of Amazon was a seismic change for the company – and its tradition of writing an annual letter to shareholders.
Andy Jassy, who previous led AWS to its incredible heights, has stepped up the plate and released his first letter, the 2021 Letter to Shareholders, clocking in at over 6,000 words and covering a huge array of topics.
"Over the past 25 years at Amazon, I’ve had the opportunity to write many narratives, emails, letters, and keynotes for employees, customers, and partners," says Jassy. "But, this is the first time I’ve had the honor of writing our annual shareholder letter as CEO of Amazon. Jeff set the bar high on these letters, and I will try to keep them worth reading."
Jassy covers three main topics in his letter: AWS, Amazon's consumer businesses and Prime, and labour issues.
According to Jassy, AWS is continuing its meteoric rise and remains the premier cloud services provider. Growth slowed slightly during the pandemic, dropping to a meagre 30% year-over-year, but Jassy says things have returned to 2019 levels.
The consumer business has gone from strength to strength, too, boosted by the pandemic forcing consumers to shop online. Jassy commends Amazon's workforce for adapting to the historic changes without missing a beat.
Much of Jassy's letter is devoted to a huge topic for Amazon: labor.
Amazon workers in Staten Island recently voted to form the first labor union at the company, an historic change that could fundamentally reshape how the company interacts with its workforce.
It's no secret that Amazon works its workers hard – very hard. Over the years, there have been numerous stories about workplace injuries, delivery drivers having to pee in bottles, corporate employees crying at their desks, and more.
While Jassy doesn't mention the word "union", a considerable amount of ink is spilled championing what he says are innovations in workplace management and employee relations, such as the $15 minimum wage.
"When I first started in my new role, I spent significant time in our fulfillment centers and with our safety team, and hoped there might be a silver bullet that could change the numbers quickly," Jassy says, referring to warehouse injury rates. "I didn’t find that."
Jassy is only a few months into the job – and Jeff Bezos remains the Chairman of the Board – and so his first shareholder letter is an interesting document.
Towards the end, Jassy highlights many of the things he plans to do and future initiatives from Amazon, such as the Kuiper internet satellite network.
Amazon is almost too big to fail at this point, but the company does face significant headwinds from a range of areas: regulators, labour unions, Microsoft's relentless push with Azure, and the climate crisis.
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Max Slater-Robins has been writing about technology for nearly a decade at various outlets, covering the rise of the technology giants, trends in enterprise and SaaS companies, and much more besides. Originally from Suffolk, he currently lives in London and likes a good night out and walks in the countryside.