Remembering the Woman Behind Amazon

Joy Covey, a woman who helped steer Amazon into becoming one of the most successful tech startups ever, has died at the age of 50.

Covey, a less-recognized name than Amazon's well known leader Jeff Bezos, served as the company's first chief financial officer, staying with the company from 1996 to 2000. She died this week in a bicycle accident on Skyline Boulevard in San Mateo County, California. She was 50 years old.

Her path wasn't exactly a traditional one. Having dropped out of high school as a sophomore, Covey ran away and started working at a grocery store in Fresno. But after that, she thrived, entering California State at Fresno at the age of 17 — and graduating within two years. She then sat for her certified public accountant exam and earned the second-highest score in the nation, apparently without even cracking open study materials. She went on to earn a joint M.B.A and law degree from Harvard.

Covey joined Amazon in her early thirties, helping the company make the transition from online book retaile to peddler of, well, everything. She was also the woman behind Amazon's 1997 initial public offering.

Mary Meeker, a venture capitalist and former employee of Morgan Stanley, worked with Covey to help raise $500 million for Amazon. "I am not sure would have survived through its toddler stage if Joy had not been the right person in the right place at the right time,” she said of Covey.

Others echoed how integral to Amazon's success Covey was. Bill Gurley, another venture capitalist based in Silicon Valley, described the former Amazon CFO saying “She was ridiculously smart, and remarkably competitive, which obviously made for a great fit with Jeff."

Covey left Amazon in 2000 to spend more time with her family, and was working as treasurer for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In an email, Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako said, "It’s a very sad day at Amazon. Joy was a wonderful human being and treasured colleague, and we will miss her very much.”

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