Four years after founding Amazon in his garage, Jeff Bezos insisted on personally investing in a small, unknown search engine site.
That search engine startup would later blossom into a multi-billion-dollar company that competes with Bezos’ Amazon.
The 2013-published The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon recounts the way in which Bezos convinced Google’s founders to let the Amazon CEO become an early investor, even though its funding round had already closed.
According to the book, written by Bloomberg journalist Brad Stone, the investment story starts with Amazon’s 1998 acquisition of Indian delivery service Junglee, which eventually tanked. But the acquisition brought Ram Shriram to the Amazon team, which proved to be a fortuitous meeting for Bezos.
Shriram had been discretely advising two Stanford PhD students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who were trying to invent a new way of searching the internet. In February of 1998, Shriram became one of the first early investors of Google, with a $250,000 investment.
Six months later, Bezos and his wife were vacationing in the Bay Area when he reached out to Shriram with a request to meet the guys behind Google. Shriram invited the Bezos,’ along with Page and Brin, to his house for breakfast with a demonstration of how the search engine would operate. Bezos immediately told Shriram he wanted to invest.
It took some convincing on Shriram’s part, since the early funding cycle had closed, but Bezos’ status as a CEO with a then $1.6 billion net worth swayed Google’s founders to let him in.
“Jeff was very helpful in some of those early meetings,” Page said in the book.
Google is now counted among the top four most valuable companies in the world, along with Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. The Google Home smart speaker rivals that of Amazon’s and Google isn’t slowing down with its strides in smart home technology.
Bezos ended up investing $1 million in Google, according to several reports. It’s unclear if Bezos still owns the stake — the book explains Bezos’s constant unwillingness to discuss what he did with his Google holdings after the company went public in 2004.
But it’s safe to assume the investment would probably be worth billions today, which would have made Bezos a rich man even if he’d never started Amazon in his garage.