Being part of the tech industry, it’s hard to ignore the impact that Steve Jobs had on what we do today. It was really more than an impact; he helped create our industry. For us to have lived at the same time as this titan is pretty amazing when you think about it. We usually only learn about people like Jobs in History class. But we were privileged enough to have lived through the time when his innovations were immediately impacting us. I was personally privileged to have talked to him on two occasions.
Several of us at Nebraska Global and Don’t Panic Labs shared among ourselves thoughts on what Steve Jobs meant to us. Stepping back and thinking about all that we said, one thing was perfectly clear: he really impacted more facets of what comprises us (on both personal and societal levels) today than any normal CEO could possibly dream. Part entrepreneur, part showman, part visionary, part cultural icon; he was the real deal.
So why continue to pile on with more praise and reflection that is already (over)saturating the media? Maybe it’s a cathartic exercise we must perform to deal with the loss. I’m just not sure.
In our case, I think there’s a shared connection that entrepreneurs share with one another that’s only internally acknowledged. Maybe it’s knowing what it’s like to have your back against the wall and persevering even though every fiber of your being is screaming “you’re crazy” while your heart is saying “I know I’m doing the right thing”. Or maybe it’s identifying with the rush of success that validates your vision and proves wrong your naysayers. With the loss of that connection, we feel as though we must say or do something.
Or maybe it’s the appreciation that in an industry that rarely gives second chances, Steve Jobs got his second chance and proved he knew what he was doing all along.
Being an entrepreneur means taking chances, being bold enough to fly counter to everything and everyone, to ignore the critics, and stick to your vision. Steve Jobs typifies not only those things, but also an entrepreneur of business models. How quickly we have forgotten how music used to be purchased – without Steve we would be buying CDs at the store for $20 each. How quickly we forget that phones had a multitude of buttons. Without Steve we would still be watching hand-drawn Disney animated movies instead of beautiful computer animated features.
Steve Jobs never settled for second best. He demanded perfection and he inspired a generation of technology and business people to say “Not good enough”. He changed the lifecycle and value proposition of hardware design and manufacturing. To me, the real beauty of the iPhone and iPad are not external – it is internal. Purpose-built hardware constructed around carefully selected hardware. In the way Wal-Mart integrates into the design process of its vendors, Apple has integrated into its vendors for things like processors, screens, batteries, and other critical components, and the result is hardware with capabilities and a price-point that no one can match. Apple is still a newcomer to small device hardware design, yet it clearly has revolutionized the way it is done.
I can (and do) criticize many things about Apple, but I am a great admirer of what Steve Jobs has accomplished at Apple. We will see just how deep his influence and impact is over the next many years. A good CEO can turn a company around during their tenure. A great CEO’s impact is felt for a decade or more after their departure. I believe we will come to realize just how great Steve Jobs was as Apple continues into the future.
Regardless of what computer you use or mobile device you’ve chosen, we owe quite a bit to Steve Jobs. Forget graphical user interfaces; forget variable-width fonts; forget beautiful, feng shui-ish hardware designs. We look back on the life of a guy who had real guts and wasn’t afraid to lay it on the line because he knew he was right, even when the world said otherwise.
That’s the spirit of entrepreneurship to which we should all attain.