In a keynote at Amazon's re:MARS conference on Thursday, Bezos shared a bit of wisdom with the audience of technologists and researchers -- as well as a look into one particular high-stakes gamble it's taking right now.
"The risk is capped on the downside, and for all practical purposes, it's unlimited on the upside," he said of entering markets with large potential. "You really should be swinging hard; you are going to fail hard, and you need to have a culture that supports that."
Bezos said that Amazon still takes risks all the time, and that the company needs "billion-dollar scale failures" in order to learn from and grow.
Asked to name a specific risky bet, Bezos called out Project Kuiper, an initiative announced earlier this spring that aims to launch a network of some 3,200 low-orbit satellites to blanket the earth with high-speed internet access. Bezos described such access as "very close to a fundamental human need" in due time.
Launching a constellation of satellites is no small, or cheap undertaking. But it's a big bet that, if successful, would mean a sea change for the business, he said.
"It's a high capex undertaking -- so we need to be doing things that, if they work, can actually move the needle for us. We can't do things that, if they work, they'll be small."
Along a similar theme, Bezos also shed light on the long-term goals of Blue Origin, the private space flight firm he founded in 2000.
Blue Origins specializes in building reusable rockets, and among Bezos' goals are to build a system for mining valuable materials from the moon, including resources that can be used to create rocket fuel. The gravity differential would make the moon a natural location for heavy industry, according to Bezos, and could mean a future where Earth becomes a better-preserved residential planet and the moon an industrial center.
He likened the project of building space infrastructure to Amazon's reliance on the United States Postal Service in the early days of building its e-commerce business.
"We need to move heavy industry off-earth," he said. "This is the best [planet]; we need to protect it and we can do that by going to space....My mission with Blue Origin is to build that infrastructure so future generations can stand on top of it, just like I stood on top of USPS."
Asked whether he imagines Amazon fulfillment centers on the moon someday, Bezos joked: "We'll start out delivering liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen -- it will be a small selection, but an important one."
Amazon shares were up 1% on Thursday and are up 13% this year.
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