Susan Dennis (susandennis) wrote,
Susan Dennis

Me 'n Jeff Bezos

My number came up at the library so now I'm reading The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. And it's fascinating.  I just got to the part where they did not mention me.

It was 1994. Amazon was not on the air yet. I had quit my job to go out on my own and build web pages. My first customer was a guy who wanted me to build him a hyperlinked front end to a DVD he was creating for commercial real estate. Within weeks that plan had morphed into a website. The only browser was Netscape and we were desperately waiting for Netscape 2 which promised horizontal positioning of stuff (tables). John (my customer) and I realized quickly that hand building the pages after the front page was not going to be viable and we needed another solution. I was clueless and knew way more than he did about it.

I heard on the grapevine that some dude was building an online bookshop.  Now, they had to have solved our problem, right? So I dug around and found his 'company' and convinced they to interview me for a job. (It wasn't that tough. This was 1994. Seattle was not a tech giant yet - it was still full of grunge wannabes. The number of people who knew what a web page was could maybe could have filled a living room if some of them were fat. The number of people who could build web pages could stand on the coffee table. So when you have a fledgling company based on web pages and someone who can spell html wants an interview, it's not a stretch.)

Amazon was located upstairs over a tile store about a mile south of here (it's a wine/liquor store now and the door to the upstairs that was the Amazon entrance is now gone but I still look when I go by). The HR guy was about 12. He was pretty upset that I did not have my college transcript or know what my GPA was but otherwise we were cool.  He would not tell me anything about their technology but I figured that was because he didn't know anything about it. When we were done chatting, he ushered me into Jeff Bezos office.

Jeff was also pretty young and looked younger than he was even bald. He was gracious and came around his door desk to sit across from me with no barriers and proceeded to pelt me with questions. I kept trying to pelt him with questions. It got pretty funny. He asked me how many gas stations did I think there were in the U.S. I asked him how he was going to code all those books into web pages and what hardware he was using to do it. He ignored my questions and I walked him through how I'd guesstimate the number of gas stations. We kept questioning each other kind of fruitlessly.

After a while, he stopped and looked at me and said "You don't want to work here so what are you doing here?" and I confessed. I got the Bezos laugh. He was amazingly cool about my excuse for taking up his time. He asked about what I was trying to do and told me to look into Cold Fusion and we shook and said goodbye.

The website we built is still going today and may even still be using Cold Fusion to run the back end. Amazon's still going, too but they did move out of the tile store.  According to this book they were there when the site launched but left for bigger offices in Belltown shortly thereafter.
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