Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos says that his company’s remarkable success over the last two decades is transforming lives and leading to social change, not only through the value of its stock but also its innovative products and services.
“I own 16 percent of Amazon, [and the company] is worth roughly $1trillion,” Bezos told the nearly 1,500 attendees at The Economic Club of Washington, D.C., Milestone Celebration Dinner on Sept. 13. “That means that what we have built over 20 years is over $840 billion of wealth for other people.”
“That’s what we’ve done and that's great. That’s how it should be. I believe so powerfully in the ability of entrepreneurial capitalism and free markets to solve so many of the world’s problems. Not all of them, but so many of them,” added Bezos.
The Washington Housing Initiative, a community-led enterprise sponsored by developer JBG SMITH and the Federal City Council, was the title sponsor for the event, and is considered a prime example of the kind of entrepreneurial capitalism Bezos described.
In a lively conversation with David Rubenstein, the Economic Club President and a Founder of the Carlyle Group, Bezos said he is open to government reviews of Amazon and its practices, but he pointed out that the sheer size of the company shouldn’t be a cause for alarm.
“It’s really important that politicians and others understand the value big companies bring and not demonize or vilify business, in general,” Bezos said. “There are certain things only big companies can do.
“Nobody in their garage is going to build an all-carbon-fiber, fuel-efficient Boeing 747. It’s not going to happen,” said Bezos. “You need Boeing to do that. If you like your iPhone, you need Apple to do that. You need Samsung to do that. Entrepreneurial capitalism does those kinds of things very well.”
Those in attendance hoping Bezos would leak the secret of where Amazon’s second headquarters will be located were disappointed. He declined to announce whether the D.C. region would be home to Amazon’s $5 billion HQ2.
“We will announce a decision before the end of this year,” said Bezos. “We’ve made tremendous progress. The team is working its butts off on it. We will get there.”
The list of 20 contenders for HQ2 and its 50,000 jobs includes D.C., Montgomery County in Maryland and Northern Virginia. Among the people attending the dinner were D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
Earlier in the day, Bezos had announced that he and his wife would make a $2 billion commitment to create the Day One Fund, which would build shelters for homeless families and develop preschools for low-income children.
“We know for a fact that if a kid falls behind it’s really, really hard to catch up,” Bezos said. “If you can give somebody a leg up when they’re 2, 3 or 4 years old, by the time they get to kindergarten or first grade, they’re much less likely to fall behind. You’re really improving their odds.”