Innovation/Global Crisis Blog

 Steve Jobs 1955-2011: Two Observations

By Shlomo Maital


 Steve Jobs as a high school student




Everything that could be said, almost, has been said about the late Steve Jobs.  Here are two brief comments about what we can learn from his life and from his work.

1.  You do not have to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth; you can be born without any spoons, in fact, and change the world. 

   Jobs’ biological parents were Abdulfattah John Jandali, a Syrian Muslim immigrant to the U.S.,   and Joanne Schieble (later Simpson), an American graduate student of Swiss and German ancestry.  Jandali says he did not want to put Jobs up for adoption, but Simpson’s family did not approve of their daughter’s marriage.    Jobs was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, of Mountain View, CA., who raised him.  Jobs chose not to have contact with his biological father, but later did have a close relationship with his biological sister, Mona Simpson. 

2.  If Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak can bootstrap Apple, with $1,300,  and reach $200 m. in sales within three years – entrepreneur, so can you!

   Jobs and Wozniak founded Apple in 1976 (it was named Apple, because Jobs had an especially happy summer picking apples.  Jobs sold his microbus and Wozniak sold his calculator, to raise the cash they needed.  They bootstrapped Apple and generated cash flow by selling circuit boards, while building the prototype of their personal computer.  In their first year, 1977, they had $2.7 m. in sales. In their third year, $200 m.! 

     Jobs designed products that were innovative not in technology, but in design. They were cool. And people bought them, because to have them, and to show others you had them, was to prove you were cool.  Jobs understood the ‘why’ of cool products (why buy them?) was crucial, not so much that ‘what’.   I believe that his working-class background and adopted background gave him an insight into what ordinary people sought.   As an outsider, rather than a member of the elite, he made his own rules…and broke many of the accepted ones regarding innovation.