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Forty years ago, Apple brought computers into the home. Don recalls the young, near-unfundable Steve Jobs — and traces Steve’s thinking to another Sequoia-backed pioneer.

Don tells the story.

Don Valentine
Sequoia

A lot of people wouldn't invest in Apple, wouldn't even talk to Apple, because Steve was so odd. Well, Steve was the son of Nolan Bushnell.

Don Valentine

Not literally, but he evolved the same way, and Apple was in many ways an evolution of Atari. A lot of Steve's original thinking came from Nolan.

Don Valentine

Steve worked at Atari as a technician. He was maybe 18, and I got to know him slightly. Atari was a small company — you knew almost everybody that was involved technically. And Nolan's fine-touch hand was a very important part of that embryonic process of cultivating Steve’s thinking and concentration. More, I believe, than people realize.

Don Valentine

So when they started Apple, Steve went to Nolan and said, "I'm going to start this company. I will sell you a third of it for $50,000." Which demonstrated that Steve had no concept of what things cost. Nolan said he was tempted, but he said no.

Don Valentine

So Steve asked, "How do you raise money?" And Nolan said, "Don't ask me, call Don."

Don Valentine

And we began talking more offline, Steve and I, about the formation of a “personal computer” company — words that might have been coined three days earlier. We didn't have personal computers then.

Don Valentine

The closest thing to a personal computer in those days was a product from DEC — Digital Equipment Corporation. It cost $250,000 and it was a fine mini computer, but there wasn't a soul in North America who was going to buy a personal computer for $250,000.

Don Valentine

So Steve came over, and we had a serious conversation.

Don Valentine

Now Steve in those days — my physical image of him was like Ho Chi Minh. He was always either a fruitarian or a vegetarian, and did a number of weird things, but I think a lot of that was on purpose just to shock people.

Don Valentine

He was another guy who went to school for a year. There's a pattern of people in the early days of Silicon Valley, in the early days of startup companies, who had an idea they thought was more important than three more years of going to school.

Don Valentine

As a result, many people wouldn’t talk to Steve when he was raising money. It's amazing, the destructive aspects of ego-driven decisions. People who think, “The right people don't dress like that, don't have haircuts like his, don’t go to that school or this one.”

Don Valentine

But you have to listen to everyone. One of the things I always advocated here is learning to listen. Learning to ask questions.

Don Valentine

And so we backed Apple on the basis of getting a product to market that was a consumer-aimed product, and that cost very little in comparison to what computers were thought to cost, and in 1977 that’s what they did.

Don Valentine

I have only met and known two visionaries in my life. Lots of people in Silicon Valley think they're visionaries. Bob Noyce was one, at Fairchild Semiconductor. Steve was the other.

Apple is the world’s most valuable company. Its products have contributed to the disruption of every human industry and have brought computing to the home, the pocket, the wrist and beyond. Apple went public in 1980.

Apple
Personal computer devices and software
Milestones
  • Founded 1976
  • Partnered 1978
Team
  • Steve Jobs
  • Steve Wozniak