Amazon's Jeff Bezos has started buying news media: full memo

Amazon chief invests in Business Insider.

So it begins. Amazon's Jeff Bezos has made his first step into news media as the main contributor to a $5m investment in  Business Insider.

He's done it under his own investment company, Bezos Expeditions - but as the FT points out Amazon itself has been increasing its digital production output for some time - via ebooks, tv and film productions, and the 1998 aquisition of IMBb.

Here's the memo from Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget:

Team,

I wanted to share the details of the financing we mentioned last night. (Apologies for not being able to share them then — closing these things is an administrative nightmare, and it took a few hours longer than we hoped). 

I'm going to post about this shortly after 10 a.m. Please don't say anything or tweet about it until after the post hits.

Basically, Jeff Bezos is making a significant investment in the company. Our existing investors are also chipping in some more. In total, we're raising $5 million. This capital will allow us to continue to invest aggressively in many areas of the business, including editorial, tech/product, sales and marketing, subscriptions, and events. As we mentioned last night, it will also allow us to expand our office.

Jeff's investment grew out of a dinner he and I had about a year ago. We talked about the business, and he was excited about it. (He sees some parallels with Amazon). A few months later, he expressed an interest in investing. My reaction was basically "Hell, yeah!"

Jeff's vision, leadership, and philosophy at Amazon have inspired a whole generation of startups and entrepreneurs, including me. Amazon has always focused on customers first, knowing that, if they do a great job at that, everything else will take care of itself. This obsession with customers and long-term focus are the reasons that Amazon has been so successful. And this philosophy is something that we very much want to emulate. (We have two sets of customers, obviously — readers and sponsors. And we're obsessed with both).

Jeff's interest, and Business Insider's extraordinary success over the past year, are due to your efforts on behalf of our readers and our clients. We have improved and grown dramatically, and we were pretty good to begin with.

Our goal is simple: To become the best digital business publication on the planet. We're making great progress toward that. And this investment will help us get there.

Thank you again for your incredible work over the past year. Here's to an even better 2013.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos. Photograph: Getty Images
Photo: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.