Amazon Acquisitions and Investments

Updates added July 28, 2009

I tried to find a list of companies that Amazon.com had acquired or had invested in, and couldn’t find any lists that looked close to complete. So I decided to create my own. I hunted down a number of their investments and acquisitions, which I’ve included below. Chances are that I’ve missed some, and if you have knowledge of any that you would like to share, please let me know.

Amazon has made some large purchases over the years, but they seem to favor making investments in companies, and marketing agreements with the companies they invest in. While some of their transactions were fairly public, a few were very private, and there aren’t many details on the web about those – for instance, it’s very difficult to find a date for the transaction involving Leep Technologies, which I’ve listed at the end of the 1999 acquisitions.

I’ve included links to a number of patents which were, or are held by these companies.

logo for Bookpages

Bookpages
(announced April 27, 1998) – one of the largest online bookstores in the United Kingdom – www.bookpages.co.uk – became Amazon’s online UK store.

logo for Telebook

Telebook
(announced April 27, 1998) – operating through its ABC Bücherdienst subsidiary, was Germany’s number one online bookstore – www.telebuch.de – became Amazon’s German online store.

logo for Internet Movie Database

Internet Movie Database
(announced April 27, 1998) – launched in 1990, terrific repository for information about movies and television – www.imdb.com

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Sage Enterprises (PlanetAll)
(announced Aug. 4, 1998) – Sage Enterprises, running PlanetAll.com, from Cambridge, Mass., offered a Web-based address book, calendar, and reminder service. According to a June, 2000 CNet article, Amazon to shut PlanetAll, absorb features, a number of features from PlanetAll were to be integrated into Amazon’s “Friends and Favorites” section. If you have an Amazon account, you’ll see some of these on your profile page, such as a reminder service.

logo for Junglee

Junglee Corporation
(announced Aug. 4, 1998) – Junglee Corp. was based in Sunnyvale, California, and provided Web-based virtual database technology to help shoppers find products on the web. The deal was for 100 percent of outstanding shares in exchange for equity having an value of about $280 million. Before Google’s head of Research, Peter Norvig, became a Googler and prior to his working on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers software, he was employee number 8 at Junglee. His name is on one of the patents below.

logo for Drugstore.com

Drugstore.com
(February 1999) – Amazon.com buys a stake in Drugstore.com. I’m seeing conflicting reports of the percentage that Amazon purchased.

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Geoworks
(February 1999) – acquisition of a minority interest in Geoworks, which works in wireless communications – Owner of a number of patents related to wireless phones.

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Pets.com
(Announced on March 29, 1999) – purchased a 54 percent stake, paid for in cash and stock.

LiveBid.com
(April 1999 ) – live-event internet auctions

logo for Exchange.com

logo for Bibliofind

logo for Musicfile

e-Niche Incorporated – Exchange.com, Bibliofind.com, and Musicfile.com
(The Merger Agreement and Plan shows a date of April 24, 1999) – for $200 million in mostly stock, the company developed Internet marketplaces at exchange.com, and operated a rare and collectibles online bookstore at Bibiliofind, and a music site at Musicfile.com.

logo for Alexa

Alexa Internet
(Announced April 26, 1999) – The press release from Amazon announcing this acquisition focused primarily upon the acquisition of Exchange.com. In the press release, we are told that the acquisitions of Alexa.com, Accept.com, and Exchange.com should be closed by June 30, 1999, and that they were “three separate substantially all-stock transactions totaling approximately $645 million.”

In Amazon makes Net triple play, the internet Archive is mentioned as one of the attractive aspects of what Alexa had to offer. The article provides the following quote:

“Alexa has a pretty interesting database with really good information about what people are doing on the Web and also relationships with close to a million users and potential relationships with a larger number,” said Barry Parr, analyst with IDC. “The immediate application by Amazon isn’t obvious, but it’s an interesting group of folks in an interesting position in the marketplace.”

There are a number of patent filings associated with Alexa Internet. Some of these were filed before the acquisition date, while others were developed afterwards.

logo for Accept.com

Accept.com Financial Services Corporation
(The Merger Agreement and Plan shows a date of April 25, 1999) – Accept.com, which specializes in person-to-person and consumer-to-business transactions.

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HomeGrocer.com
(Announced on May 18, 1999) – www.homegrocer.com – Amazon.com’s $42.5 million in cash and stock bought a 35 percent stake in the online grocer, which served customers in Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. For an idea of what the site and its service was like, see: Buying Peaches, E-Commerce Style

Gear.com
(Announced July 14, 1999) – Offered 100-percent closeout merchandise in all sports categories, which meant that their prices on brand-name sporting goods were at prices from 20 to 90 percent off retail. Deal was for approximately 49 percent of Gear.com’s outstanding shares as of July 1, 1999. The company was purchased by Overstock.com in 2000.

Tool Crib of the North
(Acquired in October, 1999) – Purchased the online and catalog sales division of the company, selling a very wide variety of tools and home improvement items.

logo for Convergence Corp

Convergence Corporation
(Announced on Oct. 4, 1999) – Makes software to connect wireless devices to the Internet, for about $23 million in stock.

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MindCorps Incorporated
(Founded in 1996, sold to Amazon in 1999) – the company created applications for web sites from online chats to web based databases. Nice interview with one of the founders, Eric Best.

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Della.com
(Amazon.com has a minority interest (20 percent as of November 1999) in Della.com, which offers gift registry, expert advice, and personalized gift suggestions. Other investors in Della.com include Tiffany & Co., Crate and Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, and other retailers. In April, 2000, the company merged with WeddingChannel.com, which is an online wedding planning and bridal registry resource, under the name WeddingChannel.com.

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Back to Basics Toys
(November 1999) – Privately held catalog toy store based in Herndon, Virginia. Sold to Scholastic in 2003

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Ashford.com
(December 1999) – Web retailer of luxury products. Amazon invested $10 million for a 16.6 percent ownership in Ashford.com outstanding common stock, with contract covering the holiday seasons in 1999 and 2000, for Ashford to offer Amazon’s customers selections from its product line.

logo for Leep Technology Inc.

Leep Technology Inc.
(Founded in 1995, Acquired by Amazon in 1999) – Developer of on-line database query tools and Customer Relationship Management software. Sold to Amazon.com. It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact date.

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Greenlight.com
(Announced on January 21, 2000) – A 5 percent stake in online car retailer Greenlight.com. The exact terms weren’t disclosed, but a promotional agreement within the investment has Greenlight paying Amazon $82.5 million over five years for marketing efforts and promotions, and Amazon could option to increase their stake in Greenlight to 30 percent within the five years after the agreement.

logo for Gregmanning.com

Greg Manning Auctions, Inc.
(Announced Feb. 3, 2000) – A minority investment in GMAI, for $5 million of GMAI’s stock. The company focus was on a wide range of collectibles, and became known as the Escala Group (link no longer available). Active in the US, Europe, and China at the time of the investment.

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Basis Technology
(Announced on Feb. 18, 2000) – A minority investment in this provider of internationalization technology for Internet companies and Web software developers.

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kozmo.com
(Announced on March 20, 2000) – Amazon invested $60 million for a minority stake this company which offered free delivery, within an hour, of things like rental DVDs and Starbucks coffee. Great overview at Anatomy of a Dot-Com from an employee of the company. Also interesting is Kozmo Kills the Messenger. Great Google Answer about Kozmo, what they delivered, and what their most popular delivery items were.

logo for Wineshopper.com

WineShopper.com
(Announced on April 18, 2000) – A minority investment of $ 30 Million, in this San Francisco and Napa based company, which had set up a system involving more than 550 wineries, importers and suppliers and 250 wholesalers in 45 states (representing about 85 percent of the U.S. population).

logo for Audible.com

Audible.com
(Announced on Jan. 31, 2000) – An investment in the range of millions of dollars, for 5 percent of this spoken audio service, which featured content from newspapers and magazines, and books on audio. For promoting audio.com, Amazon would receive $ 30 Million over three years.

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CatalogCity.com
(Announced Nov 9, 2001) – A $ 5 Million investment, and a commercial agreement with this group of catalog merchants.

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Egghead.com
(Announced in December 2001) – Bankrupt electronics online retailer was purchased for $ 6.1 Million.

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OurHouse.com
(December 2001) – OurHouse.com was intended to be the online partner for Ace Hardware. Employee number 17, Tom Tresser, was the marketing director for the business, and has (had) a page about OurHouse and some of the promotions and efforts that made it a successful site.

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CDNow
(December, 2002) – CD Now was acquired by Bertelsmannin 2000, and their operation was merged with the now defunct BMG Direct Record Club. Amazon and Bertelsmann agreed to a long term deal which would have Amazon handle things such as “fulfillment, inventory, content and customer service” for CDNow’s site in early December of 2002. The CD Now website reflected the change by the end of 2002.

logo for Joyo.com

Joyo.com Limited
(Announced on Aug. 19, 2004) – Web retailer in China, from the British Virgin Islands, purchased for $75 Million ($72 million in cash and the assumption of employee stock options). The largest online retailers of books, music and videos in China at the time.

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BookSurge LLC
(Announced on April 4, 2005) – Inventory-free on-demand book printing and fulfillment from Charleston, South Carolina.

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Mobipocket.com
(April 2005) – A French company that specialized in ebooks for mobile devices, with both reader and server software.

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CustomFlix
(June 2005) – Enables films to be downloaded and burned on DVDs.

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Shopbop.com
(Announced on Feb 27, 2006) – Retailer of apparel, shoes and accessories for women. The site has nothing on it to indicate that it is now owned by Amazon, but there is a link from Amazon’s Apparel & Accessories Store (www.amazon.com/apparel) to the site.

logo for Wikia

wikia, Inc.
(invested in December 2006) – Wikia supports development of open source software which is used to Wikipedia and Wikia, and many thousands of other wiki sites.

logo for DPReview.com

Digital Photography Review
(May 14, 2007) – Amazon acquired Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com), which has continued to operate as a standalone business since the acquisition.

logo for Brilliance Audio

Brilliance Audio, Inc.
(Acquired May 23, 2007) – If you visit the web site of Brilliance Audio, you would be hardpressed to uncover their relationship with Amazon.com. The company was the largest independent publisher of audiobooks in the United States at the time of the acquisition.

logo for Amie Street

Amie Street
(Investment announced on August 6, 2007) – The terms of this Series A financing deal aren’t disclosed in the press release from Amie Street, but this social networking digital music store has been growing quickly, and an October 2008 Press release describes significant growth of catalogue and customers and employees. It also tells us that the site is “raising its Series B round of financing with strong participation from existing investors.”

logo for Audible GmbH

Audible GmbH
(Announced January 31, 2008 ) – The press release tells us that Audible is the “leading online provider of premium digital spoken word audio content, specializing in digital audio editions of books, newspapers and magazines, television and radio programs and original programming.”

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Without A Box, Inc.
(Acquired January 17, 2008) – The acquisition was by the Internet Movie Database, as a subsidiary of Amazon.com. Without A Box is a media company that promotes independent films to audiences, and to film festivals.

logo for Lovefilm.com

Lovefilm International
(Investment announced April 2, 2008) – Amazon.com became the largest shareholder of stock for Lovefilm.com in exchange for Amazon Europe’s DVD rental business in the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as a cash investment. The agreement also included a multi-year deal for Amazon Europe to promote Lovefilm.com’s services to customers in the UK and Germany.

logo for Animoto

Animoto
(Investment in May, 2008) – Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos gave a presentation in April of 2008 at Y Combinator’s Startup School, which featured Animoto video creation technology, run on Amazon’s cloud computing platform. A month later, Amazon is one of a number of investors in the company.

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Fabric.com
(Acquired June 25, 2008) – An online fabric store, offering custom measured and cut fabrics. Fabric.com has continued to be run as an independent business.

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Box Office Mojo
(Acquired July 2008) – The strength of Box Office Mojo has been the box office tracking data that it has been able to collect and share online. The acquisition was made by the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), rather than directly by Amazon.com. The site also includes analysis, reviews, and interviews, and continues to operate independently of IMDB and Amazon.com, though its likely that the data collected by Box Office Mojo about box office numbers, and film and TV credits is being shared.

logo for Engine Yard

Engine Yard Inc.
(Invested in July, 2008) – Engine Yard enables Ruby on Rails developers to deploy their applications on the Web, using cloud computing.

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Elastra Corp
(Invested in August 2008) – This company makes software to move some of their computing infrastructure onto the internet, accessible via “cloud computing.”

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Shelfari
(Shelfari acquired August 25, 2008) – Amazon originally was an investor in Shelfari in Febuary, 2007. At the time of the acquistion, the Shelfari blog told us that:

As many of you may already know, Amazon has been a long supporter of Shelfari. They’ve worked closely with us as we introduced readers, like you, to our global community of book lovers. They’ve been there each step of the way as we brought forth new features, like the cool Facebook application and our virtual bookshelf. And now Shelfari and Amazon will work hand in hand to continue to grow our dynamic community and create innovative new tools around the books you love.

Reflexive Entertainment Inc.
(Acquired October 20, 2008) – The acquisition added significantly to the games that Amazon offers, and the Reflexive website appears to run as a standalone business with no sign that it is owned by Amazon except for CEO Lars Brubaker’s announcement of the acquisition.

logo for Abe Books

logo for Iberlibro.com

logo for Bookfinder

logo for Gojaba.com

logo for FillZ.com

logo for LibraryThing

logo for Chris Lands

AbeBooks
Justbooks
IberLibro.com
Bookfinder.com
Gojaba.com
FillZ
LibraryThing (40 %)
Chrislands

(Acquistion completed December 1, 2008) – Abe Books is an online marketplace for millions of mostly used, out of print, and rare books, which are listed by thousands of independent booksellers from around the world. Again, this is another acquired company that continues to be a stand-alone operation after being purchased.

AbeBooks made a number of acquisitions on its own before being purchased by Amazon.com, including Justbooks.de in October of 2001, and IberLibro.com in October 2004. AbeBooks acquired BookFinder.com in November of 2005, a book inventory and order management company named FillZ in February of 2006, a 40 percent stake in LibraryThing in May of 2006, created a site named Gojaba.com in February of 2008, and acquired Chrislands in April of 2008.

logo for Yieldex

Yieldex
(Investment in company on February 17, 2009) – Yieldex is an online ad targeting optimization firm.

logo for Lexcycle

Lexcycle Inc.
(Acquired April 27, 2009) – This is the company behind Stanza, an electronic book reading application for the iPhone and iPod.

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Booktour
(Seed capital investment in April, 2009) – The Chairman of Booktour is author and journalist Chris Anderson, who is the editor in chief of Wired Magazine, and the writer of the book The Long Tail. The company lets authors create profile pages where they can communicate with fans, and provide a schedule of events they may be participating in.

logo for Foodista.com

Foodista
(Investment in May, 2009) – Foodista is an online cooking encyclopedia and wiki which launched in December of 2008, and is being built with user contributions.

logo for Talkmarket

Talk Market Inc
(Investment on June 9, 2009) – A minority stake in Talk Market, which allows sellers of unique products to upload videos about what they offer, and add graphics and soundtracks to those videos. In essence, this is an online shopping network.

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SnapTell Inc.
(Acquisition on June 16, 2009) – Snaptell was acquired by Amazon.com subsidiary A9. The company makes mobile image recognition marketing applications and technology, and has been one of the most popular applciations for iPhones and Android phones.

logo for Zappos

Zappos
(Acquired July 22, 2009) – The email that Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh sent out to his employees to inform them of the acquisition of Zappos by Amazon.com provides a lot of insight into why Amazon purchased this popular ecommerce company. He tells them:

We plan to continue to run Zappos the way we have always run Zappos — continuing to do what we believe is best for our brand, our culture, and our business. From a practical point of view, it will be as if we are switching out our current shareholders and board of directors for a new one, even though the technical legal structure may be different.

We think that now is the right time to join forces with Amazon because there is a huge opportunity to leverage each other’s strengths and move even faster towards our long term vision. For Zappos, our vision remains the same: delivering happiness to customers, employees, and vendors. We just want to get there faster.

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50 thoughts on “Amazon Acquisitions and Investments”

  1. What about Bibliofind.com I think they paid 120 million for this in 2001 or so. Hope this helps,

    Mike

  2. Thanks, Mike.

    I’m going to have to look into that one. I think the similarity between the names of Bibliofind and Bibliofile may have thrown me off the scent of that one. Much appreciated.

  3. I had no idea, they had purchased so many companies. It seems most were done before tech wreck.

    It will be interesting to see if they go on a purchasing spree again, with their stock price where it’s at.

  4. Hi Steve,

    I didn’t expect to see so many companies when I started researching this topic. Amazon has also been active in their past in developing strategic partnerships with companies.

    I noticed a big gap there between 2001 and 2004, and wondered if it signaled a change in philopsophy towards acquisitions, or a quieter approach towards them.

    There were some interesting acquisitions since 2004, like on-demand printing, ebooks for mobile devices, and DVD downloading and burning. Those seem like good technologies to get involved within, especially if you are thinking of the future.

  5. Could you please throw some light on how Amazon treats employees of company which it acquires and merges it with Amazon.com. This would be great information.

  6. Hi Bill,
    Do you have an idea of the amounts Amazon paid for their recent purchases, especially local e-commerce companies? If so, could you share this information

  7. Hi Yulia,

    If I had the information at hand, I would be happy to share it, but I don’t.

    I had considered including the costs of purchases when I originally wrote this. The early press releases from Amazon included that type of information, but later press releases seem to be quiet on the subject.

    It might be possible to get the kind of information from financial filings that they had published with the Securities and Exchange Commission, though those financial reports don’t always provide a breakdown either, especially when the cost of the acquisition wasn’t a very large amount.

    In the 1990s, companies didn’t seem to care as much about disclosing that type of information. I seem to see less of it being disclosed these days.

  8. Hi – does anyone know what they paid for Mobipocket or for BookSurge?

    Would be very interesting to know!

    Thanks

  9. Wow, I’m starting to see the potential here.

    I’ve never been a big fan of Amazon, until now!

    P.S. Bill, that’s my first visit to your blog, and really enjoy it!

  10. Thanks, Codrut,

    Appreciate your stopping by, and your kind words.

    Amazon has made some interesting acquisitions, and some more recent ones that I haven’t included here. I should probably update this post.

  11. How about Animoto, YieldEx and previous winners of the Amazon Web Services Startup Challenge?

  12. Hi DC,

    It looks as though the grand prize in the Amazon Web Services Startup challenge included a potential investment offer from Amazon, but I don’t know if any of the winners took Amazon up on that offer. The judges of the contest were also from investment firms, and the winners and runners up had the chance to make pitches for investment money from them, too.

  13. Amazon purchased Alexa Internet in ’98 or ’99. It’s worth checking out the Amazon.com entry at Wikipedia for a few others you missed. But looking at the quality of that page I’d be sure to verify names and dates straight from the (horse’s mouth).

  14. Thanks, Jay.

    I need to spend some time updating this page. Amazon hasn’t been holding still the past couple of years, and adding Alexa sounds like something I should do.

  15. Major moves on Amazons part I’d say. I had no idea they were so well funded.

  16. Amazon has made pretty sound acquisitions this time round. Looks like they are consolidating their business knowing they have probably achieved a peak already and are looking at alternative revenue streams.

  17. I had no idea that Amazon had purchased so many companies. I’m surprised there isn’t more about this in the news considering all the flack Microsoft get in the news. Amazon appear to be buying up all their competitors, which is the allegation against microsfot

  18. Hi Edmund,

    Amazon does seem to have been making some interesting acquisitions. It’s been a long time since they’ve just sold books. :)

  19. Hi Tom,

    I think Amazon is making some interesting and wise investments and acquisitions, including ventures into storage and cloud computing. Should they be getting some of the flack that Microsoft has in the past? I’m not sure that they should, but I’d like to hear more of your thoughts on the topic.

  20. Wow, just makes you realize how much Amazon is becoming a global monopoly in a variety of industries, mainly book-related but even movie rental, software, cloud computing, electronics – this is quite a comprehensive list. And the big just keep getting bigger…

  21. Hi AIMS,

    I was surprised way back when Amazon first started to offer things other than books, such as toys. After the history of acquisitions and the diversity of opportunities they are exploring now, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise to see they pursue things other than books. The cloud computing area is a big departure from their original offerings, but I think it makes sense given the expertise they’ve been developing as a very large ecommerce portal.

  22. When Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in 1994, under the name Cadabra.com, his plan was to sell everything from “A t Z”. It’s part of where the logo came from. The arrow points from the A to the Z and the smile it makes is supposed to be representative of happy customer smiles. Funny thing, Cadabra sounded too much like Cadaver, that was why it got changed.

  23. Check out CrunchBase’s profile on Amazon, they have some companies on Amazon’s acquisitions list I didn’t see here, like emii.com and others. Hope it helps.

  24. Hi Diedra,

    Thank you. I originally wrote this post in 2006, and updated it in 2009. Looks like Amazon has made a few more acquisitions since then. Probably time to update again.

  25. Thanks, Tami

    Livingsocial is based close to where I’m from. It’s good to see a local high tech company getting investment dollars from Amazon. It’s definitely time to write an update to this post.

  26. Hey Bill,

    Do you know why they invested in animoto? and how much they paid?

    Many thanks

    Kat

  27. Just a comment on employment with amazon.com – Great company to work for! Nice benefits and they go all out to provide a great work environment! Nothing like I have experienced anywhere before.

  28. Hi Deb,

    I had a short stint a number of years back as a temporary seasonal working in one of Amazon’s warehouses. I signed up for the job because I was intriqued about what went on behind the walls of the facility. Glad that I did – it was a real learning experience seeing how carefully every aspect of the warehouse and the tasks people performed was planned out. And the people who were full time workers there were extremely happy with their employer.

  29. I’m not too sure if many of these acquisitions actually turn out to be making money for amazon. Last heard, lovefilm was also acquired by the online giant.

  30. Hi Audi,

    Not sure how well the different companies acquired by Amazon are doing, but I have seen recent ads on TV for audible.com. I do have lovefilm listed above.

  31. Hi Bill,

    do you know whom to contact at Amazon for a potential new investment?

  32. Hi Bill,

    I was surprised that Amazon made so many acquisitions… You did a great job describing them.

    Hope you will update the list sometime soon.

    Thanks,

    Art

  33. Hi Art,

    Thank you. I’d love to find some time to update this post, and add Amazon’s newest acquisitions. Hopefully I’ll get a chance sometime soon.

  34. I have a new product that will do very well on amazon. I believe that they would invest if I knew who contact. I have a short clip of the product to show them. Anyone know how to contact the right person.

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