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MacKenzie Bezos and the myth of the Lone Genius Founder

When the award-winning writer MacKenzie Bezos and her husband Jeff Bezos, chief executive and founder of Amazon, announced on Wednesday, they divorced the impact it might have on Jeff's business, and on the net value of each page. If he and his wife shared their estimated fortune of $ 136 billion, news articles speculated that MacKenzie could become the "richest woman in the world", far richer than people like Elon Musk.

TMZ reports that the couple did not have this a prenup Washington, where they live is a community property state, meaning that all assets and debts acquired during the 25-year marriage could equally be divided if the Bezoses did not negotiate an agreement can. Amazon is 24 years old. But considering divorce as an opportunity for MacKenzie to become the richest woman in the world is a strange way to describe her situation, as Bloomberg points out. She is already the richest woman in the world because she is half of the richest couple on earth.

This week was full of stories with headlines like "How much could MacKenzie Bezos divorce?" Speculating about what's going to happen to "his wealth" (interrupted by the occasional outcry that each person has more than $ 60 billion What was often missed or overlooked is the fact that MacKenzie helped her husband start his historic business. Start losing her life and move from New York City to Seattle, where Amazon was founded. It's also part of a broader pattern, as the stories of tech companies are told, leaving the many people who help build them up to highlight the "lonely genius" at the top. Many of the people who backstage were women.

"Historically as well as today, it is much more" proof "for a woman to claim competence, importance and intelligence ̵

1; something that is making a strong impact on the world every day on the national political stage, of Hillary Clinton to Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, "says Marie Hicks, technology historian and author of Programmed inequality: how Britain has got technologists out of the way and lost their lead in computer science. "It makes us feel like we're talking about women who deal with tech in everyday life, be it at work, at school, on the internet or in the media."

Empires like Amazon and Apple are not created by a single man in a business vacuum; They are the product of a mix of luck and contributions from a whole team – including the spouse of a founder.

MacKenzie met Jeff after she graduated from Princeton in 1992 and started working for the relatively new hedge fund DE Shaw, where Bezos was working. In 1993, she married and in 1994 she drove to Washington, allegedly with MacKenzie behind the wheel of the car , According to Brad Stone, author of the 2013 book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Amazonian Epoch (19459009), the couple left a prosperous existence on Manhattan's Upper West Side. "They have given up a really comfortable lifestyle and a successful career to move around the country and do something on the internet," says Stone. "The only reason why [Jeff] was able to do that is because he had a very supportive spouse. It was an unbelievable risk, that both had come together.

In a speech delivered to Princeton in 2010, Jeff admitted that his wife had gambled. "I told my wife MacKenzie that I wanted to quit my job and do this crazy thing that probably would not work because most startups do not, I was not sure what would happen after that," he said. "MacKenzie … told me to do it." (Amazon did not respond immediately to a request for comment.)

In Bellevue, the suburb of Seattle where Jeff had rented a garage, MacKenzie was Amazon's first location Get the company to the ground. While researching in his book, Stone interviewed early staff members, who said that MacKenzie had written checks and helped keep track of the books. A 1999 WIRED profile of Jeff found that she was involved in negotiating the retail giant's first freight contracts. As the company grew and hired more employees, MacKenzie played less of a role in Amazon's day-to-day business, although she continued to support Jeff at corporate events. She wrote two novels, The Testing of Luther Albright which was awarded the 2006 American Book Award, and Traps which was published in 2013.

Apart from a profile in Vogue was published almost five years ago. MacKenzie and the four Bezos children have not developed much in public. A notable exception took place in 2013, after Stones book came out. MacKenzie left a 1-star rating on the Amazon site and denied the accuracy of the book. She also emphasized her own role in the company: "I worked for Jeff at DE Shaw, I was there when he wrote the business plan, and I have offices with him and many others in the remodeled garage, cellar cellar, and grill , Christmas sales centers and the door switches filled the conference rooms in the early years of Amazonian history. Jeff and I are married for 20 years. "

Of course, MacKenzie and other early Amazon employees are not the only ones contributing to the company's (and Jeff's) success. Amazon has benefited from other factors, including years of successful collection of state revenue taxes and price undercutting from competitors. The company also relied on external innovations such as the Internet, some of which were developed by government researchers. Of course this is only unique to Amazon. Elon Musk and his company Tesla may not be much without the billions they have received for government grants. Steve Jobs & # 39; iPhone was made possible by researchers who have been developing touchscreen technology for decades since the 1940s.

Admittedly, MacKenzie's role in Amazon's history may not be as critical as the existence of the World Wide Web. On the other hand, it is difficult to say for sure. Would eCommerce look different today if they had refused to move to Seattle and be part of an internet startup? Countless decisions contribute to the success or failure of a business, some big or small, and almost never by just one person. It is not always obvious which choices influence the scale in one way or another. The myth of the lonely genius has been largely debunked, but it can be all too easy to fall back on the familiar rhythms of Silicon Valley's most popular narrative instruments. Even or especially when chatting about the luscious details of a high-level divorce. Many people are fostering the creation of companies like Amazon and the immense wealth they generate, from inventors and employees to policymakers, taxpayers and spouses. Maybe it's time to tell more about what all these posts are really worth.

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