Can Anyone Beat Jeff Bezos? – Vanity Fair

To be fair to Kalanick, Bezos could have been sitting next to any C.E.O.
in the world, and I would have uttered that very same pronouncement.
Uber, at some $70 billion in private valuation, is massive. Amazon,
however, is gigantic. The company, along with Apple, Alphabet (Google’s
parent company), and Facebook, is quickly becoming one of the four
horsemen of the economic apocalypse—public companies that are expected
to be worth $1 trillion, and continue to reorder the business universe
in their image. We’re almost there: Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, and
Facebook together are now worth about $2.5 trillion, or about 13
percent of the value of the entire Fortune 500—and growing. Amazon’s
stock price has tripled since 2015; Apple is currently storing some
$260 billion in cash; Google, as one executive once told me, “has an
algorithm that prints money’’; and a quarter of the entire planet is on
Facebook. But what’s most remarkable, or terrifying, is that no business
is safe from their jaws.

When the meal-kit delivery service Blue Apron announced it was going
public, for instance, its bankers had planned to price its initial
public shares between $15 and $17. But upon the mere news that Amazon
had concocted a pithy slogan—“We do the prep. You be the
chef.”—for a potential future meal-delivery business of its own, Blue
Apron was forced to slash the share price to between $10 and $11.
Earlier this year, supermarket chains saw their market capitalization
recede by $22 billion in a mass sell-off just hours after Amazon had
announced that it was buying Whole Foods. Presumably, these investors
had nightmares of owning shares of the next Borders, which is out of
business, or Barnes & Noble, which saw its stock drop some 75 percent
in the past two years alone.

The Amazon Effect, alas, is no longer unique to Amazon. Kodak was once
worth more than $31 billion, and Polaroid used to do nearly $3 billion
a year in sales, yet both companies (among many others) were walloped by
the iPhone. Facebook has no qualms about leveling any competitor (such
as Vine, Twitter, and, most recently, Snapchat) that enters its
periphery. Google’s prowess can be seen in the vanquished legacies of
Excite, Lycos, AltaVista, AskJeeves, and Yahoo. And that’s before
considering how the company has torn asunder the businesses surrounding
classified ads, cartography, home heating, and wearables.


The recent history is chilling, but the future is what really scares
people. A June 2017 Ball State University study noted that about half of
all U.S. jobs could be eliminated in the coming years due to advances in
automation. A March report by PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that 38
percent of all jobs in the U.S. could be lost to automation in just 15
years. The Obama White House prevised that artificial intelligence could
eliminate up to 47 percent of all jobs in the next two decades. Some in
Silicon Valley, namely the venture capitalists that underwrite such
companies, optimistically compare this phenomenon to the Industrial
Revolution. In reality, the Industrial Revolution was a horribly painful
event that spanned some 80 years. This time around, the swallowing of
jobs by a few companies is going to happen with the pell-mell of a clap
of thunder. And everyone—including even Travis Kalanick’s Uber—is


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