Saturday, June 12, 2004

He Hate Me

I heartily recommend David Hornik's VentureBlog entry on who hates whom in Silicon Valley. Having just witnessed Steve Jobs' hatred of Dell firsthand, I can testify to the accuracy of his observations. My favorite line?

"Ellison truly does hate Gates. He was not playing games. He made Carly Fiorina's hatred of Dell seem like puppy love. The other executives should take hate lessons from Larry -- it was a thing to behold."
My Reagan Moment

After Ronald Reagan's funeral, my mother reminded me of our particular Reagan moment. Ronald Reagan lived in the Pacific Palisades, which meant that he generally took 26th Street to the freeway. We lived right by 26th Street, and generally took it in the opposite direction to go to Franklin Elementary School.

One morning, as my mom and I were driving to school in our Dodge Dart along a nearly deserted 26th Street (I was probably 5 at the time), we met a presidential motorcade coming the opposite direction, as Reagan was probably on his way to the airport. As we drove past, I waved at the President. My mom was worried that a nervous Secret Service agent might open fire, but no concern was necessary. Instead, the most powerful man in the world instantly recognized his audience and waved back to a 5-year-old boy in an aging compact car. No cameras, no photo opportunities, just a chance to reach out to one of his constituents, no matter how little.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

And 75% Of Children Are Above Average

When asked by the New York Times why people would choose to post pictures of themselves at HotOrNot.com, University of Georgia Psychology Professor Abraham Tesser responded, "I don't think you can discount for the fact that some people who
get very low ratings indeed think that they are hot."

Or to quote two UC Berkeley undergrads that my friend overheard, "All of these Asian chicks come to Berkeley, and all of a sudden they think they're hot, just because they're competing with the other Berkeley chicks. All the of the really hot ones went to UCLA."

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

But Some Of His Best Friends Are White People

Basketball great Larry Bird had this to say about race in the NBA:

"I think so," he said. "You know when I played, you had me and Kevin (McHale) and some others throughout the league. I think it's good for a fan base because as we all know, the majority of fans are white America. And if you just had a couple of white guys in there, you might get them a little excited. But it is a black man's game, and it will be forever. I mean, the greatest athletes in the world are African-American."

Bird also said he felt insulted during his playing days when he was guarded by a white player. He remembers telling them, "You got no chance."

Monday, June 07, 2004

The Reality Distortion Field

I've read many times about Steve Jobs' famous "reality distortion field," but never had the chance to experience it firsthand.

(Sidenote for investors: For a while, my friend Matt Josefowicz and I toyed with the idea of starting a hedge fund: We'd buy Apple before MacWorld, then sell afterwards when the Jobs RDF boosted the stock by 10-20%. Unfortunately, we never had any other investment ideas.)

I attended the Harvard Business School Alumni club of Northern California's annual Entrepreneurial Company of the Award dinner, honoring Apple and Steve Jobs. Steve was in his usual form, and had the entire audience eating out of the palm of his hand within the first 60 seconds. By Godfrey (as Teddy Roosevelt would say), that must be nice!

***

Steve: "We last won this award 20 years ago, which is pretty amazing. I guess that means in about two years I'll be fired again."

Q: Why did Apple stumble?
A: Apple is a recovering monopoly. We had a monopoly on the GUI for a decade. When that happens, the focus shifts from making great products to making money. The sales and finance people gradually take over the company, and you lose the ability to make great products.

We focus on making great products, and then on making money. We have a passion for making great products. We make money so that we can continue to make great products.

Q: What do you see as the role of MBAs at great companies?
A: How many of you out there are VCs? Raise your hands. (Approximately 50% of the 1,000 person audience raises its hands.) Your salads were poisoned.

In the old days, when you started a company, and you needed a CEO, you pulled someone out of HP to run it. Now all these companies have pulled all the good people out of HP. Sorry guys, no offense (to the HP table). That's why you had fresh MBAs running companies.

Let the product people focus on making great products. Then figure out how to sell and market them. Don't tell the product people what to make.

Q: What makes Apple different from other companies?
A: It's called taste. If people knew what they wanted already, they'd go to Dell and get it at the lowest price. They're willing to pay us extra to show them what's cool.

***

The funny thing about the whole evening is that Steve never mentioned Gil Amelio's name one time, despite referring to the previous regime many times. Poor Gil, it's as if he's been erased from existence!

P.S. Sorry about the infrequent posting--that's what the arrival of the second kid does to you! I'll try to get back into a steady rhythm soon.