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“People yawn”, says Jeff Bezos, stepping down as Amazon CEO. Andy Jassy’s not yawning…

Jeff Bezos is to step down as CEO of Amazon in Q3 of 2021, with AWS CEO Andy Jassy taking over the role of chief executive. The company has yet to announce a planned replacement for the pivotal role of AWS CEO.

“AWS is arguably the most profitable and important technology company in the world. We’re very happy to see Jeff and Andy get new perspectives”, said Amazon’s head of investor relations Dave Fildes on an earnings call.

The news came today in Amazon’s full-year earnings announcement, as the company reported 2020 net profits of $21.3 billion, on staggering sales of $386.1 billion, up 38% year-on-year. (A side note: strikingly, the company saved $1 billion on transport costs in 2020 as sales teams switched to remote work).

Bezos will stay on as executive chair and in a letter to employees said this will give him “time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, the Washington Post…” and other efforts.

The move comes after a dramatic 24 months for Bezos, including a blackmail attempt by the National Enquirer that resulted in a dramatic and furious public denouncement, and the alleged hack of his phone via a WhatsApp message by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

New AWS CEO? “We’ll be working on backfilling the AWS role and will talk more about that in the future”

AWS CEO Andy Jassy has spearheaded AWS’s rampant, disruptive growth and helped turn it into an industry-shaking technology leader. (John Furrier describes it as “the biggest disruptive force in tech history that happened by accident” in this compelling write-up of the hyperscaler’s genesis).

No clear signals were given on who will replace him. Amazon told investors on the earnings call: “We’ll be working on backfilling the AWS role and will talk more about that in the future.”

For Q4 AWS meanwhile reported customer migrations including JPMorgan Chase, Itaú Unibanco (Latin America’s largest bank), Standard Chartered Bank; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Thomson Reuters; ViacomCBS; Arm; Twitter; Star Alliance (the world’s largest airline alliance); Zalando (Europe’s largest online fashion and lifestyle platform); Siemens Smart Infrastructure; and the BMW Group, with a backlog of work.

Other highlights for the year from Amazon included it becoming the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy. The company has 127 renewable plants around the world and is investing in 26 new utility-scale wind and solar projects in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Sweden, the UK, and the US.

Bezos said: “Amazon is what it is because of invention. We do crazy things together and then make them normal. We pioneered customer reviews, 1-Click, personalized recommendations, Prime’s insanely-fast shipping, Just Walk Out shopping, the Climate Pledge, Kindle, Alexa, marketplace, infrastructure cloud computing, Career Choice, and much more. If you do it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. That yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive. When you look at our financial results, what you’re actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention. Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever.”

The era of the cloud CEO…

Todd McKinnon, CEO and co-founder, Okta, said: “The news of Andy Jassy taking over as CEO of Amazon from Jeff Bezos is the latest in an emerging trend of cloud leaders stepping up as CEOs at some of the world’s largest companies. Appointments such as Satya Nadella at Microsoft, John Donahoe at Nike and Arvind Krishna at IBM confirm that we’re now officially in the era of the cloud CEO.   

“There are two primary drivers for the shift towards the Cloud CEO. Firstly, cloud technologists bring perspective and expertise that’s become increasingly valuable to business success. This expertise helps companies build a recurring revenue model that is crucial in serving today’s digital-first customers. In a market where consumers not only want instant gratification, but also want to rent, not buy — being a SaaS expert is invaluable.

“Secondly, cloud CEOs also better understand the decision-making around ‘build, buy, partner’ and strategically approach innovation in both technology-focused and business-friendly ways. They recognise the signals of disruption and know how to react quickly to market shifts. Cloud leaders like Andy Jassy have already led the massive shift from on-prem to cloud and understand how systemic shifts can affect every type of business. If you look at today’s Fortune 500 companies compared to those of the 20th century, we can see a huge shift in the business landscape over the past 50 years and the winners are technology companies. Cloud technologists will continue to reshape the way companies do business. These technologists will continue to reshape the way companies do business as we go further into the era of the cloud CEO.” 

See also: Dr Michael Gorriz, Group CIO, Standard Chartered, on going all-in on the cloud in 2021.

Ed Targett

Ed Targett is founder of The Stack. He has previously served as editor at Tech Monitor, Computer Business Review, and Roubini Global Economics.

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