Steve Jobs is many things to many people.
Visionary founder, design genius, businessman extraordinaire, schemer, manipulator and more. These are just some of the words used to describe one of the most popular and polarising figures in recent years.
Above it all, though, there is no denying that few people exemplified the word ‘entrepreneur’ quite like Steven Paul Jobs. From his uncanny ability to almost divine the future, to his ruthlessness against his competitors, Jobs had qualities that best epitomise the entrepreneur.
However, this is not a story about the Jobs we all came to know. This is the story of a 25-year old Steve Jobs in 1980, a year when the Cold War was still going strong, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back had just hit theaters, and when the most advanced video game console you could buy was an Atari 2600.
In 1980, Apple’s first machine, the Apple 1 was only four years old and the company was a further four years away from revealing the computer that revolutionised the industry: the Macintosh.
Watching this video really does show that the younger Jobs was every bit the entrepreneur as his older, more famous self was. In a brief 20 minutes, Jobs spoke about the history of Apple to that point, his hopes, dreams and his philosophies on life, work and the tech industry in general.
I watched the video a couple of times and here are seven points (and a bit of analysis from yours truly) from it that really prove why Steve Jobs always was a master entrepreneur.
1. On starting Apple…
“In the beginning, the two people it (the original Apple Computer) was designed for, were Woz (Steve Wozniak, Apple’s Co-founder) and myself. We couldn’t afford an actual computer, so we liberated some parts from HP and Atari, worked on the design for about six months and decided that we would build our own computers.”
The take-back here is simple: Jobs and Woz wanted something for themselves, to solve a personal problem but had no means of getting what they needed, so they used innovation and brainpower to build their own solution and share it with the world. It’s like the best entrepreneurs say, “Solve a problem that you face yourself”.
2. On mankind…
“Man is a toolmaker. He has the ability to make a tool to amplify an inherent ability that he has and that’s exactly what we are doing here. We are building tools that amplify a human ability just like the industrial revolution was an amplification of a human ability: sweat”
In the video, Jobs talks about how, in a study published at the time, scientists were trying to find out which species on earth were the most efficient in terms of calories consumed per distance travelled. The condor won and humans were in the middle of the pack. However, if you put man on a bicycle, suddenly, he becomes the most calorie efficient creature on the planet.
Man is a toolmaker, according to Jobs, which means that basically, for whatever ails us, we can find or make a tool, whether that is a hammer or a piece of software, to help us solve it.
3. On giving customers the personal touch…
“We want to remove the barrier so that someone can buy a computer system, who knows absolutely nothing about (it) and directly attack their problem without knowing how to programme a computer. Our whole company, our whole philosophical base is founded on one principle: there is something very special and very historically different when you have one computer and one person.”
Jobs strongly believed that the future of the computer industry lay with the individual, not with corporations. He believed that eventually, the cost of technology would go down to the extent that the individual would become the prime market mover. He wanted to position the company to take advantage of this envisioned one-on-one relationship and it seems that posterity has proved Jobs right.
4. On the name Apple…
“We called it Apple because I like apples a lot and because we wanted to be ahead of Atari in the phone book because I used to work at Atari. It seemed to epitomise what we’re going after, simplicity and very refined sophistication. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication and the apple seemed to symbolise that.”
In the years since that talk, it seems that this philosophy hasn’t changed a bit. Till today, Apple still touts the simple yet sophisticated motto. This harkens back to his earlier point on how technology needs to be, above all, simple and easy-to-use.
5. On the industry…
“When we started out, we didn’t know how to spell the word software. We decided that we were selling solutions, not hardware. The line between hardware and software is going to get finer and finer.”
The main point here is that Jobs believed that at Apple, they were selling solutions, not hardware. Basically, they were not in the business of making computers, they were in the business of using the computer as a tool to create solutions that people needed.
A good tech entrepreneur is a problem-solver, he uses technology and the power of the Internet to create a set of tools, be it a simple app or a completely new way of doing things, to solve a fundamental problem.
6. On why people wanted to join Apple…
“Most people didn’t come for the salary. A lot of people who came took 50 per cent cuts in their salary. We attracted people on the basis of an opportunity to work your butt off and do something right.”
Throughout the video, Jobs kept speaking about how a company was only as good as its employees. He believed that employees want to feel fulfilled and don’t mind working long and hard as long as the end product is something they can be proud of.
7. The measure of success
“What we, the senior management of the company, are going to judge ourselves by is, can we maintain this atmosphere of creativity and productivity? Of a company where it’s fine to fall on your face if you can pick yourself up again. The rest of the things will take care of itself.”
In this final nugget, Jobs lays out his vision for what will become the Apple of today. It is important to fail, according to Jobs, but what is equally important is getting up from that fall and doing better the next time.
All in all, Jobs left behind an enduring legacy, one encapsulated by stunning innovation and a brilliant business acumen. This one single video presentation, from young Jobs is as poignant then as it is now, perhaps even more so, now that history has proved a lot of his predictions correct.
What the future holds, for the house that Jobs built now that he is no longer here, is uncertain, but what is certain is the fact that for a long time to come, the name Steve Jobs will ring loud as an example of a truly great entrepreneur.
In the words of the man himself, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”