Today, in the Invent Like An Owner Podcast, Dave speaks with Neil Roseman & Jorrit Van der Meulen. The discussion revolves around Amazon’s DVD rental business which was launched outside of the US, the significance of the Subscription Management Service, and the transition to the Agile/Scrum product development methodology at Amazon.
Neil Roseman is the former VP for Software Engineering at Amazon. He is currently the Technologist in Residence at Summit Partners – a funding company committed to finding and partnering with exceptional entrepreneurs to help them accelerate their growth and achieve dramatic results. Jorrit Van der Meulen originally joined Amazon in 1999 and left in 2005. After working at Zillow for nearly four years, he left and rejoined Amazon in 2008 as the VP for Content Sites. He’s currently the VP for Amazon European Retail.
- Neil Roseman’s LinkedIn and Twitter
- Jorrit Van der Meulen’s LinkedIn
- Find Dave on LinkedIn and Twitter
This episode is sponsored by Floreo, founded by ex-Amazonian Vijay Ravindran. Floreo is the leading research-backed system using virtual reality to deliver immersive, fun and affordable lessons for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. Special discounts are available for current Amazon employees.
Memorable Quotes from the Interview, discussing helpful topics for entrepreneurs then and now:"If you rely on heroic effort all of the time, eventually you kill all your heroes. You cannot expect that to be the default mode of operation and build a long-term great company." — @NeilR Click To Tweet "Agile development works. I believe it’s a better way to build and ship reliable software that’s customer-centric." — @NeilR Click To Tweet "The DVD Rental program proves that you can start a business inside Amazon. It’s kind of the world’s biggest startup incubator." — Jorrit Van der Meulen Click To Tweet
Fun Photos and Memorabilia
The slide presentation above is one that Neil gave at NFAIS (a library science professional org) in 2005. The Mechanical Turk Press Release is the actual internal one (think this was the first PR/FAQ project, and was written either by Matt Round or Peter Cohen). The picture (from ’04 or ’05) on the 7th slide is relevant; when Agile/Scrum was introduced, there were no tools yet, so we used post-its to track tasks on a white board during our daily stand-ups. The teams would then put the completed tasks on the walls (I think this was in the US1 building). You might be able to read some of them. In the office behind, you can see a nice doordesk, and a helmet from Seattle’s 2001 Nisqually Earthquake.
What to Listen For:
- 00:00 Intro
- 02:51 Many people who don’t live in the UK or Germany weren’t aware of Amazon’s DVD rental business
- 08:13 What happened after DVD rental was launched in the UK and Germany
- 10:27 Figuring out how to ship DVD’s and then taking them back into rotation
- 12:18 The window people want to rent a DVD is super short
- 16:05 Reducing complexity by picking a market that was more solvable
- 19:35 How Jorrit joined Amazon
- 21:37 Launching the Subscription Management Service and moving to agile development
- 26:43 It was process that was both business and technical
- 28:33 Meeting with Jeff Bezos and the Subscription Service team
- 33:15 Key features of the Subscription Management Service
- 36:43 The difficult (and easier) aspects of creating Amazon Prime
- 40:52 Focus on creating an appealing pricing program
- 46:06 Integrating the business and development functions
- 49:26 Jorrit runs Amazon’s retail business in Europe
- 50:17 Neil is currently the Technologist in Residence at Summit Partners