When Jeff Bezos isn't plotting how to blast himself into outer space or test-driving a 13-foot Transformer-esque robot, he's hunting for the next startup that will bolster his Amazon arsenal. Over nearly two decades, the retailer has gobbled up or invested in at least 128 companies from Paris to Dubai.

What's driven the Seattle behemoth to sink its tentacles into such a broad range of upstarts? "When Amazon decides it wants to win something and the market's important to it, it will try to compete. If it can't, it will ultimately buy the leader," says Jeremy Levine, a partner at venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners, a shareholder in Quidsi, which Amazon purchased in 2011 (and shuttered in March).

Common themes among the companies Amazon has brought into its inner circle: startups that adopted the retailer's technology early on; that help put it in direct orbit of Apple, Google, and Netflix; or that vault it into a new geography or category, as it's doing with its more recent Alexa Fund, which is funneling $100 million into artificial intelligence startups. While Amazon has had its share of winning bets like Zappos and Evi, if you ever get the chance to pitch Bezos, you might not want to remind him of LivingSocial.

While Amazon doesn't disclose its specific investments and acquisitions and declined to confirm the following trans­actions with Inc., they have been reported by CB Insights. Inc. included the financial values when possible, using publicly available reports.

Artificial Intelligence Business & Cloud Services Clothing & Accessories Financial Services Food, Beverage & Consumer Products Hardware Home Services Media Production & Entertainment Publishing Social Commerce & Networks Transportation & Logistics acquisition investment *alexa fund recipient

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Companies that make software or hardware to simulate human behavior. Many of these technologies are used to power Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant housed within the Echo smart speaker, which was unveiled in 2014 to compete against Apple's Siri.

2017 Harvest.ai $20 million 2016 *Embodied 2016 Angel.ai 2016 *TrackR $500,000 2016 *DefinedCrowd 2016 *KITT.ai 2015 *MARA.ai 2015 Orbeus 2015

Safaba Translation Solutions The six-year-old Pittsburgh-based machine translation firm founded by Robert Olszewski and Alon Lavie, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, made software that automatically translated text from one language to another. Amazon likely acquired the company, in part, to get Lavie, who was appointed to lead Amazon's new Machine Translation R&D Group.

2015 2lemetry 2013 Ivona Software 2013

Evi Technologies In 2012, when William Tunstall-Pedoe first built "Evi," a virtual assistant, little did he know she would eventually become "Alexa." A year later, Amazon bought the Cambridge, England-based company for more than $26 million, eventually using its A.I. intellectual property--the ability to translate sound to text and generate voice response--along with its talent, to fuel Amazon's own digital assistant.

2011 Yap 2009 SnapTell Back to top acquisition investment *alexa fund recipient

BUSINESS & CLOUD SERVICES

Companies that provide services for third-party businesses--from data management and cloud storage to secure messaging--to fuel Amazon's wildly profitable services arm, Amazon Web Services. AWS makes cloud computing and storage software for businesses, a handful of which subsequently have received investment or an acquisition offer from Amazon.

2016 cloud9 ide 2016 nice 2016 ionic security 2016 biba systems 2015 elemental technologies $296 million 2015 appthWack 2015

TWILIO Shortly after Amazon announced its investment in the San Francisco cloud communication platform firm, the two companies inked a deal: Software developers using the AWS platform would now have access to Twilio's real-time messaging service and notifications. Twilio's co-founder and CEO, Jeff Lawson, wasn't exactly a stranger to Amazon--he was among AWS's first product managers; Twilio is also built atop the AWS infrastructure and is integrated into a number of Amazon services.

2015 ClusterK 2014 Acquia 2014 Amiato 2012 ParAccel 2011 Quorus 2011 Yieldex 2011 Cirtas Systems 2011 Sonian 2009 GoodData 2009 Engine Yard 2008 Elastra 2008 the Talk Market Back to top acquisition investment *alexa fund recipient

CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES

Companies that sell apparel via e-commerce or develop fashion-related technology.

2016

*Owlet Baby Care The Lehi, Utah-based developer of smart socks that monitor infants' vitals raised $15 million from investors including Amazon, along with a grant from the National Institutes of Health. The company's flagship device monitors things like an infant's heart rate, which parents can view in a corresponding app.

2016

*Thalmic Labs This startup, based in Kitchener, Ontario, makes an A.I.-infused armband that measures electrical signals in the wearer's muscles and enables them to control everything from phones and laptops to bionic limbs (for amputees).

2015 whowhatwear $8 million 2015

Shoefitr Solving an expensive online-shopping problem for Amazon's 2009 acquisition, Zappos, this startup helps shoppers find shoes that fit using 3-D technology, reducing customer returns.

2009 Zappos $850 million 2008 Fabric.com 2006 Shopbop.com Back to top acquisition investment *alexa fund recipient

FINANCIAL SERVICES

Companies that facilitate or process digital payments or provide alternative payment methods such as gift cards--many of which were integrated into Amazon Payments, the company's online payments processor, which launched in 2007. More recently, Amazon launched a payments partner program, which allows merchants to offer "Pay with Amazon" at checkout.

2016 Qwikcilver Solutions $10 million 2016 Emvantage Payments 2015 Bankbazaar 2007

Textpayme Shortly after acquiring the Redmond, Washington-based SMS payments service, Amazon went on to launch its own payments processing service, Amazon Payments. Although a first version of the service--a personal app called WebPay--went under in 2014, Amazon Payments has evolved into a PayPal competitor.

2006 Bill Me Later 1999 Accept.com Back to top acquisition investment *alexa fund recipient

FOOD, BEVERAGE & CONSUMER PRODUCTS

Companies that make or sell food, home, or drugstore products; and comparison shopping sites that were funneled into the company's now-defunct Amazon Local arm.

2017 Souq.com 2015 *Petnet 2015

*The Orange Chef The San Francisco-based startup developed a smart kitchen scale that could measure the nutritional value of ingredients as you cook--a product so advanced it also attracted investment from Amazon rival Google. While the company sold to recipe search site Yummly in 2015, glitches were found in the flagship product and it was discontinued.

2014

Yummy 77 Amazon invested $20 million in the Shanghai-based food-delivery startup, marking the retailer's first strategic investment in the Chinese market since acquiring Joyo.com--Amazon's local e-commerce rival--10 years earlier. In 2016, Yummy 77 filed for bankruptcy.

2011 Cicek Sepeti 2011 Quidsi $500 million 2010 Woot $110 million 2005 Wine.com 2004 Joyo.com $75 Million 2001 Kozmo.com $60 million 1999 Pets.com 1999

Homegrocer.com AmazonFresh, the company's on-demand grocery-delivery service, launched in Seattle in 2007, but Amazon had its sights on the food business for nearly a decade prior. A year after it invested $42.5 million for a 35 percent stake in Homegrocer, a one-year-old startup, the Bellevue, Washington-based company went public, before being sold to the ill-fated Webvan Group for $1.2 billion.

1999 Drugstore.com 1998 Junglee $197 million Back to top

Retail Darwinism

First, Main Street got swallowed up by malls, which then got swallowed up by the big boxes. Now Amazon's market cap is bigger than Target's and Walmart's combined--along with those of the six other largest traditional U.S. retailers.

acquisition investment *alexa fund recipient

HARDWARE

Companies that make the under­lying technology for Amazon products, such as the Kindle (e-files), the Kindle Fire (touchscreens, computer chips), and the Amazon Echo (microphones for digital assistants), so they can compete with Apple's iPad and the Google Home smart speaker.

2016 *Vesper 2015 *Dragon Innovation 2015

Annapurna Labs Ponying up $350 million for the computer-server chip maker marks Amazon's signature strategy: Acquire inexpensive, third-party technologies to power its hardware, such as the Kindle e-reader, rather than build them from the ground up. Shortly after acquiring the Yokneam, Israel-based company, Amazon released an updated, seven-inch version of the Kindle Fire tablet.

2013 Tenmarks Education 2013 Liquavista 2010

Touchco In an effort to compete with Apple's iPad, Amazon acquired this New York City-based startup whose touchscreen technology could power a more robust version of the existing Kindle with full color and multiple touch points. Touchco's team was eventually integrated into Amazon's hardware division, Lab126.

2009 Lexcycle 2007 Brilliance Audio 2005

Mobipocket Two years before launching its first hardware device--the Kindle--Amazon started making investments in the e-reader's underlying technology, which included buying this Paris-based software company that developed an e-file format for physical books.

Back to top acquisition investment *alexa fund recipient

HOME SERVICES

Companies that make "smart" devices for the home, which can be controlled via an app, and mostly reside in the Amazon Home Services arm, which launched in 2015.

2016 *Nucleus 2016

*Ecobee Amazon participated in a $35 million funding round for the Toronto-based connected-thermostat company that competes directly with Nest, the smart-home startup that Google purchased for $3.2 billion in 2014. It marked Amazon's increased competition with Google, which last year launched its own connected speaker system, Google Home.

2016 *Luma Home 2016 *Ring 2015 *Housejoy 2015 *Sutro 2015 *Invoxia 2015 *Musaic 2015 *Rachio 2015 *Scout Alarm 2015 *Toymail 2015

*Alottazs Labs Two years ago, when Amazon opened up its Echo platform to third-party developers, this Columbus, Ohio-based startup that built an app to control a garage door remotely was among the Alexa Fund's first recipients.

2001 Ourhouse Back to top acquisition investment *alexa fund recipient

MEDIA PRODUCTION & ENTERTAINMENT

Companies that make, track, or sell entertainment online, from comic books and music to social networks, tools for creatives, and technology for streaming services. Amazon Video, the company's digital streaming site, launched in 2006, while the retailer's production studio--which now makes award-winning films and television shows--launched in 2010.

2014 Rooftop Media 2014

Twitch Interactive Although a website for live-streaming video games may have looked like a detour, the acquisition of the San Francisco company's platform--spun out of Justin.tv--was highly strategic. It helped Amazon's video service better compete with Netflix and YouTube; for Amazon Web Services, the company could now help third-party developers include game-broadcasting services in their own apps. Twitch was also the then-fourth-largest source of internet traffic, according to research firm Deepfield.

2014

Iconology (Comixology) By 2014, Amazon's one-year-old digital arm, Jet City Comics (part of its Amazon Publishing imprint), was reportedly floundering, so the company purchased the New York City-based e-publisher that had exclusive rights to titles including the Walking Dead series, which already had more than 200 million downloads, and a technology that could boost the Kindle by letting users merge their Amazon and ComiXology accounts.

2014 Double Helix 2013 Songza 2013 Videolicious 2011 Pushbutton 2011 Animoto 2011 Lovefilm $317 million 2010 Amie Street 2008 Box Office Mojo 2008 Reflexive Entertainment 2008

Audible To compete with Apple's iTunes, Amazon began building out its own digital music library--inking deals with Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group--and acquired this Newark, New Jersey-based digital audiobooks provider for $300 million. Analysts at the time speculated that Amazon may have beat Apple to the purchase, since iTunes reportedly accounted for nearly 30 percent of Audible's revenue at the time.

2008 Withoutabox 2007 Ooyala 2007 Atomic Moguls 2005 Customflix 2002 CDnow 1998

IMDB In anticipation of breaking into online video, Amazon bought the film and TV database company, started as a pet project eight years earlier by a U.K.-based cinephile computer pro­grammer who continued running the company under Bezos.

Back to top acquisition investment *alexa fund recipient

PUBLISHING

Companies that sell books, art, and ephemera online, as well as printing and fulfillment services. Amazon launched its own imprint, Amazon Publishing, in 2009.

2016

Westland Last year, around the time Bezos committed to investing as much as $5 billion in India to compete with Asian-grown competitors like Alibaba, he purchased this Indian book publisher, owned by outsourcer Tata Group, for $1.4 million.

2012 Avalon Books 2011 The Book Depository International 2008 Abebooks 2005

Booksurge As Amazon faced increased bookseller competition from e-tailers including eBay and Overstock.com, it purchased the Charleston, South Carolina-based on-demand printing service to enable book fulfillment as needed, rather than house costly amounts of inventory.

1998 Telebook 1998 Bookpages Back to top acquisition investment *alexa fund recipient

SOCIAL COMMERCE & NETWORKS

Websites or online retailers with a social, user-generated, or daily-deals bent.

2014 Wikia 2013 Goodreads 2012 Whosay 2012 Teachstreet 2010

Livingsocial Just six months before Groupon turned down Google's $6 billion offer, Amazon Local emerged offering discounted services on food, vacations, and entertainment. Amazon invested as much as $175 million in LivingSocial, its major daily deals partner--until losing $169 million through the service in the third quarter of 2012, and writing down its stake in the company (which ultimately sold to Groupon). In December 2015, Bezos shuttered Amazon Local.

2010 BuyVIP $96.5 million 2009 Foodista 2009 Booktour 2008 Shelfari 2007 Dpreview 2005 Del.Icio.Us 1999 Della.com $10 million 1999

Exchange.com On the heels of its IPO, Amazon spent $185 million to purchase this Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, which operated Bibliofind, a marketplace for rare books, and MusicFile, a site for hard-to-find recordings. The acquisition also added thousands of independent dealers and retailers to the Amazon.com network, helping to bring social media aspect to the site.

1999 LiveBid.com 1998

Planetall Before Facebook and LinkedIn, there was Cambridge, Massachusetts-based PlanetAll, a calendar and address book website with 1.5 million members. After Amazon acquired the two-year-old startup for $90 million, it used the company's technology to power Amazon's social features--including Purchase Circles, which analyzed ZIP codes and domain names on purchases to tabulate bestseller lists--before shutting down the site less than two years later.

Back to top acquisition investment *alexa fund recipient

TRANSPORTATION & LOGISTICS

Companies involved in the transport or management of freight. In 2006, Amazon launched its Fulfillment by Amazon arm, which picks up, packs, and ships orders for third-party retailers. Earlier this year, Amazon launched a freight-delivery service, and is said to be building out its own Uber-like app for booking carriers, to try to penetrate the more than $150 billion industry.

2015 *Mojio 2014 Colis Prive 2014

Yodel In the 2013 fiscal year, Amazon paid nearly $4 billion in shipping fees--up 25 percent from 2012. To offset the hit, Amazon raised the annual Prime membership fee from $20 to $99 and took a 4.2 percent stake in this Liverpool, England-based courier service, the U.K.'s second-largest after the Royal Mail. Despite its size, Yodel was named "the U.K.'s worst parcels delivery firm" two years in a row, according to The Guardian.

2012 Upnext 2012

Kiva Systems In one of its largest acquisitions, Amazon paid $775 million for this North Reading, Massachusetts, company that makes robots that pack and fulfill shipments for retailers--machines that now populate Amazon's warehouses to cut costs and increase margins.

Back to top

But where are all the drones?

With all the talk of Prime Air--the much-hyped futuristic delivery service Bezos first announced in 2013--it's perhaps surprising Amazon hasn't made public investments in drone companies. "I guarantee they've vetted every drone company out there," says independent e-commerce analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. "But there probably aren't many that could do what Amazon hasn't already."

FROM THE MAY 2017 ISSUE OF INC. MAGAZINE