A Conversation With Amazon’s First Employee

Shel Kaphan was the first employee at Amazon. In a recent interview with Y Combinator’s publication, The Macro, he talked about how he met Jeff Bezos, the early days of Amazon, and his experience of building the website of a company, that would go on to become the largest e-commerce site on the planet.

At the time I thought, “Okay, I’m going to be building this website to run a bookstore and I haven’t done that before but it doesn’t sound so hard. When I’m done with that I’m not sure what I’ll do.” At that point there was no idea of doing anything but a bookstore. I thought maybe I would be able to go back to Santa Cruz and monitor it from there. I was pretty wrong about how the business would develop and how ambitious Jeff was. I didn’t know him at the time. We had just met.