In the race to figure out who Amazon is favoring for its second headquarters location, it’s easy to rely on just two points when making the argument for the D.C. metro area: founder and CEO Jeff Bezos already owns the local newspaper, The Washington Post, and he owns a home in the District.
But, digging through the number of office spaces, data centers and investments both Amazon and Bezos have made in the region, you find a different and deeper story.
Amazon’s presence in the D.C. region dates all the way back to 1999, at least. That’s only five years after Amazon was founded. In 1999, the e-commerce giant purchased Virginia startup Back to Basics Toys — an acquisition that is still changing the layout of Amazon’s toy offerings today.
Today, Amazon’s U.S. public policy team is headquartered in D.C., along with members of the Amazon Web Services public sector team. Add that to the 1.9 million sq. ft. — and counting — of operational data center space owned by Amazon in Northern Virginia already. Amazon Web Services first came to Northern Virginia for its data centers in 2006. (This isn’t surprising considering Northern Virginia’s amenable policies for data centers.)
As of early March, Amazon has more than 460 full-time job openings in the District and Northern Virginia. The company also has increased its lobbying efforts in D.C. by more than 400 percent in the past five years, Bloomberg reports.
Since September, Amazon has been in a pretty public search for a second headquarters location. In January, the company revealed its top 20 finalists, three of which are in the D.C. metro area with the District, Montgomery County and Northern Virginia making the cut. The new headquarters is said to bring 50,000 new jobs and $5 billion in investments to the selected city.
Here’s a look at Amazon’s acquisition and investment activities in the D.C. metro area:
Back to Basics Toys
Herndon, Va.-based Back to Basics Toys was acquired by Amazon in 1999. Back to Basics Toys is a leading online and catalog retailer specializing in hard-to-find classic toys. With the deal, Amazon created a Back to Basics Toys on its e-commerce site, adding classic toys to Amazon’s product offerings. Back to Basics continues to exist as a way of operating Amazon’s catalog and to work with toy manufacturers on product selection.
EverFi, a D.C.-based edtech company, closed a $40 million Series C round in July 2016 led by Bezos Expeditions, Bezos’ manager for his personal venture capital investments. Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt and other investors including New Enterprise Associates were also a part of the round.
EverFi went on to raise the third largest edtech venture capital round in history at $190 million in 2017, led by Bono’s Rise Fund.
LivingSocial, a D.C.-based online marketplace acquired by Groupon in 2016, received a $175 million investment from Amazon in 2010 and a second investment in 2011. Reportedly, Amazon invested a total of $759 million in LivingSocial.
LivingSocial was one of the biggest tech employers in the D.C. metro area before it was sold in 2016 after a series of layoffs and cutbacks. In February 2017, it came out that Groupon paid nothing for what was left of LivingSocial.
Lookout, a San Francisco-based cybersecurity company with a heavy presence at its Washington, D.C. office, landed an investment from Bezos Expeditions in 2014 for its $150 million Series F round. The round was led by T. Rowe Price, and other investors included Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Wellington Management Company, Goldman Sachs, Andreessen Horowitz and others.
Bill Me Later
Before being acquired by eBay in 2008, e-payments startup Bill Me Later scored an investment from Amazon for a $72 million venture round. Following the investment, Amazon became one of Bill Me Later’s top customers, along with Apple and Newegg. Once Bill Me Later was acquired by eBay, it was reported that, because of Amazon’s dismissal of PayPal after eBay bought it, Amazon wouldn’t be accommodating to continuing its Bill Me Later partnership with its then-top competitor in the mix. Bill Me Later soon merged with PayPal’s services, and the company’s site now redirects to PayPal’s credit services. Bill Me Later was based in Maryland.
(Purchases by Bezos around the D.C. metro area made outside of Amazon and Bezos Expeditions.)
The Washington Post
In 2013, Bezos purchased the newspaper company for $250 million. Since the purchase, The Washington Post has become increasingly focused on its digital properties, doubling its web traffic alone in the three years after Bezos’ purchase. The company started focusing on recruiting top engineering and tech talent, licensing its content management system to other news outlets and implementing new technologies into the newsroom.
Bezos’ Kalorama Mansion
In January 2017, it was reported that Bezos was the mystery buyer for a home in the Kalorama neighborhood, where the Obamas currently reside alongside Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. The 27,000 sq. ft. mansion was bought for $23 million, and, as purchased, the building consisted of two single-family mansions. As the new owner, according to a public filing, Bezos planned to turn it into a one-family home.