A Kiwi’s encounters with Amazon’s new boss, Andy Jassy – a contrast to Jeff Bezos

Amazon could be about to enter an era that’s a shade more touchy-feely than life under the hard-driving Jeff Bezos.

That’s according to a Kiwi who’s had occasion to meet Bezos’ successor, Andy Jassy, on multiple occasions as he’s risen through the US$1.7 trillion company’s ranks.

The New York-raised Jassy will take over from Bezos on July 5, Amazon said today.

He takes the reins through an internal promotion, first announced in February. His first assignment will be integrating MGM Studios – bought for US$6.5b in today’s other big piece of Amazon news.

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Christchurch-based tech investor Ben Kepes – who in the before-times was a frequent attendee at tech industry events in the US – is a fan of the new CEO.

“I’ve met Jassy a bunch and he’s awesome,” says Kepes, who is more usually seen taking a swing at Big Tech.

“Amazon is a pretty clinical organisation. Like most technology companies, emotion and personality give way to productivity and output.

“While Jassy isn’t the sort of guy you can imagine leading emotional, creative team building sessions, he has shown a bit of a human side and the ability to even break into a smile from time to time.

“Within the context of way more awareness in the technology sector around #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, Jassy has had to confront these less binary issues and develop his softer side. It will be interesting to see how he handles the far bigger, and far broader role as chief executive of Amazon.”

Jassey – widely seen as Bezos’ top lieutenant – has been in charge of Amazon Web Services (AWS) since it was founded in 2003 after Amazon decided it could see the cloud computing building blocks it had created for its own business.

“I’ve been around AWS since it was a tiny startup within the massive Amazon-mothership,” Kepes says.

Last year, sales at AWS grew to US$45.4 billion, or 12 per cent of the company’s revenue and 63 per cent of its profits.

“Since it was founded, Jassy has shown an incredible ability to understand the technology paradigm, customer demands and the competitive landscape within which AWS operates,”Kepes says.

“Those of us who have had the privilege of engaging with him have always been surprised by the breadth and depth of his knowledge. He’s also an incredibly articulate and approachable executive.”

The $64,000 (or US$1.7t) question now, however, is how much Jassy will be able to stamp his personality on Amazon with Bezos – who will remain as executive chairman and the largest single shareholder – looking over his shoulder.

(Jassy, incidentally, is Amazon’s second-largest individual shareholder. But while Bezos holds an 11 per cent stake, Jassy’s holding has been put at 0.02 per cent – still worth a tidy US$340m, given Amazon’s US$1.7t market cap).

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