My Steve Jobs Story

Like a lot of people I got self-reflective when I read that Steve Jobs had died. The public outpouring and memorial reflects his iconic status to so many people, and my friends know how I feel about it… which is to say it doesn’t really matter how I feel because I didn’t know the man or ever cross paths with him. I admire his achievement and recognize that he, like all of us, was a flawed man… but hey, there are certainly people less deserving (e.g. anyone in Hollywood) so if people want to make Jobs a heroic figure of epic proportions, go for it.

I never crossed paths with him but I did have a rather interesting encounter in the span of less than a minute with him. A little over 3 years ago my wife and I were eating lunch at La Strada in Palo Alto with our son and my wife was pregnant at the time, and pretty far along.

My son was asking to go to the Apple store and as I was helping my wife up a man sitting at the table (we were outside) next to us looked at my son and smiled, then my wife and me… I held his gaze for a few seconds and we walked away, only later did I realize it was Jobs. He really didn’t look like the Steve Jobs that was familiar to so many of us at the time, the physical transformation had really taken hold.

Two things about that encounter really struck a chord with me, the first being how ordinary Jobs lived what is in every respect an extraordinary life. You get used to the billionaires in this town pretending to be normal everyday kind of folks who just happen to have security details and live in gated compounds in the wealthiest zipcodes on the planet but Jobs really did it. He walked around Palo Alto, stopped in to the store on University Ave., sat at the sidewalk tables and benches at local restaurants, and people seemed to leave him alone.

The other part of my encounter, the one that really sticks with me, is how warm his smile was. It was eery but in a nice kind of way, which is a nice bookend for me to the Steve Jobs that is often recounted.

Quick Hits

In case you missed it….

Qwikster, DOA:


Netflix backtracked on plans to split the service into 2 parts, much to the dismay of the @qwikster dude. The 5 paragraph blog post from Hastings is terse and simmering with resentment that customers pushed back on the company, as well as defensive about the criticism that the company’s streaming selection is weak, really weak. You see this a lot with Silicon Valley super-entrepreneurs, they simply can’t stomach the notion that customers don’t agree with their plans.

The Zuck in Canuck(land):

C’mon, I had to try and make it work… Zuckerberg is in Vancouver and rumor has it he is scouting out Hootsuite. I’m pretty confident that Hootsuite is looking at opportunities to be acquired, this space is getting really tough and with the general commoditization of listening dashboards it will be increasingly challenging to build a valuable business. However, if Facebook was really looking to acquire the company I doubt Zuckerberg would by flying to meet them, or even involved at all so let’s just put a healthy amount of skepticism on this rumor.

PS- Dear Hootsuite… please, I am begging you… the way you force your shortened URLs as an overlay on my browser is incredibly annoying. It’s one of those things that not only doesn’t help me, it creates a obstacle.

How to Get Fired from HP:

Great infographic.

Interview with Lithium CEO Rob Tarkoff:

I love reading interviews like this, they are an incredibly valuable tool for gathering the competitive “pulse” of a company. We, Get Satisfaction, compete with Lithium, this is no secret and what I find interesting is that Lithium is a company that is 10 years old and has raised around $45 million in venture capital, yet both factors work against them as they get squeezed by Jive on one side and lighter, more nimble companies on the other.

What Tarkoff highlighted is a pretty standard run down Social Business Lane… customers are in control, engagement matters, better marketing through customer service, and social is disrupting internal organizational structures. Read the interview that Ray did with Wendy Lea and you will find the same threads, albeit with more specificity. For a more provocative perspective, read Wendy’s recent article titled “Social Business: You’re Doing it All Wrong”.

To be clear, I am not criticizing Rob and, for the record, I think very highly of him. My point is more abstract, social technologies are not just changing the way that companies engage their customers, it is also changing the dynamic in the technology industry as traditional enterprise software companies are also experiencing a seismic shift in how companies are developed and competitive advantages sustained.


Very interesting company, making the jump from the UK to Silicon Valley. It’s basically Netsuite at a lower price point and, from what I have seen, should be on the short list for any company evaluating a financial management, inventory, and e-commerce suite.


Adobe demo’ed a new Photoshop capability that really deserves to be called out for the accomplishment that it is… image de-blurring. How many times have you taken a picture in-the-moment only to realize that you moved the camera and blurred the image? Adobe engineers have developed algorithms that calculate how the camera was moving, which is then used to un-blur the image. Amazing, let’s hope it makes it into apps other than Photoshop (e.g. Lightroom!)

Groupon… ugh:

Groupon is changing their deal counter to frustrate people who are using it to analyze how well the company is doing, or not. They posted a blog post to “be transparent about their lack of transparency” and used the analogy that “you wouldn’t like it if people tried to guess your weight all day” but that falls flat when you consider that I’m not using the increase/decrease in my weight as the basis for becoming a public company.

What Groupon doesn’t like is that because they are in a mandatory quiet period they cannot publicly react to these independent analyses but by removing the counter what they are asserting is that the only credible source for information on their performance is Groupon, which has a demonstrable track record of being less then credible… I called their IPO a 50/50 probability when they filed, right now I am leaning to 100% certain that they won’t get out at the valuation originally talked about.

Tech IPOs:

Might as well link to this article on tech IPO performance… in light of the last item. I’ll cut to the summary, tech IPOs have underperformed every other sector. Ugly.