Making Breakthrough Ideas a Reality

Former 'evangelist' means business

A one-time touter of Apple software shared business lessons at the U.

The Minnesota Daily January 22, 2007
By Brian Kushida

Long before working at Apple or Forbes magazine, before being an investment banker, venture capitalist or author, Guy Kawasaki worked at a jewelry company in Los Angeles. The man whose job included "literally counting diamonds" came to campus Friday to explain steps entrepreneurs can take to make their businesses worth diamonds.

Approximately 700 people attended the event at McNamara Alumni Center. The event was so overbooked that others had to watch Kawasaki's speech from a live video feed in the Carlson School of Management.

Many audience members jotted down notes while Kawasaki enumerated steps to create and manage successful businesses.

As a venture capitalist who invests in technology companies, he said in a joking manner that he doesn't mind taking chances on aspiring entrepreneurs "as long as we give them $1 million and they give us back $20 million."

However, Kawasaki encouraged the audience to start businesses with the intention of changing the world and not to make money.

"If you start off your company with the purpose of 'let's make money,' you will ultimately fail," he said.

Kawasaki worked as a "software evangelist" for Apple from 1983 to 1987. He said his responsibility was to convince software companies to create Macintosh platforms of their products.

"We were out there trying to make history, trying to change the world," Kawasaki said of Apple.

He said he was hired without ever taking a computer class and didn't know if Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs was aware of his lack of qualification or he simply overlooked it.

"I had zero qualification for that job," Kawasaki said.

His hiring at Apple provided a lesson for entrepreneurs when it comes to taking chances on seemingly unqualified applicants.

"Ignore the irrelevant," Kawasaki told the audience.

He also said many employers make the mistake of letting insecurity interfere with hiring more qualified employees.

By having each predecessor hire someone with fewer qualifications out of fear of being replaced, he said, the quality of the company will slowly deteriorate.

"This is called 'The Bozo Explosion,' " he said.

Kawasaki encouraged the audience not to follow the business industry "bozos" who think they know it all, even him.

Audience members learned from and laughed at Kawasaki's unconventional business lessons.

Center for Entrepreneurial Studies Professional Director John Stavig said he hopes business students will be more enthusiastic about starting up their own companies after hearing about Kawasaki's experiences.

"He exudes passion and it gets people excited about the possibilities," Stavig said.

University graduate and employee at the Center For Integrative Leadership Peter Rich said Kawasaki's speech can be more beneficial than reading about the subject in a textbook

"You can read a lot of textbooks on get-rich quick (schemes) and being your own boss, but one of the things he brings to the table is credibility," Rich said.