Interview with Werner Vogels

posted in Media on September 25th, 2008

Werner Vogels, the chief technical officer of, has spent the last five years developing his company’s vision of technology.

Prior to joining Amazon, Vogels worked as a computer science researcher at Cornell University, where he investigated the scalability and robustness of mission-critical enterprise computer systems.

He was kind enough to answer us when we stopped by Thursday to ask him “What’s up?

What brings you to PICNIC?
“First of all, it was great to get an invitation to speak here,” Werner says. His driving force is a deep-set curiosity in the Dutch start-up culture: “I want to get a better understanding of how this interesting mix of creativity and everything is working, because Amsterdam is unique in this sense.”

What do you hope to gain from PICNIC?
“I don’t know yet, I like to be surprised and I am really expecting to be wowed.” There are myriad innovative things going on here on the lawns of Picnic. To get a better understanding of the whole scene, Vogels is going to hold a brainstorming session with young students, who he finds to be “usually bursting with ideas.”

But Amazon’s chief technical officer also hopes to give something back and share some of his own ideas with the next generation.

Business is changing
The way businesses are created is changing radically: whereas you used to need a lots of money up front to become successful, entrepreneurs have increasing access to both expertise and a range of services to build up their idea. “Everyone is trying to be the next YouTube or Facebook”, Vogels says, but many companies fail to build a sustainable business. “I will be bringing some good start-ups on stage and talk to them,” he said, to highlight the challenges they faced and show what they did to create the so-called long tail.

A green(er) Amazon
When asked what Amazon is doing in terms of becoming a greener company, Vogels said that the world’s largest eTailer has been optimizing their fulfillment process a lot in recent years, moving away from plastic and toward better, more sustainable packaging as well as giving customers more insight into the carbon footprint of their order.

Also, Vogels notes, Amazon is making their data centers a lot more efficient, which has the welcome side effect of becoming more green.

The video clip of this interview is coming soon!


This video interview was created in collaboration with Joitske Hulsebosch