Amar Bose, 1929-2013
By Shlomo Maital
We can all learn many things from Amar Bose, founder of the speaker and earphone company, who just passed away at the age of 84.
1. In a 2004 interview with Popular Science, he said: “I would have been fired a hundred times at a company run by M.B.A.’s. But I never went into business to make money. I went into business so that I could do interesting things that hadn’t been done before.”
2. Build the change you seek. Dr. Bose (he holds 3 degrees from M.I.T.) was disappointed by the bad sound of a costly stereo system he bought when an M.I.T. engineering student in the 1950s. He realized 80 percent of the sound in a concert hall bounced off walls and ceilings before reaching the audience. This was the basis of his research. In the early 1960s, Dr. Bose invented a new type of stereo speaker based on psychoacoustics, the study of sound perception: many small speakers aimed at the surrounding walls, rather than directly at the listener.
In 1964, his mentor M.I.T., Dr. Y. W. Lee urged him to found his company, The Bose Corporation.
3. Persist! his first speakers fell short of expectations, but Dr. Bose kept at it. In 1968, he introduced the Bose 901 Direct/Reflecting speaker system, which became a best seller for more than 25 years and made Bose a leader in a highly competitive audio components marketplace; the 901s used a blend of direct and reflected sound. Later Bose Wave radio and the Bose noise-canceling headphones became market and technological leaders.
4. Give back. Dr. Bose had a passion for teaching. He returned from a Fulbright scholarship in New Delhi and joined the M.I.T. faculty in 1956. He taught there for more than 45 years. In 2011, he donated a majority of his company’s shares to the school. (Bose never ‘went public’, in order not to lose control of his company’s direction). The gift provides M.I.T. with annual cash dividends. M.I.T. cannot sell the shares. Bose got a lot from MIT – mainly its culture that drives graduates to start businesses. And he gave back a lot too.