Jeff Bezos Isn’t Your Average Florida Retiree, But He’s Close
Miami offers the Amazon founder and billionaire the right mix of family and lifestyle. But his era of wild entrepreneurial success stories is winding down.
Aww. There's something so wholesome about seeing a young Jeff Bezos — now the third-richest person in the world — showing his dad around Amazon.com's first “office,” which was really just a garage outfitted with a mess of extension cords:
The founder has spent nearly three decades calling the Seattle metropolitan area home, and now he's returning to his childhood city of Miami to be closer to his parents. Why now? Although some speculate the billionaire (and his sizable fleet of yachts) has been lured to Florida by its attractive tax environment, it seems more personal than that.
The 59-year-old Bezos is nearing his prime “move to Florida” years, Jonathan Levin notes (free read): “Like fellow Florida-linked tycoons Barry Sternlicht, Carl Icahn and Griffin, he has accomplished just about everything he could hope for in life, made sackloads of money and probably has an eye on retirement in the not entirely distant future.” So really he's just another Florida retiree, except, instead of your grandpa, he's a billionaire Instagram boyfriend that enjoys playing pickleball in the middle of the ocean.
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A lot has changed since Bezos first set up shop in his garage. For starters, I wasn't alive in 1994, when Amazon was just one of many nascent firms flourishing in an era of free-flowing venture capital. Despite the dot-com bust that followed, the tech industry has since reshaped the job market. In the 2010s, Columbia Business School students piled into tech and media, lured by the promise of reaching “the number,” which Allison Schrager says is the amount you need to earn before you turn 40 so you never have to work again.
But the days of tech entrepreneurs retiring young appear to be winding down: “The number of deals and IPOs has fallen off a cliff, and this trend will probably continue. Higher interest rates make financing harder to come by, and big firms have less capital to buy startups,” she writes. In other words, Silicon Valley is drying out: While the well-established companies that rose with Amazon have made an indelible mark on society, we're unlikely to see the tech industry return to its halcyon days.
The pandemic offered Big Tech one final squeeze of innovation. We saw companies like Zoom Video Communications Inc. and Peloton Interactive Inc. explode in our isolated environment, but that success was short-lived. What wasn't short-lived was our boost in productivity. Consider restaurants: “One key reason full-service restaurants are able to serve more food with fewer workers is that much of the work of getting that food to customers has been outsourced to delivery apps,” Justin Fox writes. Uber Technologies Inc., DoorDash Inc. and Grubhub Inc. are in many ways the younger siblings of Amazon. Food-delivery startups took Bezos' original blueprint — providing customers with an efficient marketplace of things — and repurposed it:
“Rising labor productivity means the economy can create more stuff with the same number of workers, working the same number of hours,” Karl Smith writes (free read). Who is buying all that stuff? Just take one look at your Amazon shopping cart and you'll know the answer. But “robust consumer spending is not so much a sign of Americans' addiction to shopping but of their accurate appraisal of their own future income prospects,” he writes. Income security is steadily rising — as Tyler Cowen notes — because increasing productivity allows companies to keep a lid on prices without cutting wages:
In the five minutes it'll take you to read this newsletter, Jeff Bezos will have added about $120,000 to his wealth. None of that would be possible without American workers — the true unsung heroes of the economy. The US just enjoyed its strongest quarterly growth outside of the pandemic era since 2014, and a lot of that growth can be traced back to the Everything Store, a pioneer of productivity. No matter what you think of his decision to move from the Seattle area to Miami, you can't argue with the fact that Bezos is going out with a bang.
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