During the summer of 1994, a mere 18 miles away from each other, Jeff and Dave embarked on similar paths. In Bellvue, Washington, Jeff Bezos started an on-line bookstore called Amazon. He was the company’s only employee, working solo from his garage turned home-office/warehouse. In those early days, as the sole proprietor, Jeff was doing every job at Amazon on his own. Meanwhile, Dave Grohl was still absorbing the suicide of his friend and bandmate Kurt Cobain a few months previous. Cobain was the leader of Nirvana, and with his death, so died the band. Dave Grohl, like Jeff Bezos, was totally solo. He went into the studio all by himself to start his new project, Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl played every instrument and sang every word on that debut album.
Foo Fighters eventually became a six-piece band and would go on to become one of the most popular global rock acts. The Foo Fighters have won multiple Grammy Awards, relentlessly toured the world, and sold millions upon millions of albums. Amazon did alright too! Within two months they were generating $20,000 per week in sales, and Jeff wasn’t solo for long. Hiring ramped up, and today the company employs close to 650,000 people all over the world and is the third biggest company on earth based on market cap. But on July 5, 1994, the day Jeff Bezos registered his company, Amazon had one employee… and Foo Fighters had one band member.
Great bands and great companies are very similar. They almost always start with one determined person with a vision who has an idea rattling around in their brain that they just can’t shake. That idea – be it an on-line store or a song like “Everlong” – is screaming to be unleashed. The musician has no choice but to get into the studio, pick up an instrument, and let the song out for the world to hear. The entrepreneur also has no choice. They need to take their idea to the world.
The story of Jeff and Dave has another intriguing parallel. Until starting Amazon, Jeff Bezos had never sold a book. He had built a successful career in hedge funds and banking, but running an on-line bookstore was not a skill Jeff Bezos brought to Amazon. And Dave Grohl wasn’t a singer! Dave Grohl was a drummer. He had created a successful career as the drummer in Nirvana, but being the lead singer of a rock band was not a skill Dave Grohl brought to the Foo Fighters. Despite those obstacles, both Jeff and Dave quickly reinvented themselves.
The entrepreneur is stereotypically logical, left brained, and driven by money. The musician is stereotypically emotional, right brained, and driven by creativity. And while those things may be somewhat rooted in truth, the deeper and more important reality is that the link between the rock star musician and the rock star entrepreneur is very real. They both bring incredible ideas to life and share them with the world.