How Jeff Bezos' parents reacted to the news their son was leaving Wall Street to start selling books on the internet

  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told his parents he was leaving Wall Street to start selling books on the internet in the mid-90s, according to "The Everything Store" by Brad Stone.

  • At first, his parents were skeptical. Soon after, they invested $100,000 in the company.

  • Today, Bezos' parents run the Bezos Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization.

"What do you mean, you are going to sell books over the internet?"

That was Mike Bezos' — Jeff Bezos' father — first reaction when Jeff Bezos called to tell his parents about his plans to launch Amazon in the mid-90s.

Brad Stone describes the situation in his 2013 book, "The Everything Store."

According to Stone, Mike and Jackie Bezos — Jeff Bezos' mother — had been in Colombia for three years, where Mike was working as a petroleum engineer for Exxon. During that time, they had used a now-defunct online service called Prodigy to keep in touch with family members — meaning they weren't fearful of new technologies.

Mike Bezos told Stone that their hesitancy was more about Jeff Bezos leaving a cushy gig on Wall Street to pursue something much riskier. (Though perhaps they shouldn't have been surprised, given that Bezos displayed an entrepreneurial bent even in middle school.)

Stone writes that Jackie Bezos advised Jeff Bezos to work on his new venture on the side. Jeff Bezos reportedly told her, "No, things are changing fast," and, "I need to move quickly."

It didn't take long for Jeff Bezos to get his parents on board. According to Stone, the couple invested $100,000 in Amazon in 1995 — even though Jeff Bezos had warned them there was a 70% chance they'd never see that money again.

Mike Bezos told Stone that, even though they'd seen the business plan, they didn't exactly understand it. "As corny as it sounds, we were betting on Jeff," Mike Bezos said.

Today, Jackie and Mike Bezos are the founders, and the president and vice-president, of the Bezos Family Foundation. According to its website, the foundation focuses on improving education and life outcomes for children.

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