Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos: ‘The only thing that’s disruptive is customer adoption’

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Jeff Bezos discusses Blue Origin New Shepard booster rocket & crew capsule at the Space Symposium. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Amazon often gets the blame — or credit, depending on your perspective — for upending traditional industries, particularly in the brick-and-mortar retail sector.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO, offered his view on this issue when answering questions from reporters this week during an appearance in Colorado Springs, Colo., for his other venture, commercial space company Blue Origin. His response provided a new window into Amazon’s mindset.

A reporter for CNBC, Morgan Brennan, brought up this week’s Payless ShoeSource bankruptcy filing and asked Bezos, “When it comes to space, will Blue Origin be just as competitive?” Here’s what Bezos said in response.

Well, of course we’ll be just as competitive. But how do you compete? When people say that an entrant is disruptive in an industry, what they really mean is that customers are adopting that new way. At Amazon, we’ve had a lot of inventions that we were very excited about, and customers didn’t care at all. And believe me, those inventions were not disruptive in any way. The only thing that’s disruptive is customer adoption. If you can invent a better way, and if customers agree that it’s a better way, then they will use that.

That’s exactly what we’re trying to do at Blue Origin. … If we can make access to space low-cost, then entrepreneurs will be unleashed, you will see creativity, you will see dynamism. You will see the same thing in space that I’ve witnessed on the Internet over the last 20 years. And believe me, that’s fun. Right now, you can’t see that, and the reason you can never get there is because the price of admission is too high.

If I’m a kid in my dorm room, I can create the next Snapchat, because the price of admission to create Snapchat is low. But I can’t create the next planetary mission, or the next exploration satellite. Most of the things that you want to do in space that are truly interesting, right now have a very high price of admission. And as a result, you can’t unleash the creativity of thousands and thousands of startup companies and kids in dorm rooms everywhere. But if we can reduce the cost of launch by a factor of 10 and a factor of 100 — and believe me, that’s going to take time and a lot of hard work — but if we can do that, you will be living in a completely new world. It will be a golden age of space exploration. You’ll see so many people. Then it will be a big industry, and a very dynamic and fascinating one. It will be a golden age.

GeekWire’s aerospace and science editor Alan Boyle and photographer Kevin Lisota were in Colorado Springs this week for the 33rd Space Symposium. Watch the full video of Bezos’ Q&A with reporters here, listen to his comments as a podcast above, and see more links to our coverage below.

More about Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin outing:

  • Video tour: Here’s what it’s like to sit in the New Shepard spaceship
  • How Jeff Bezos is using Amazon’s success to fuel Blue Origin
  • Hold on tight and hold it: Jeff Bezos says no potty breaks on Blue Origin space trips

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