One particular section of Chapter 3 caught Bloom’s attention. There, the SEC suggested that “an alternative approach be examined” and posited that if well-capitalized specialists and supplementary market makers could have turned to a single “product” for trading baskets of stocks, the market damage—and volatility—may have been significantly smaller. Indeed, such a product might even have prevented the crash by providing a liquidity buffer between the futures market and individual stocks. “I walked into Nate’s office and said, ‘Here’s an opening we could drive a truck through,’ ” Bloom says. ... Of course, today we do have what the report refers to as basket-trading products. We call them exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, and they’re a $3 trillion global industry, with more than 6,780 products on 60 exchanges to choose from. In the U.S. last year, ETFs traded about $20 trillion worth of shares—more than the country’s gross domestic product. ... “We were essentially reverse-engineering what the SEC called for in their report,” Bloom says. “We viewed it as a product proposal being made by the regulators.”
This year, Amazon became the fastest company ever to reach $100 billion in annual sales. Also this year, Amazon Web Services is reaching $10 billion in annual sales … doing so at a pace even faster than Amazon achieved that milestone. ... What’s going on here? Both were planted as tiny seeds and both have grown organically without significant acquisitions into meaningful and large businesses, quickly. Superficially, the two could hardly be more different. One serves consumers and the other serves enterprises. One is famous for brown boxes and the other for APIs. Is it only a coincidence that two such dissimilar offerings grew so quickly under one roof? Luck plays an outsized role in every endeavor, and I can assure you we’ve had a bountiful supply. But beyond that, there is a connection between these two businesses. Under the surface, the two are not so different after all. They share a distinctive organizational culture that cares deeply about and acts with conviction on a small number of principles. I’m talking about customer obsession rather than competitor obsession, eagerness to invent and pioneer, willingness to fail, the patience to think long-term, and the taking of professional pride in operational excellence. Through that lens, AWS and Amazon retail are very similar indeed. ... A word about corporate cultures: for better or for worse, they are enduring, stable, hard to change. They can be a source of advantage or disadvantage. You can write down your corporate culture, but when you do so, you’re discovering it, uncovering it – not creating it. It is created slowly over time by the people and by events – by the stories of past success and failure that become a deep part of the company lore. If it’s a distinctive culture, it will fit certain people like a custom-made glove. The reason cultures are so stable in time is because people self-select. Someone energized by competitive zeal may select and be happy in one culture, while someone who loves to pioneer and invent may choose another. The world, thankfully, is full of many high-performing, highly distinctive corporate cultures. We never claim that our approach is the right one – just that it’s ours – and over the last two decades, we’ve collected a large group of like-minded people. Folks who find our approach energizing and meaningful. ... We want to be a large company that’s also an invention machine.