Steve Jobs – The Quintessential Entrepreneur (Pt.1)
An enormous amount of digital ink has covered the Internet in the last few days — about Steve Jobs.
It is rare that one individual garners the attention of so many.
It is richly deserved.
Far too much has been written about the future of Apple without Jobs at the helm. Unless you are deeply invested in Apple stock, these discussions are mostly irrelevant.
I am much more interested in Steve Jobs the man and the entrepreneur — and what we can learn from him.
Quintessential is defined as the perfect example — and to my mind, Steve Jobs exemplifies perfection of the entrepreneurial spirit, vision and innovation.
What Can We Learn From Steve Jobs?
Steve Jobs’ career is not black and white.
He doesn’t fit the traditional mold.
To learn from him, you must look closely at his entrepreneurial DNA.
If you examine his life and career, there are many important but obscure lessons we can learn. Here are just a few:
- True entrepreneurs often spring from modest beginnings. In his youth, Steve Jobs was decidedly not an elitist. He wasn’t born with a guarantee. He didn’t attend an expensive prep school in New York, Connecticut or Massachusetts. He didn’t have an illustrious family. His parents were not endowed with the wealth, or position, or promise that anticipates wild success. In fact, this man who would one day lead the largest corporation on earth, was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, a machinist and an accountant, in Mountain View, California.
- A quality education is not a prerequisite. Steve jobs is not a PhD. He is not a masters degree recipient. He didn’t graduate from MIT, or Harvard or Yale. In fact, after one semester at Reed College, he dropped out of school altogether. He went to work at Atari as his first job, but left soon afterward and traveled through India. During his short educational stint he didn’t set Reed College on fire. He set no records, didn’t write a book, didn’t learn much science or business practice. But he does recall a calligraphy class that would have an impact on his later innovation at Apple. In his words: “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts,” he has said.
- The role of Angel Investors was — and is — crucial to entrepreneurial success. Were it not for Mike Markkula, an angel investor who cashed in stock options from his tenure at Fairchild Semiconductor, we wouldn’t have the iPhone, iPod and iPad today. Markkula invested $250,000, (a princely sum in 1976), in Steve Jobs’ and Steve Wozniak’s fledgling idea — and Apple Computer was born.
- The perceived competition is often arrogant and myopic. In those days, Hewlett-Packard and Atari were the perceived competition. Like so many dedicated, but youthful entrepreneurs looking to pee in the tall grass with the Big Dogs, Jobs and Wozniak went calling on Atari first, and later HP. The lackluster response they received from the titans of technology was underwhelming. With remarkable self-absorption and nearsightedness, Atari dismissed the future technology wizards. Jobs explains: “So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’” Atari responded with an emphatic “No.” Undaunted, the future billionaires went to Hewlett-Packard. In an act of arrogance and myopia that HP most assuredly regrets today, HP belittled the young entrepreneurs saying famously: “Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.”
- The fertile mind of a quintessential entrepreneur often states the obvious — but with a spark of genius. Seven years later, in 1983, a still youthful Steve Jobs was looking for senior executive talent to bolster Apple’s ranks. He set his sites on John Sculley, a powerhouse Vice President at PepsiCo. Their conversation is legendary in the annals of American business. Jobs was no doubt a little apprehensive as he looked for a solid argument to convince Sculley to leave his secure and lucrative position at one of the world’s most famous companies. Sculley was no doubt dubious of this young man, despite his obvious success. In a spark of genius, that has made the pages of many marketing books and countless speeches, Steve Jobs stated the obvious: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” The real spark of genius was not the clever question — it was the fact that in his entrepreneurial soul, Jobs knew that his company would do just that.
Please join me tomorrow for Part 2.