“Funny how much emotion you can feel about a stranger. And yet every phone call I make, every time I’m on my computer, he’s part of it.”
The words belong to writer Susan Orlean, writing yesterday about famed entrepreneur Steve Jobs. But one imagines that millions of people experienced the same, queer feeling, following the stunning news yesterday that Jobs resigned as Apple’s CEO—as he put it, that the day had finally arrived when he felt that he “could no longer meet my duties and expectations” as the head of the company.
Hearts may be heaviest in Silicon Valley, where Jobs has served as an inspiration to countless entrepreneurs over the last 30 years. His legend grew in no small part because of his stunning turnaround of Apple, from which he was driven in 1985. Following his return in late 1996, he succeeded in growing the company into what earlier this month became the world’s most valuable corporation.
In an email last night, venture capitalist Jon Callaghan of True Ventures wrote of Jobs: “Since he returned to Apple, he has reminded us once and for all that visionary founders are what matter most in the technology ecosystem; that they are the source of creative power and value in the technology industry; and that beauty, sometimes even for beauty’s sake, matters.”
Asked to share his own thoughts on Jobs’ wide-reaching impact on Silicon Valley, Benchmark Capital’s Bill Gurley told me, “[It’s] easy because we have a scoreboard– the public markets. When Steve Jobs went back into Apple it was worth only $2 billion. Everyone had written the company off for dead. The Wintel architecture had won. There was simply nothing to discuss. Last week the company became the most valued company in the world, worth well over $300 billion. It was also worth more than Microsoft and Intel combined.
“No other CEO has ever reigned over that amount of gross value creation. What’s more, he did it as a turnaround.”
“It’s very sad news,” said entrepreneur David Ulevitch, the founder of San Francisco-based OpenDNS, backed by Sequoia Capital and Greylock Partners. “Steve is certainly a role model. I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t have something to learn from him. He has created the greatest products across numerous industries multiple times.”
But Jobs “has also said, many times, [that] family and friends are more important than any product,” added Ulevitch. “So I hope he is spending his time doing exactly what he wants, with whomever he wants, just as I think he has always done at Apple.”
For his part, Alsop Louie Partners’ Stewart Alsop thinks Jobs will be spending his time doing what he’s been doing, without the title of CEO. In fact, for all the talk around Jobs’ departure, Alsop thinks concern over the company’s future, and that of Jobs, may be premature.
“Clearly, on some level, he’s sick enough that he doesn’t think he can be CEO anymore,” Alsop told me last night as he headed out to dinner. “But I don’t think Apple has lost Steve yet, and that’s really critical. It’s not important whether he’s CEO but whether he contributes his product vision to the company, and I believe that in addition to the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, Apple is working on another product that could be another $20 billion business eventually,” one rumored to be a reinvention of the TV.
“I believe that Steve has done enough for the company to go forward for at least the next 10 years,” Alsop added. “It’s okay for him to resign.”