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From a 1986 documentary series on PBS called “The Entrepreneurs.” Steve Jobs articulates his own vision for NeXT, the company he started after being forced out of Apple Computer a year prior.

The opening scene has the eminent designer Paul Rand (designer of logos for IBM, Westinghouse, UPS, etc.) unveiling the logo he created for NeXT. Design was a great passion of Jobs’, and he wanted this company to make an important statement in that regard right from the beginning.

Much of the subsequent footage is taken at two NeXT retreats at California’s Pebble Beach – the first taking place 90 days after NeXT was started, and the second three months hence. Jobs presides at his ever-present whiteboard and probes and challenges during these freewheeling discussions with his colleagues, many of whom followed him from Apple.

The “Reality Distortion Field” that Jobs’ made (in)famous is boldly on display here. The first instance shows the staff pushing back on Jobs because they are determined the original 18-month deadline for shipping the first NeXT units is unrealistic. The college market, where NeXT’s computer is being positioned, has put pressure on the company to keep the price at no more than $3,000.

Jobs’ hard-edged instincts as a businessman lead him to assert that missing the Summer, 1987 deadline for college purchases would delay their educational computer for another year – thereby wreaking havoc in the company. Jobs’ chief concerns involved not selling enough units to meet operating costs, and falling behind technologically by the time the units actually do ship. The dreaded talk of “spending cuts” also enters the conversation.

At one point, Jobs is overtaken by a stream of consciousness, issuing forth an entrepreneurial soliloquy about his own start-up philosophy that would make Hamlet blush:    

“I forgot how hard it is to start a company … it’s A LOT of work. And … you’ve got to do everything: you have to come up with a name, you have to come up with a logo … I mean, in addition to designing the product, you’ve got to figure out what you want to design, you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to get it to the marketplace, you’ve got to do a part number system, you’ve got to go get bank accounts, you’ve got to set up charts, general ledgers, a management information system, get a little kitchen set up, get a coffee maker, ALL THIS STUFF!”

NeXT wound up being purchased by Apple around the time Jobs triumphantly returned to the latter as “iCEO” in 1997, and the technology NeXT developed was ultimately incorporated into Apple’s OS X operating system. But here, in this brief snapshot, you get a bold-faced look at the urgency Jobs felt to make his “next” act successful, and you experience that pure, undistilled passion he had for what he was trying to accomplish.

Chris Hartman

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