FOR BE­COM­ING A LARGER-THAN-LIFE PRES­ENCE

Fast Company - - Most Innovative Companies -

When Jeff Be­zos was spot­ted strid­ing be­tween meet­ings at the an­nual Allen & Com­pany Sun Val­ley Con­fer­ence last sum­mer, bi­ceps bulging and look­ing like a real-life Ter­mi­na­tor, the im­age of “Swole Jeff Be­zos” went vi­ral: The Ama­zon CEO, it seemed, had come to em­body his killing ma­chine of a com­pany. He had just ac­quired Whole Foods Mar­ket for $13.7 bil­lion, wilt­ing ri­val gro­cers’ stock prices as much as 14% merely on the news. He erad­i­cated the up­scale mar­ket’s long-stand­ing “whole pay­check” rep­u­ta­tion in a sin­gle day by cut­ting prices on pop­u­lar items like kale and sal­mon. He also turned the stores into show­rooms for Ama­zon’s ex­pand­ing line of Echo home-as­sis­tant de­vices, which in­cludes the cam­era-en­abled

Look (for Ai-pow­ered fash­ion ad­vice), the touch-screen Show (which can play videos), and Spot, an alarm-clock re­place­ment. Peo­ple can find Ama­zon’s Alexa (which also pow­ers Echo) in a grow­ing num­ber of places, from BMWS to busi­ness con­fer­ence rooms, and the com­pany is sup­port­ing ad­di­tional con­ver­sa­tional ap­pli­ca­tions by al­low­ing devel­op­ers to sell en­hanced skills (à la Ap­ple in-app pur­chases) and sub­scrip­tions to voice ser­vices, such as a Jeop­ardy! trivia app. Mean­while, Ama­zon has qui­etly bulked up its own ros­ter of pri­vate la­bels, adding dozens of home­grown brands in cat­e­gories that in­clude pantry staples, ath­leisure, and fur­ni­ture. So now, when a cus­tomer asks Alexa for cashews or di­a­pers or a Be­zos-style tight black polo, Ama­zon can ful­fill the or­der with its own prod­ucts.

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