The Performance Beacon

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The Day Apple Lost its Cool

Last week I concluded our company meeting by playing Apple’s 1997 Here’s to the Crazy Ones commercial. I chose not to use the original version narrated by Richard Dreyfuss and instead went with the version that Steve Jobs himself narrated. It has always inspired me and I wanted to inspire our team. It also highlights what I think was Steve’s greatest quality: his passion for what he truly believed in. This gave him the ability to inspire millions. When the commercial finished playing, and even though I had seen it a hundred times, I had a tear in my eye and I struggled through the meeting’s closing comments. You see, Steve Jobs evokes emotion from almost everyone he has touched.

Truthfully, back in the late 70’s and 80’s I was not a huge Steve Jobs fan even though we had both grown up in Silicon Valley tech world just a few months apart. Back then we didn’t need LinkedIn as you were only two or three degrees of separation from most everyone else in the Valley. Steve and I shared mutual friends and common business relationships, and we even competed against each other over object oriented programming languages when I was at Digitalk and he at NeXT. Truth be known, I turned down a job offer to work with Steve at Apple in 1982, a decision that I now regret.

So why wasn’t I a fan? If Steve Jobs was your professional barometer it was hard feel very successful. That is, if you were ever stupid enough to try to match up with his success. He had founded and built a $2B tech company before I even knew what I wanted to do with my life. Simply stated: I was jealous!

That all changed for me in spring of 1996 when Steve headed back to Apple. I love people who overcome adversity and there has been no one in the Silicon Valley who has been knocked down harder then Steve Jobs was back in 1985. It is a well-documented story of rebirth. From the moment that NeXT was bought by Apple I found myself rooting for him to win back the company that had ousted him 11 years prior. This, even though just a year before he had famously described our merger of the two Smalltalk companies (Digitalk and ParcPlace) this way: In a glass of water, two rocks will sink as fast as one. Then came his Crazy Ones commercial, which soon became the informal Declaration of Independence for all of us Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Steve Jobs was once again our symbolic leader. Steve was cool again.

We have lost one of the great crazies of the Silicon Valley, one whose passion and spirit inspired millions to “think different”. Apple cannot replace Steve Jobs but he left the company with an enduring legacy of cool, one that I hope they never lose again. RIP Steve. And thank you.


Tom Lounibos

About the Author

Tom Lounibos

As CEO of SOASTA, Tom brings more than 30 years of experience building early stage software companies, leading two companies to successful IPOs. Tom is a regular speaker at both cloud and testing events, and has become a leading advocate in using the cloud to empower individuals and accelerate changes in how applications are built, tested and deployed. Most recently, Tom served as President and CEO of Kenamea. Prior to Kenamea, he was CEO of Dorado Corp., a financial services software provider. Previous to Dorado, he was EVP of Sagent Technology through its 1999 IPO, entrepreneur-in-residence at Crosspoint Venture Partners, and held executive positions at Digitalk Corp., Knowledgeware (KWI) and Encore Financial Services. Tom also serves on several boards in the Silicon Valley.