Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs 1955-2011, greatest comeback in business history

We wrote about Steve Jobs in "Extraordinary Comebacks".
Was there a bigger comeback in the business world than his?
We are sorry to see him go, this Mozart of technology, gone
much, much too soon....

Excerpt from "Extraordinary Comebacks: 201 Inspiring Stories of
Courage, Triumph, and Success"


company he founded, he described it as being punched in
the stomach, getting the wind knocked out of him, and not
being able to breathe.

The firing was not “just business” either—it was personal.
He was ousted by the man he had hired to run the
company, John Sculley, former president of Pepsi.
While recruiting him, Jobs threw down the gauntlet by
asking Sculley if he wanted to “sell sugar water” the rest
of his life or change the way people live and work.
Phrased this way, Sculley could not turn down the challenge;
he came to run Apple in 1983.

By 1985, the relationship had gone south. In July of
that year, Sculley told security analysts that Jobs would
have no role in the operations of the company “now or
in the future.” It was the coup de grĂ¢ce.
Bitter, angry, and defeated, Jobs sold more than $20
million of his Apple stock. Still feeling lost and
betrayed, he tried to relax, to get his breath back, so to
speak. The digital genius spent time bicycling along the
beach and toured Paris and Italy.

After some six weeks of this respite from the corporate
grind, Jobs felt a little better. He started getting
out. He had lunch with Paul Berg, a Nobel laureate in
biochemistry at Stanford University. Berg talked about
the time-consuming trial-and-error methodology he
used to analyze DNA. Jobs suggested computer simulation
to speed things up. Berg said that the necessary
computers and software were not available. He said it to
the right person.

Fueled with this new vision and playing off his
strengths and interests, Jobs created NeXT, a computer
company that manufactured workstations and developed
the NextStep operating system. Its computers
were chic, expensive black boxes that stood out against
the beige PC world. The new operating system featured
“object-oriented programming,” allowing developers to
more easily write programs. The company launched in
1986 (the same year Jobs bought the graphics division
of Lucasfilm for $10 million and named it Pixar), and
sold its first PCs for $10,000 in 1988. The company had
its partisans (educators and financial engineers loved it),
but it was a mixed success. Still, the company was successful
enough that Apple bought it for $400 million in
1996; Apple also got Jobs as interim chief executive officer
in the deal.

Sculley had gotten the boot in 1993, and on his
comeback at the helm of the company he founded, Jobs
was vastly more successful. He introduced new products
such as the iMac, the iBook, and the blockbuster iPod.
These successes cemented his appointment. Apple shares
went from $7 in 2003 to $97 in early 2007, defying the
bear market in the NASDAQ and tech world.
John Sculley? After leaving Apple, he worked variously
in politics, business, and consulting, never achieving
the same prominence he enjoyed while at Apple.
Jobs enlarged his already-mythic status in the tech
world by leading tech giants Apple and Pixar. Disney
announced plans to acquire Pixar in 2006, and Jobs
became Disney’s largest shareholder (6 percent). His
iPod achieved success in consumer electronics that had
eluded the popular but niched Macintosh line. He had
avenged his painful ouster personally and in the marketplace
and achieved one of the most amazing comebacks
in business history, not to mention another type of
comeback in 2004 from a rare but treatable form of cancer.

How did Jobs do it, create products that were, in his
words, “insanely great”? He says creativity is really the
business of connecting things, of seeing and synthesis.
This ability to connect comes from more thinking or
more experience. He also said that design wasn’t something
you put on top of a product but its “fundamental

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