Jeff Bezos wants to engage a new generation with the promises of space, but to do so, he’ll need the right team in place on the ground.
Speaking at the JFK Space Summit in Boston on Wednesday, Bezos addressed some of the challenges he faces hiring talent at Blue Origin, the 19-year-old space tourism company that he plans to grow to 2,600 employees by the end of 2019.
“As a human, it would be fun to see the results of your work sooner,” Bezos said of Blue Origin’s space venture. “You need to select the right people, people who believe passionately in the idea, who are willing to think long-term, who know that God knows how to price his goods. This is hard and it’s supposed to be hard. I heard somewhere that we do these things because they’re hard.”
Bezos has previously acknowledged that achieving spaceflight and moon exploration entail endeavors that require patience and long-term vision. Before Blue Origin’s ninth rocket launch in July 2018, the company livestreamed a pep talk Bezos delivered to workers in which he reminded them that they are “so close to putting humans in space.”
But it’s not all motivational speeches and moments of reflection. Bezos has been vocal about using fear to motivate the workforce at Amazon. He famously wrote in a 1999 letter shareholders that he wanted Amazon employees to “wake up every morning terrified.” When he’s hiring, he values results over intelligence, and says he wants to hire mavericks and doesn’t mind that these people can be “a little bit annoying” as coworkers.
And he may need to keep hiring mavericks if Blue Origin is going to deliver on the ambitious plans its founder has made.
In early May, Bezos unveiled new details about Blue Origin’s “Blue Moon” lunar lander, including a full-scale mock-up of the vehicle. The privately developed lunar lander, a three-year project, is designed to send cargo and eventually astronauts to the moon by 2024, a goal the Trump administration has set for NASA. At the JFK Space Summit, Bezos provided more technological insight into his moon mission, explaining how his spacecraft will be powered by propellants made from the moon’s icy surface.
But in the meantime, Bezos will be looking for employees who can stay grounded and focused.
“It’s hard enough [when] you make a Hollywood movie — you start and then three years later the movie’s finished, and then two years after that it makes it to theaters,” Bezos said. “That’s like five years — but the kinds of things we’re working on have 15-, 20-year time-frames and that’s very, very challenging.”