At the age of 30 Jeff Bezos left a high paying job on Wall Street in 1994 to start an online bookstore called Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN). It turns out that he made the right decision. That company has made Bezos the 15th richest person in the world. Fast forward to today, Amazon is much more than a book retailer. As a Fortune 100 company, Amazon’s brand is known throughout the world as the first destination to buy almost anything online. In fact, in June 2015 Amazon’s market capitalization surpassed the retailing giant Walmart Stores Inc. (WMT), making it the most valuable retailer in the United States.
While more than 270 million people around the world know Amazon as the “everything store,” the company is a large conglomerate of both related and non-related businesses. Since its initial pubic offering (IPO) in 1997, Amazon has acquired a number of smaller companies. Here is an overview of six companies owned and operated by Amazon.
As the largest producer and retailer of audio books in the United States, Audible Inc. is one of Amazon's most well known subsidiaries. Following a $300 million acquisition in 2008 the company, which was founded in 1995, became a subsidiary of Amazon. In addition to selling audio books, Audible provides its customers with audio versions of newspapers and magazines as well as radio programs. (For related reading, see also: How Buying On Amazon.com Works.)
CreateSpace is another Amazon subsidiary that operates in the content publishing and distribution industry. The company offers a self-publishing platform that allows independent filmmakers, music artists and authors to publish their work and distribute it on demand. This makes it a lot easier for creative professionals to bring their work to market without the need to invest a large sum of money. The CreateSpace website also provides a library of free articles for creatives on a number of publishing related topics.
CreateSpace came as a result of two acquisitions that Amazon made in 2005. Amazon had bought an on-demand distributor for independent films called CustomFlix and BookSurge, an on-demand book publisher used by self-published authors. Both companies were later merged in 2009 to form what is now CreateSpace.
With more than 40 million registered users, Goodreads is a thriving online community of book junkies from around the world. The website allows users to discover new titles to read based on what they have read in the past. It also gives its members the opportunity to give reviews on books and share their reading lists for others. Many self-published authors use Goodreads as a medium to promote their work and engage with their readers.
Goodreads was started in 2007, however Amazon purchased the website in 2013. Although the size of the transaction was not officially announced, some reports have estimated that Amazon paid around $190 million for Goodreads.
Amazon acquired the popular online discount retailer Woot in 2010. As its ‘‘One Day, One Deal'' slogan suggests, Woot provides its customers with discounted prices on a particular product each day. These products come from a wide range of categories including consumer electronics, clothing and even wine.
The Internet Movie Database, better known as IMDb, is an online database that provides information on television shows, movies, actors and producers. Amazon bought the company in 1998 from the founder, Col Needham, who still serves as IMDb's CEO.
After the acquisition, Amazon used IMDb as a medium to promote some of its movie-related products including DVDs and videotapes. Ad revenue and strategic licensing deals are both significant contributors to IMDb's overall income. The company also makes money with their subscription service called IMDbPro which allows subscribers to network with entertainment professionals. (See also, How Walmart Model Wins With "Everyday Low Prices".)
When Nick Swinmurn couldn't find a particular shoe that he wanted to buy in 1999, he decided to start an online shoe store on his own. That company was Zappos. Without spending much money on advertisements, Swinmurn grew his customer base through word of mouth. Zappos eventually became one of the world's largest online shoe retailers.
In 2008, Zappos reached 1 billion dollars in annual revenue. One year after achieving this milestone, Amazon acquired the company for $1.2 billion. Since then, both companies have continued to operate as separate entities. (For more, see: Zappos & Holacracy, Will It Work?)
The Bottom Line
With a market capitalization worth more than $200 billion, Amazon is one of the largest companies operating in the United States. In addition to being the world's largest online retailer, Amazon is a diversified conglomerate with holdings operating in a number of sectors including retail, consumer goods, publishing and media. Amazon has made its founder Jeff Bezos one of the wealthiest persons in the world. According to Forbes, he is the third richest technology billionaire on the planet.