If SUCCESS had a crystal ball, it’d look like this.

In this 1998 SUCCESS magazine article about Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder describes the early days in Seattle, where he jotted down 20 things he thought he could sell on the Web, from gardening tools to clothing. He researched his top five: CDs, videos, computer hardware, computer software and books, and launched Amazon.com in 1995 with those staples.

“I used a whole bunch of criteria to evaluate the potential of each product, but among the main criteria was the size of the relative markets,” Bezos said. “Books, I found out, were an $82 billion market worldwide. The price point was another major criterion: I wanted a low-priced product.”

“I reasoned that since this was the first purchase many people would make online, it had to be non-threatening in size,” Bezos told SUCCESS.

By the time the moving van had taken all of Jeff and his wife MacKenzie’s belongings from their home and lucrative life in New York and arrived in a small rental house in the Seattle suburbs, he knew what he wanted to sell and how. They set up shop in the garage, and voila! Amazon.com, the online retailer that bills itself as Earth’s Biggest Bookstore, was born.

What possessed him to give up assured success and security and go out on the limb in an entirely new and untested field?

“I call it a regret-minimalization frameworks,” he says, following the phrase immediately with the rolling, infectious laugh that is his hallmark. “I projected myself…”

Read the complete From the Archives article on success.com and find out what’s next for Jeff Bezos in the August 2011 cover story.

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