10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Amazon (AMZN)

On Sept. 4, 2018, Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) became only the second-ever company to join the $1 trillion market capitalization club, when its share price crossed the $2,050.27 threshold. This comes just over a month after Apple (AAPL) hit the $1 trillion mark in August of that year.

Amazon had its initial public offering (IPO) on May 15, 1997, trading at $18 per share. On Sept. 4, 2018, $1,000 worth of Amazon stock purchased at its IPO price would have been worth over $1.1 million. Given its growth, most people know what Amazon does, but they may not know some fun facts.

Key Takeaways

  • Amazon crossed the trillion-dollar market cap threshold in Sept. 2018.
  • The company has come a long way, including first holding company meetings in Barnes and Noble stores.
  • There are many fun facts about Amazon's early days, such as its foray into the auction site market and launching a search engine.
  • But there are also many under-the-radar fun facts about Amazon's current ventures—such as its cashier-less stores and drone delivery.

1. Amazon Held Its Meetings at Barnes and Noble

In the early stages of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, his then-wife, MacKenzie Bezos, and Amazon's first employee, Shel Kaphan, held their meetings inside their local Barnes and Noble. Before founder Jeff Bezos landed on "Amazon" as the name of the e-commerce giant, he had other names he kicked around, such as "Cadabra" (as in "Abracadabra") and "Relentless." 

However, his lawyer convinced him that "Cadabra" did not sound magical at all. Rather, "Cadabra" sounded too similar to "cadaver." Although "Relentless" did not make the cut to be the name of the company, Jeff Bezos liked the name enough to buy the domain name, and now the website; relentless.com redirects to the Amazon.com homepage.

2. Amazon Launched as an Auction Site

In Amazon's early stages as a public company, it launched an auction site to compete with its competitors in the e-commerce space. The day Amazon launched the auction site in 1999, its shares soared over 8%.

3. It Was Also an Early Competitor of Yahoo! and Google

Before powerhouse search engine company Google (GOOG) had its "Street View" on its map application, Amazon launched a search engine in 2004, A9.com, which started a project called Block View.

Block View was a visual Yellow Pages that allowed its users to see the street view of addresses and directions to their destinations.

4. Amazon Users Can Donate to Charities When they Buy

AmazonSmile allows its users to support charities of their choice when they shop at smile.amazon.com. The AmazonSmile Foundation donates 0.5% of the purchase price of products eligible for AmazonSmile purchases.

5. Amazon Piloted an Augmented Reality App

Amazon Flow was an augmented reality phone app that could identify millions of products from tissue boxes to book covers. With Amazon Flow, users didn't have to memorize their shopping lists as the app allowed them to take pictures on their phones. When integrated with Amazon's application, users could find products on Amazon and purchase them without the need to type or scan the bar code.

6. Amazon Has Convenience Stores With No Checkout

Amazon Go, a high-tech supermarket, allows shoppers to buy groceries without ever having to wait in line for a cashier. Amazon Go stores are equipped with hundreds of cameras that utilize a similar type of technology that self-driving cars use. This technology keeps a virtual shopping cart that allows customers to just walk out when they are done shopping. A bill is automatically sent to their Amazon account. 

7. It Sold Its First Book in 1995

The first book ever sold on Amazon was Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies by Douglas Hofstadter, according to a Quora question answered by former Amazon employee Ian McAllister. The book was purchased in 1995 and it's believed that John Wainwright was the customer, claiming to have purchased the book on April 3rd, 1995.

8. The Company Is Working on Drone Delivery

Amazon is developing a futuristic delivery system, Prime Air, which would let Amazon deliver packages to customers within 30 minutes using small drones. The service is being developed for the U.S. and other countries. 

9. A Bell Used to Ring

When Amazon first started, they rang a bell every time a customer made a purchase. “We had, at the time, a little bell that would ring every time a book was ordered, so we’d all be working and the bell would ring, and it would go Ding! and we’d go, ‘Yay! We sold a book!’” says former Amazon employee Jonathan Kochmer. 

10. Over One and a Quarter Million Employees

Amazon employed 1.271 million people as of the end of 2020 across the globe, more than Google, Facebook (now Meta), and Alibaba combined. It managed to grow employee count by 51% year-over-year at the end of the second quarter.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. The Wall Street Journal. "Amazon Hits $1 Trillion Valuation."

  2. The Wall Street Journal. "Apple’s Market Cap Hits $1 Trillion."

  3. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Amazon.com, Inc., Form 10-Q for the Quarter Ended June 30, 1997."

  4. Jeff Bezos. "Invent & Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos," Page 201-202. Harvard Business Review Press & PublicAffairs, 2021.

  5. Amazon. "Amazon.com Launches Online Auction Site."

  6. Yahoo Finance. "Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN)."

  7. Amazon. "A9.com Launches New Web Site to Make Internet Search More Effective; A9.com: A Search Engine with a Memory."

  8. Amazon. "A9.com Launches Maps with Street-Level Images."

  9. Amazon. "About AmazonSmile."

  10. Amazon. "Amazon Go."

  11. Business Insider. "Here's What Amazon's First Customer Bought."

  12. Amazon. "Amazon Prime Air."

  13. Marker. "The Inside Story of MacKenzie Scott, the Mysterious 60-Billion-Dollar Woman."

  14. Amazon. "Amazon.com Announces First Quarter Results," Page 19.

  15. Alphabet. "Form 10-Q," Page 2.

  16. Facebook. "Form 10-Q," Page 64.

  17. Alibaba. "Alibaba Group Announces March Quarter and Full Fiscal Year 2021 Results," Page 20.

Take the Next Step to Invest
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.