People

Andy Jassy is now CEO of Amazon. Here’s what’s on his to-do list.

Taking the reins from Jeff Bezos won't be easy. Neither will grappling with the size and scope of the company he now runs.

Andy Jassy, Amazon's new CEO
Andy Jassy is Amazon's new CEO, and he has some big shoes to fill.
Photo: AWS re:Invent

Twenty-seven years to the day since Amazon.com was incorporated (though it was called Cadabra Inc. at the time), the company has its second leader. Andy Jassy is now running the show. And while on some level, this is as low-key a CEO transition as Amazon could have — Jassy's been at the company since 1997, and as CEO of AWS, he ran the company's biggest moneymaker, plus Jeff Bezos is still going to be involved at the company — it's still a big change.

Few companies have as wide a purview as Amazon does, and even fewer have as large an effect on the modern world. Jassy's vision and plan will have to be similarly widespread. And in so many cases around the company, he'll have to answer the same question: Where does Amazon need to slow down and focus, and where does it need to push and experiment?

With that in mind, here are eight things facing Jassy as he takes over the big chair in Seattle.

The looming antitrust battle. The same size and scope of Amazon that make it so uniquely powerful may also make it uniquely vulnerable to antitrust reform. Investigations loom into the way Amazon works with third-party merchants, into the combination of its store and AWS, even into how its MGM acquisition affects its position in the toilet paper-shipping industry. The name "Lina Khan" should send shivers up spines all over Seattle.

Jassy has mostly been left out of antitrust issues and hearings so far, because AWS hasn't been the focus of Congress's inquiry, but that's going to change quickly. He'll have to answer for Amazon's entire business, which gets harder as that business gets wider and bigger. And with Amazon poised to pass Walmart and become the largest U.S. company by sales, the scrutiny's only going to grow.

Worker unrest. In warehouses all over the U.S., workers are unhappy with the way they're treated by Amazon and are pushing to unionize. Amazon has long said that it pays and treats workers well, but the voices disagreeing are starting to get loud. Bezos made clear in recent months that this is a focus for Amazon, even adding to its leadership principles that Amazon should "strive to be the Earth's best employer."

Jassy will have to either acknowledge the increasing unionization effort, or put even more resources into fighting it. He'll have to find more ways to keep workers safe and happy, all while facing that typically Amazonian, relentless drive toward making everything more efficient.

A fast-changing S-team. One of the rarest things about Amazon was that its leadership never seemed to change. The so-called "S-team," made up of Bezos and his closest lieutenants (including Jassy), was a remarkably stable group. Until recently, anyway.

Bezos isn't the only important Amazon executive leaving the company. Jeff Wilke, the longtime head of the consumer business, left the company. Steve Kessel left in 2020 after leading seemingly every important project at one time or another. Jeff Blackburn left for a while and is now back in a new role running Amazon's media efforts. Adam Selipsky is back, too, as the new AWS CEO. And as The New York Times reported, even outside those very top ranks, there's an unusually large number of high-ranking executives who have left the company in recent months. That's not uncommon for such a large company, especially during a change like this one, but it means Jassy has a lot of leadership and culture work to do.

Expensive entertainment aspirations. When you're the richest guy in the world, it's natural to suddenly get Hollywood ambitions. And Bezos sure did; the company has spent billions of dollars on everything from MGM Studios to Thursday Night Football in an effort to become a major player in the entertainment world. Some moves have been hugely successful, while others, like its internal video game studio, haven't gone so well.

In many ways, all that expense contributes to Amazon's overall success, but the price is going up: Amazon spent $11 billion on video and music content in 2020, $8.5 billion on MGM and about $1 billion a year for NFL games. Does Jassy have the same Tinseltown ambitions?

Evolving the Everything Store. Amazon.com continues to be a great business, but its cracks are showing and growing. Fake reviews and counterfeit products are an enormous threat to the platform, there are antitrust questions about how Amazon uses third-party data to inform its own product decisions, and companies like Shopify are showing sellers that there's life outside the Everything Store.

Amazon has also invested massively in its logistics operation, spending big on everything from warehouse automation to drone delivery. It's also becoming a surprisingly huge brick-and-mortar player, thanks to Whole Foods and Amazon Go. With a new consumer-side leader in Dave Clark, Jassy's going to have to help decide what kind of store Amazon wants to be.

What's next for AWS. It's already the (mostly) undisputed king of cloud services, thanks in large part to Jassy's leadership. And its ambitions are as big as anything at Amazon. Even in recent days, it has been reported that AWS is planning a push into the productivity wars, buying the Wickr app, angling its Chime services as an infrastructure alternative to Zoom and Teams, integrating with Salesforce and building a partnership to try and crush Office.

Selipsky, the new CEO, has a long to-do list in front of him. It gets even longer if it becomes a real possibility that AWS could be split off from Amazon. But even without an earth-shattering change, Jassy will have to help AWS compete in a more competitive market while still trying to expand into new ones.

Climate change. None of the rest of this matters if everything's underwater, right? Amazon has spoken loudly and often about the Climate Pledge, and the company's commitment to being net-zero carbon by 2040. Bezos got to set the lofty goal; Jassy has to accomplish it.

It's not going to be easy, either. Amazon's carbon emissions grew 19% year-over-year in 2020, and while the glass-half-full read is that the company itself grew even faster (and so it's operating more efficiently), it makes painfully clear that Amazon's climate goals and growth plans are in direct conflict.

What kind of leader does he want to be? Bezos in recent years became a larger-than-life figure, a red carpet fixture, a tabloid mainstay. He got ripped, got divorced, booked his place on a rocket ship. Jassy has historically been much more private and down to earth, famously driving his old Jeep and not wanting to fly on private jets. He's been public in his support for Black Lives Matter, immigration reform and other causes, but that can be trickier to do from a bigger job. Will he be forced into the limelight simply by virtue of the fact that he's the CEO of Amazon? Or will he try to stay lower-key?

Internally, too, Jassy is known for being quieter and less intense than Bezos. The Wall Street Journal reported he's the type to speak last rather than first, and is famous for his one-word emails that say only, "Nice!" Jassy is demanding and organized, but not ruthless the way Bezos could be.

It can be tempting for new leaders to try and replicate their predecessor's energy and thinking, even the way they run their company. Jassy will have to learn to run Andy Jassy's Amazon, not just do his best Bezos impression.

You can't sit in a room with an Amazon employee and not have them tell you, "It's Day One." That has been Bezos's mantra, and Amazon's, for the 9,862 days since the company's incorporation. More than anything, Jassy's job is to make sure his first day as CEO doesn't go down in history as Day Two.

Theranos’ investor pitches go on trial

Prosecutors in the Elizabeth Holmes fraud case are now highlighting allegations the company sought to mislead investors.

The fresh details of unproven claims made about the viability of Theranos' blood tests and efforts to conceal errors when demonstrating testing equipment added to the evidence against Holmes, who is accused of fraud in her role leading the company.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Theranos trial continued this week with testimony from Daniel Edlin, a former product manager at the blood-testing startup, and Shane Weber, a scientist from Pfizer. Their testimonies appeared to bolster the government's argument that Holmes intentionally defrauded investors and patients.

The fresh details about audacious and unproven claims made about the viability of Theranos' blood tests and efforts to conceal errors when demonstrating testing equipment added to the evidence against Holmes, who is accused of fraud in her role leading the company.

Keep Reading Show less
Aisha Counts

Aisha Counts (@aishacounts) is a reporting fellow at Protocol, based out of Los Angeles. Previously, she worked for Ernst & Young, where she researched and wrote about the future of work, emerging technologies and startups. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California, where she studied business and philosophy. She can be reached at acounts@protocol.com.

The way we work has fundamentally changed. COVID-19 upended business dealings and office work processes, putting into hyperdrive a move towards digital collaboration platforms that allow teams to streamline processes and communicate from anywhere. According to the International Data Corporation, the revenue for worldwide collaboration applications increased 32.9 percent from 2019 to 2020, reaching $22.6 billion; it's expected to become a $50.7 billion industry by 2025.

"While consumers and early adopter businesses had widely embraced collaborative applications prior to the pandemic, the market saw five years' worth of new users in the first six months of 2020," said Wayne Kurtzman, research director of social and collaboration at IDC. "This has cemented collaboration, at least to some extent, for every business, large and small."

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Silver

Kate Silver is an award-winning reporter and editor with 15-plus years of journalism experience. Based in Chicago, she specializes in feature and business reporting. Kate's reporting has appeared in the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic's CityLab, Atlas Obscura, The Telegraph and many other outlets.

Protocol | Policy

8 takeaways from states’ new filing against Google

New details have been unsealed in the states' antitrust suit against Google for anticompetitive behavior in the ads market.

Google is facing complaints by government competition enforcers on several fronts.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Up to 22%: That's the fee Google charges publishers for sales on its online ad exchanges, according to newly unredacted details in a complaint by several state attorneys general.

The figure is just one of the many details that a court allowed the states to unveil Friday. Many had more or less remained secrets inside Google and the online publishing industry, even through prior legal complaints and eager public interest.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Protocol | Workplace

This tech founder uses a converted Sprinter van as an office on wheels

The CEO of productivity startup Rock likes to work on the road. Here's how he does it — starting with three different WiFi hotspots.

Kenzo Fong, founder and CEO of the 20-person productivity software startup Rock, has been working out of his converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van since the pandemic began.

Photo: Kenzo Fong/Rock

Plenty of techies have started companies in garages. Try running a startup from a van.

In San Francisco, one software company founder has been using a converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van — picture an Amazon delivery vehicle — as a mobile office.

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
Protocol | Policy

Most Americans want AI regulation — and they want it yesterday

In a poll, people said they wanted to see artificial intelligence technologies develop in the U.S. — alongside rules governing their use.

U.S. lawmakers have only just begun the long process of regulating the use of AI.

Photo: Louis Velazquez/Unsplash

Nearly two-thirds of Americans want the U.S to regulate the development and use of artificial intelligence in the next year or sooner — with half saying that regulation should have begun yesterday, according to a Morning Consult poll. Another 13% say that regulation should start in the next year.

"You can thread this together," Austin Carson, founder of new nonprofit group SeedAI and former government relations lead for Nvidia, said in an email. "Half or more Americans want to address all of these things, split pretty evenly along ideological lines."

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

ai
Latest Stories