22 thoughts on “The Growing Ex-Amazon Club and Why It's a Good Thing”

  1. Amazon has a reputation for hiring bright people, giving them sparse compensation and resources, then squeezing tons of work out of them until they finally realize that Amazon is good only to shareholders, customers and Bezos, not to its employees.

    That this model worked for the past 5 years is impressive. Hats off to Bezos. And declining alternative options should keep Amazon’s bright people at their door-and-saw-horse desks for another 2-3 years, unless the diaspora can make enough progress to shelter the poor bastards still trapped within Stalag 1516.

  2. Come on Om, you need to be a bit more circumspect when you look at stories like this. Yes, people are leaving Amazon and starting companies. No, most of them are not going to succeed.

    On your list, Twilio and Hulu are interesting. The rest are just silly web 2.0 garbage that is never going anywhere. These are not technology companies, but media companies (and very niche media companies at that).

    Pelago on the other hand is going to fail exactly because of its Amazon roots and the hubris and lack of real skill of its ex-Amazon management team.

  3. I agree with Paul. I’d thought of working for Amazon until I heard about what a sh#@hole it was. I’ve been tearing it up for a different fortune 50 tech company since then. They should try either a) taking care of their people or b) if that rumor is false, demonstrating that to the rest of the (recruiting) world.

  4. @Joe: well as an investor in both Dave Schappell / http://TeachStreet.com & in Dave Selinger / http://RichRelevance (another ex-Amazon startup), also advisor to Jeff Lawson / Twilio, I sure hope you’re the one who’s full of shit and not me.

    on the other hand, it’s exactly that kind of attitude that could get you a nice safe job doing powerpoint over at Sequoia. best of luck with your developing “playa-hater” career. maybe Ted Dzuiba could use a right-hand hatchet man at UnCov.

    thanks for the upbeat perspective,

  5. People leave Amazon because it’s a terrible place to work, not because they’ve generated good ideas or experience while working there.

  6. Interesting story, Om. Another interesting story would be to trace the roots all the way back to D. E. Shaw. Both Bezos and Holden worked at Shaw before Amazon, and there are a number of Shaw alums doing their own businesses elsewhere (such as John Overdeck, who founded Two Sigma after working at Shaw and then Amazon).

    By the way, of the folks trashing Amazon, how many have actually worked there? I was at Amazon from 2004 to 2007. Like any big company, it has its pros and cons. Sure, the pager duty is notorious (although it’s way better on some teams than others), it can be a high-pressure environment, and it burns a lot of people out. At the same time, there are a ton of great people there, making for an environment where you can respect your peers and learn from them; they’re a pioneer in their field and thus have a ton of innovative, interesting projects; and there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity to take ownership and responsibility if you’re capable of it, especially owing to the “two-pizza team” model. Plenty of people have had long careers there that they wouldn’t trade for anything. There are a lot of things Amazon could improve about its working environment, no doubt. But to describe it using vulgarities or to call it “a terrible place to work” is just not accurate.

  7. Cayce Roy, former CEO BigScreeLive.com and now President, Asset Recovery Division at Liquidity Services, Inc. LQDT. Mark Peek – CFO VMware also public.

  8. There are a few more folks who come to mind as well –

    –Gaurav Oberoi and Chuck Groom founded BillMonk, which sold to Obopay (two years ago?). They also started the Seattle Tech Startups alias, which like many Seattle tech groups is disproportionately ex-Amazon-heavy.

    –Neil Roseman is CEO of Evri, a Paul Allen-funded semantic web startup.

    –Vijay Ravindran was just named Chief Digital Officer of the Washington Post, after a CTO gig for a political consultancy in DC.

    –Scott Ruthfield has some things going on, I don’t know the details.

    –Ben Black is a VP of Research at Joyent and is starting a Seattle office.

    –Jesse Robbins is CEO of a stealth startup.

    etc. etc. The Amazonians are out there doing interesting things all over the place.

  9. As an ex amazon employee I can verify the pros and cons of the place. The way employees are treated are at times unethical at best. As you will find anywhere there are good employees that will help you and be good friends for life. Yes they are doing great things but instead of caring about the people that are making the company work they let them go or treat them like crap until they leave. I saw good people and bad people work for the company and alot of the problems caused were by people further up the food chain. Programs that were used were so far out of date and awful to use. I had a job there I loved but was told I couldn’t have it because I lacked vision, even though I did a great job I was booted back down the ranks. It also seemed that if you needed a FMLA for any reason you were treated badly until you wanted to quit. In the end because I had a doctor’s note that limited my physical capabilities and was taking percoset I was fired for being a safety hazard. Word of the way you are treated there as spread and it has become very difficult for them to get help over the holiday season.

  10. It was great catching up with you, Om — I really enjoyed the conversation. I meant to comment here earlier, but got pulled aside by my wife for yard/housework; seems that I haven’t been very helpful around the house of late.

    It looks like commenters have pretty well filled out the list, but I thought of another:

    * Kushal Chakrabarti – Vittana

    Let me know when you get up to Seattle — will have you out to a Thursday night Hops and Chops event to meet with some of the very early startups taking shape.

  11. Nice artcile, Om. Thought I’ll mention a few ex-Amazon India folks who have set up their own businesses.

    Anand Rao, Founder & CEO, Pustak.co.in
    Bal Krishn Birla, Co-founder & CTO, AskLaila.com

    Those are the names I can think of off the top of my head. However, there are plenty more who are hoping to strike gold in the still nascent economy of India.

  12. I could think of few more such startups from India.

    Arjun Shetty, Founder & COO, BankBazaar.com
    Vijay Subramanian, Founder, InfiBeam.com
    Sachin & Binny Bansal, Founders, FlipKart.com

    And as Rahul pointed out, it is indeed a great time to reap rewards in India. With increasing broadband penetration and mobile adoption, India is now an extremely attractive market for tech startups.

  13. Interesting!! Out of a lot of startups started by ex-Amazon employess, I find a number of online bookstores. But is it legal that ex-Amazon employees walk out of Amazon and start up online bookstores? Isn’t there any legal implication?

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