An Interview with Daniel Kottke, the Man Who Built Some of Steve Jobs’ First Macintoshes (and Witness to the Last Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field)

Your record after Apple seems typical of many people in the industry who have the startup bug. You were at Apple when Wozniak and Jobs hit a home run. Since then, you’ve worked at several startups, some with middling success, some that didn’t make it.

But that’s nothing new. Most startups fail, and many that don’t also don’t achieve major success. I think this is something entrepreneurs need to be prepared for.

In my review of the Steve Jobs movie, I make the point that there have really been two Apple Corporations, one founded by Steve Wozniak, the other by Steve Jobs.

That’s a very interesting observation. First, I believe that Steve Jobs deserves a great deal of credit for what you call Apple One (A1), the “first” Apple founded on Wozniak’s work. Jobs came up with the concept of a stylish plastic case and the lightweight switching power supply that made the Apple II so appealing, and his business and design sense were very important to Apple’s early success. Though you’re right that AI and the Apple II were 90% a product of Wozniak’s engineering genius. And while the original Mac wasn’t an early success, Apple eventually did get it right. Let’s give Steve half a point for the Mac.

In the review,  I give John Louis Gassée the other half a point.

Fair enough. Now, let’s count against Steve’s record the Apple III, Lisa, NeXT, and the Pixar Computer. They were clearly sales flops, and Steve has to take at least some responsibility for them, though you could cut him some slack on the III and Lisa.

Balance that against the Pixar movies, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. So Steve’s entrepreneurial batting average was about .500. That’s impressive, no matter how you look at it.

That’s why as I work on my next startup, I’ve been channeling my inner Steve Jobs, whereas in the past I would have channeled Woz. I’ve had a lot of fun in my career, but I’ve realized that being an entrepreneur is not simply a matter of falling in love with a technology and seeing if I could do something interesting with it. Steve was very good at looking at a product and a market, then figuring out how to solve a business problem. For instance, Steve didn’t come up with the idea for the smartphone. He did, however, inspire the creation of the first usable smartphone.

I can’t argue this. Before I bought my first Apple iPhone, I owned a Windows Mobile phone. A Samsung Blackjack. Very hot at the time.

What was it like?

It was OK for making phone calls. I never used any of its other features.

There you go. I’m applying Steve’s approach to product creation and design in my latest startup.

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