Jeff Bezos stepping down as CEO of Amazon was a seismic shift for the company — and its tradition of writing an annual letter to shareholders.
Andy Jassy, who previously led AWS to its incredible heights, stepped up and published his first letter, the 2021 Letter to Shareholders, at over 6,000 words and covering a wide range of topics.
“Over the past 25 years at Amazon, I’ve had the opportunity to write many stories, emails, letters, and keynotes for employees, customers, and partners,” says Jassy. “But this is the first time I’ve had the honor of writing our annual shareholder letter as CEO of Amazon. Jeff has set the bar very high for these letters, and I’ll try to make sure that they are worth reading.”
Growth of AWS
Jassy covers three main topics in his letter: AWS, consumer businesses from Amazon and Prime, and labor issues.
According to Jassy, AWS continues its meteoric rise and remains the number one cloud service provider. Growth slowed slightly during the pandemic, falling to a meager 30% year-over-year, but Jassy says things are back to 2019 levels.
The consumer sector also strengthened, boosted by the pandemic forcing consumers to shop online. Jassy commends Amazon’s workforce for adapting to historic changes without wasting time.
Trade unions !
Much of Jassy’s letter is devoted to a huge topic for Amazon: work.
Amazon workers in Staten Island recently voted to form the company’s first union, a historic change that could fundamentally reshape the way the company interacts with its workforce.
It’s no secret that Amazon works hard – very hard on its employees. Over the years, there have been many stories of workplace injuries, delivery drivers having to pee in bottles, corporate employees crying at their desks, and more.
Although Jassy does not mention the word “union”, a considerable amount of ink is flowing in defense of what he calls innovations in workplace management and employee relations, such as the $15 minimum wage. .
“When I started my new role, I spent a lot of time in our fulfillment centers and with our security team, and I was hoping there might be a silver bullet that could change the numbers quickly,” says Jassy, referring to injury rates in warehouses. “I didn’t find that.”
Jassy has only been in the job for a few months – and Jeff Bezos remains the chairman of the board – so his first letter to shareholders is an interesting document.
Towards the end, Jassy highlights many of the things he plans to do and future Amazon initiatives, such as Kuiper’s satellite internet network.
Amazon is almost too big to fail at this point, but the company faces significant headwinds from a variety of areas: regulators, unions, Microsoft’s relentless push with Azure, and the climate crisis.