What Steve Jobs is like in a meeting Matt 21 Jul 2006

54 comments Latest by For 5000 bucks

Steve Kemper was given complete behind-the-scenes access to Dean Kamen and the Segway design team during the machine’s development and wrote about it in Code Name Ginger. In this excerpt from the book, Kemper describes the meeting where Steve Jobs gave his first impressions.

“Good morning to everyone,” said Tim, smiling at the front of the table. “Before we start, we’d like to ask you to hold your questions until after each presentation…Each pitch is about ten minutes.”…

“I can’t do that,” said Jobs. “I’m not built that way. So if you want me to leave, I will, but I can’t just sit here.”

“Because I see a big problem here,” said Jobs. “I was thinking about it all night. I couldn’t sleep after Dean came over.” There were notes scribbled on the palm of his hand. He explained his experience with the iMac, how there were four models now but he had launched with just one color to give his designers, salespeople, and the public an absolute focus. He had waited seven months to introduce the other models.

“What does everyone think about the design?” asked Doerr, switching subjects…

“I think it sucks!” said Jobs.

His vehemence made Tim pause. “Why?” he asked, a bit stiffly.

“It just does.”

“In what sense?” said Tim, getting his feet back under him. “Give me a clue.”

“Its shape is not innovative, it’s not elegant, it doesn’t feel anthropomorphic,” said Jobs, ticking off three of his design mantras.

“You have this incredibly innovative machine but it looks very traditional.” The last word delivered like a stab…”There are design firms out there that could come up with things we’ve never thought of,” Jobs continued, “things that would make you shit in your pants.”

“I understand the appeal of a slow burn,” he concluded, “but personally I’m a big-bang guy.” For the first time that day he smiled. “The risk with a fast burn,” he continued, “is that it exposes you to your enemies. You’re going to need a lot of money to fight thieves.”

[thanks, John Koetsier]

54 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Dave Walsh 21 Jul 06

Can you imagine being one of his kids and asking him to look over your science fair project or book report?

George 21 Jul 06

“Can you imagine being one of his kids and asking him to look over your science fair project or book report?”

It’d suck the first time, but by about the fourth time, I’d be loving it.

I had a French teacher in school who took pride in beating up his students. 30% was a good result on one of his tests and he regularly took pleasure in giving people zeroes. It disheartened a few people, but it really made me want to kick his ass through the quality of my work, and that’s exactly what I did. Very memorable teacher, even 8 years later.

George 21 Jul 06

Also, as a question to the post author, is the “…” after each quote meant to act as a separator between quotes, or to express your speechlessness?

John Koetsier 21 Jul 06

Is it just one of those uncanny coincidences that I mentioned this in a comment on your “Bezos invests in 37signals” story yesterday and today you are blogging it?

http://37signals.com/svn/archives2/bezos_expeditions_invests_in_37signals.php?115#comments

ML 21 Jul 06

Is the “…” after each quote meant to act as a separator between quotes, or to express your speechlessness?

The former.

Jeff Croft 21 Jul 06

Am I the only one wondering if every SvN post from here out will be about Jeff Bezos (even if they’re masked as being about Steve Jobs)?

Dean 21 Jul 06

Am I the only one wondering if every SvN post from here out will be about Jeff Bezos (even if they’re masked as being about Steve Jobs)?

No you’re not the only one Jeff!

Here’s more proof Jobs is an arrogant jackass. The “cult of Steve Jobs” folks eat this stuff up…

The Colonel 21 Jul 06

Mr. Croft,

I was quite honestly beginning to wonder the SAME damn thing.

Congratulations! You read my mind!

Chris Woods 21 Jul 06

Here’s more proof Jobs is an arrogant jackass.

What did he do that makes you think he is a jackass?

He was put in a meeting and asked his opinion about a product’s design, manufacturing and marketing plans—all things that his company seems to do as well as any other. He provided frank opinion. He also warned that his style wouldn’t follow their instructions, but they didn’t ask him to leave.

Lateef Johnson 21 Jul 06

Sensitivity to other’s feelings often produces mediocre results. Steve Job’s doesn’t have that problem, for better or worse.

Lateef Johnson 21 Jul 06

Yet and still, I’m sensitive to an errant apostrophe. Forgive me, Kate Turabian.

Dean 21 Jul 06

What did he do that makes you think he is a jackass?

So you’re not denying he’s arrogant ;)

It was his game (meeting) rules or he wasn’t going to play. Its one thing to be an expert, have strong opinions and great ideas. Its another to be rude, self centered and childish.

(I’m not a Mac hater - but I’m also not a Steve Jobs worshipper)

Jeff Croft 21 Jul 06

Its one thing to be an expert, have strong opinions and great ideas. Its another to be rude, self centered and childish.

Now we’re talking about something relevant to 37signals!

Mark Gallagher 21 Jul 06

Jobs concerns with the design proved to be right. The Segway was a bust because of the design.

You don’t look cool riding a Segway. You look like a nerd. And you stand out, above the crowd, looking like a nerd.

The technology was good, but he was totally right about the design.

Jacob Kaplan-Moss 21 Jul 06

Now we’re talking about something relevant to 37signals!

C’mon, Jeff; you’re being unfair. I gotta say that the 37s folks are impeccably polite in their self-centered childishness.

Jeff Croft 21 Jul 06

Mark-

Do we know if Kamen and company took Jobs’ advice under consideration or not? You’re assuming the final design of the Segway is the one Jobs didn’t like. That’s probably a safe assumption, but I’m not positive of it…

ML 21 Jul 06

Am I the only one wondering if every SvN post from here out will be about Jeff Bezos (even if they’re masked as being about Steve Jobs)?

This post was about how Steve Jobs is interesting. Jeff Bezos just happened to be at that meeting too. Don’t worry, we aren’t switching to an all-Bezos format anytime soon.

Jeff Croft 21 Jul 06

Good deal, Matt. For the record, I did find the article damn interesting — just couldn’t resist the Bezos joke. :)

ML 21 Jul 06

Is it just one of those uncanny coincidences that I mentioned this in a comment on your “Bezos invests in 37signals” story yesterday and today you are blogging it?

Sam mentioned the story today. Didn’t know it came from that thread but I suspect it did. Thanks for the tip. Added a thanks note to the post too.

ben 21 Jul 06

???

why do we need this info? 37s are not design experts…you just have a nice GTD webapp!!!!

posting on SJ wont change it.

shane 21 Jul 06

For those who are simply reading the selected quotes I encourage you to read the whole excerpt with the quotes in context.

Yeah Jobs was abrupt and impatient but he doesn’t need a 20 minute powerpoint pitch on features and uses with such a simple product. It seems the presenter was more concerned with seeking Jobs approval rather than getting insight from his marketing genius.

Mixed In Key Software 21 Jul 06

Reading 37’s favorite articles and links is a real pleasure. Ben I disagree that 37 are not design experts. Just like the rest of us, they want to learn. We benefit from reading a great blog, and they benefit from finding this information and posting it for the public to see.

Many ideas from this blog made it into our DJ software.

Anonymous 21 Jul 06

I don’t think that anyone who knows the least bit about Steve Jobs would deny that he’s arrogant, but a jackass is totally misunderstanding what he’s all about. He’s arrogant because he knows he has a vision, and in the last 8 years he’s proven that his vision kicks major ass, that his sense for design and user experience is superior to pretty much anyone else’s on the planet, and that his way of going about such things works really well.

Yes, it’s tough as hell to be the guy opposite him as he criticizes you in more ways you could ever imagine, but if you’re any bit confident, you’ll realize that he just gave you the best advice and tips you’ll get in years.

Steve Jobs can push you to create quality like no other person can. There just isn’t a candy-coated approach to doing that, so don’t expect him to give you one.

(for the record, I wouldn’t consider myself a “worshipper” but he’s a big inspiration for me, I’ll admit that much)

Earl Moore 21 Jul 06

Sounds like a great honest and open approach to me. I would love to work with/for someone like that. You’ve just got to be open and learn from it. You certainly can be sensitive and wear you feelings on you sleeve.

wka 21 Jul 06

Former Apple marketer Mike Evangelist has written much about Jobs on his blog, intending to publish a book at some point. His piece “Steve Jobs, the Genuine Article” makes some interesting points that might add some light to the meeting excerpt above:

“He is extremely demanding of all those around him and has a very low tolerance for anything but excellence. Because he can be shockingly blunt in his dealings with others, he is often portrayed as abusive, but this is dead wrong. He simply demands/expects great things from everyone around him. I honestly believe he can’t understand why anyone would want to waste their time doing anything less than great.”

and

Steve is a really smart guy who does not suffer fools lightly. He grasps the salient points of any situation faster than anyone I’ve met, and if you can’t keep up that’s not his problem.

Funny 21 Jul 06

Yea I think I find it pretty funny as well. Yesterday Bezos. Today selling books for Amazon.com. Hmmm.

Anonymous Coward 21 Jul 06

Yea I think I find it pretty funny as well. Yesterday Bezos. Today selling books for Amazon.com. Hmmm.

omg. a zillion sites link to books on amazon. i bet you’ll find links to books on amazon on this blog back since 1999.

Anonymous Coward 21 Jul 06

Jobs is obviously a visionary product designer and marketing genius, and disputing this fact is an exercise in futility. Without touching the flaws to his character (perceived or real) I will say that he doesn’t demonstrate loyalty to those underneath him.

This was especially true during the early years of Apple when he’d demand unreasonable hours and then cut people loose as soon as their project was finished. He’s probably indirectly responsible for breaking up dozens of marriages with his utterly demanding work ethic.

Sam 21 Jul 06

Ugh. So annoyed with people who say about this kind of thing “he’s not mean, he’s just direct!”

It is possible for people to be both direct AND tactful. No one should be excused from politeness becuase they are a CEO.

just sayin…

Ryan 21 Jul 06

He’s probably indirectly responsible for breaking up dozens of marriages with his utterly demanding work ethic.

He’s also “probably indirectly responsible” for breaking up so many more relationships with all of us walking around with those little white headphones on all the time and not talking to one another.

Ben 21 Jul 06

I think Steve Jobs is genius. Those of you who want him to be “tactful” and polite are a bunch of pansies.

Ryan Allen 22 Jul 06

I’d have Steve Jobs’ babies if I could!

Spike 22 Jul 06

I kinda like the Segway design. It reminds me of a quote from Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (This is also kinda applicable to the “Less” mantra you guys have going on):

“It seems that all man’s industrial effort, all his calculations and his nights spent poring over drawings, all these visible signs have as their sole end the achievement of simplicity…. It seems that perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.”

I dig that. A lot.

Piers Morgan 22 Jul 06

I wish my lecturers were more like Steve and less ‘happy-family’.

I’ll take harsh opinions over diplomatic suggestions any day.

Joshua 22 Jul 06

Oh, and I’m sure all those comments weren’t taken out of context at all….

Bobby Dragulescu 23 Jul 06

It’s almost like a tutorial for success.

- Don’t follow other people’s frameworks.
- Own your own value, asskissing is a devaluation of yourself.
- Cut the crap.
- Get to the point.
- Have an opinion.

Don’t hate the player, people. Hate the game.

Gorilla 23 Jul 06

I read the full excerpt. The quotes from Jobs as presented here make him appear far more rude and arrogant than what actually happened in the meeting. You’ve edited skillfully to make Jobs look bad. That’s kind of hacky. But I digress. Jobs was dead right. The Segway is a failure. They misjudged the market, the design, everything. A simple bicycle is more practical and flexible than a Segway. My feet are more practical. Inline rollerskates are more practical. Small electric forklifts and ATVs are more practical. The avalanche of scooter products already on the market for years are more practical. The list goes on. The very first time I saw a Segway, I knew it would flop. I couldn’t imagine what anyone would actually use the thing for.

zpok 23 Jul 06

I hate negative criticism. Really hate it.
But if given by someone who
1)knows what he’s talking about
2)has taken the time to evaluate your work
it is actually the most valuable kind of criticism there is.

It’s just a bitch to take in. I’d crap my pants having to do a pitch to SJ.

About the whole “yes, but he’s not a nice person” issue, I love to see his presentations, I love to read inside stuff like this.
But I would never ever want to work for him. I have strong feelings about people who can dismiss other people with too much ease. It may be a must for a manager, but it’s also a character flaw in a person. But that’s me and my sissy sensibilities.
OTOH it’s easy to recognise talent, but it’s very rare to see talent applicated well. Seeing this happen in a person who has obvious charisma is like going to a good circus. It has nothing to do with me, but I can enjoy it nevertheless.

Ives, that’s a man I’d like to work for. And I’d love to talk with him. But watching him do a keynote? mmm, think not.

Samuel 23 Jul 06

Steve Jobs is brilliant…no doubt about that!


But just for the records:
The guy behind the real designing @ Apple is called Jonathan Ive.
Apple is not the designer @ Apple - he just says “yes” or “no” or defines the direction to go in the design. The actual design is done by Jonathan Ive.

Mike K 23 Jul 06

You might think Jobs sounded like an ass, but he’s speak a lot from personal experience. The discussion about manufacturing reflects back to his mistakes with NeXT. He build a factory and they built the machines in the USA instead of using Acer or someone else to do it for cheap.

He had been down the same route and was giving that experience away. Clearly, he liked the product but believed that it could be better and thought about the “other” things more than Dean ever did.

Daniel Luke 23 Jul 06

There were a lot of other problems with the Segway besides its design. The idea for the Segway emerged from Kamen’s truly innovative mobility devices for the disabled. As an after thought, he took some of those ideas to make something that would improve urban transport. Instead of adapting something which originally had an entirely different purpose, he should have started by trying to understand the problem with urban transportation.

Bruno 23 Jul 06

That’s in incredibly interesting insight.

grant 23 Jul 06

its good that steve jobs wants a “slow burn” becuase a fast burn doesnt work out to well,look at dell for example hahaha

luis 23 Jul 06

why can’t I see the comments?

Adam 23 Jul 06

I like him more than ever now, no ass-kissing BS.

timw 24 Jul 06

Doesn’t matter what he’s like, you still gotta show some respect :)

Paul@eucap 25 Jul 06

Sounds like creative input turned up high. Green-hat mode - DeBono style. And given how difficult creative disruption is to come by, Steve probably did everybody a favour.

DIO 25 Jul 06

Man, that guy sure does sound like a diva. In this vignette, he seems to be more task-oriented than people-oriented, but I can’t deny that he gets things done.

thomas B 25 Jul 06

Life is short and there is no time for BS. Jobs would be a tough guy to make your pitch to, but if he just replied in nicey-nicey lawyer/MBA speak they wouldn’t have heard his message clearly. I think he DID get his point across, but they felt he was wrong or they were already committed and pushed on anyway.

The thing that kills me was the $5000 price tag. I think the technology behind the Segway was really cool, but I’d probably say the same thing about a mouse trap with mini heat-seeking missiles.

Gary 25 Jul 06

Me thinks while Steve is everything he’s been made out to be, most is exaggerated. I prefer frankness; nevertheless, him being a jerk is the one thing I do not believe is overstated. Ok, he’s rich too.

Gary 25 Jul 06

Me thinks while Steve is everything he’s been made out to be, most is exaggerated. I prefer frankness; nevertheless, him being a jerk is the one thing I do not believe is overstated. Ok, he’s rich too.

thebloke 25 Jul 06

Go easy on it, Gary.

AlexG 25 Jul 06

Try having a Zen master.

He wouldn’t pull any punches either, and he wouldn’t be thinking about your feelings. His job is to lead you on the path, honestly, directly and steadfastly. And yank you back when you stray off it. Not pamper your sensibilities.

A.

For 5000 bucks 27 Jul 06

it ought to have a cup holder and a urinal

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