For most gigantic tech companies, the most furious growth happens early on. As in so many areas, however, Amazon is a fascinating exception to conventional behavior. Beth Galetti, Amazon’s HR chief—whom I profiled for our May issue—is currently presiding over the biggest hiring spree in the company’s history. With a headcount of 647,000, the company has more than six times as many employees as it did when she arrived in 2013 and is adding an average of 337 additional workers a day.
Here’s a look at how a tiny online bookseller has endlessly expanded its ambitions—and staffed up to achieve them.
1995, 11 employees
1997, 614 employees
Still unprofitable and battling established behemoths such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon goes public at $18 a share.
1998, 2,100 employees
International expansion begins as the company opens sites tailored for the U.K. (with 1.2 million books) and Germany (335,000 titles).
2000, 9,000 employees
Amazon allows third-party merchants to sell through its storefront. By 2017, such shipments would account for the majority of sales.
2001: 7800 employees
After the dot-com bubble bursts, Amazon’s stock tumbles. It lays off 15% of staffers, ushering in a brief era of employee shrinkage.
2002, 7,500 employees
In a departure from its retailing roots, Amazon begins providing online infrastructure to other companies. Amazon Web Services establishes a new industry—that’s now a $30-billion business.
2005, 12,000 employees
Amazon Prime lets customers pay an annual fee for fast shipping. Today, it has 100 million members, who also get everything from streaming video to Whole Foods discounts.
2007, 17,000 employees
The Kindle e-reader is the first of a bevy of Amazon gadgets, including tablets, TV boxes, and speakers (and the famously unsuccessful Fire Phone).
2009, 24,300 employees
Amazon pays $1.2 billion for shoe purveyor Zappos—noted for its quirky culture and obsessive customer service—and promises to leave it alone. (It does.)
2011, 56,200 employees
Between offices, warehouses, and data centers, Amazon now occupies 48 million square feet of space and counting.
2013, 117,300 employees
Amazon enters India, with a site that complies with local regulations by offering only products from third-party sellers.
2014, 154,100 employees
Robots invade Amazon fulfillment centers as the company begins automating the stocking process using technology from its Kiva Systems subsidiary.
2015, 230,800 employees
The first-ever Amazon brick-and-mortar store opens in Seattle—a bookshop that promotes its tomes with ratings and reviews from online customers.
2017, 566,000 employees
By paying $13 billion for Whole Foods, Amazon becomes a major grocer—and gets a new venue to hawk its own products, such as Echo speakers.