When Jeff Bezos started Amazon, he didn't really set out to sell books online - the official history. Those who were watching closely realized that his first big goal was daunting: he wanted to win against Walmart, a company that had started out as an "all-American" store serving rural US (with very patriotic founders), but morphed into China's largest retail outlet inside its top market.
In addition to selling goods that were almost all Chinese-made, the company developed a horrible reputation, for underpaying employees and often leaving their hours short enough to qualify for food stamps, with their medical insurance to be paid by their home states. But this combination meant low prices, and that was Walmart's one brand feature.
To get the ball rolling, Jeff began hiring top executives from the firm, including its then-CTO. This poaching reached a level that finally led to a lawsuit by Walmart, stopping the process, at least for a while. But if nothing else, it showed the rest of us how serious Jeff was in his pursuit of the world's largest retailer.
Walmart remains large per many metrics, including headcount - today running somewhere north of 1,100,000.
Amazon, on the other hand, has about 540,000 employees, as of this week.