In reading and listening to the countless remembrances of Steve Jobs, it seemed something was missing. And that idea that there was an incompleteness to all of this stayed with me until just about 20 minutes ago, when I was sharing thoughts about Jobs with Tout’s marketing head Scott Epstein. Scott’s Tout said…
And what hit me was that our remembrances of Jobs were of personal encounters of the man in public in the Bay Area. For Scott, it was Halloween. For this blogger, it was a cafe at Berkeley in 1986.
I noticed the woman he was talking to before I realized that the man was Steve Jobs. When I did, I said “Excuse me, are you Steve Jobs,” not knowing what he would say, and very mindful of the fact that I’d interrupted a very involved conversation. “That’s what they tell me,” Jobs, dressed entirely in black, said. But rather than try and extend the conversation, all I remember was his “Can you let me get back to my talk with this great looking woman” stare, and my desire to give him space. I think I said “I like your computers,” or something.
Of course I was much younger and a lot less confident then. But the bottom line is no where else in the World would a person have a chance of running into Steve Jobs than in the Bay Area. But that’s public – for people who cover tech, talk to venture capitalists, and launch tech companies running into Jobs, or Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was more common.
It was at The Crunchies in 2009 that I ran into Mark Zuckerberg – literally. As I was gathering my jacket from the security screening for the after-party at San Francisco City Hall, I tripped over someone’s foot, and was in the process of accidentally running right into them. That was Zuckerberg.
I had my head turned one way, and his was turned the other, and both of us were not looking in the direction we were going. Boom! Fortunately, neither of us fell down, and I took the moment to ask Mark for an on-the-spot interview. He almost said “Yes” but then remarked that he had to catch up with his sister, Randi, who attended the event that year.
The irony is I met Randi later this year at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco.
It’s for all of those events, and others, that I say it’s not that there will never be another Steve Jobs, but that the Bay Area, with all of its wonderful characters, created Jobs. He’s part of a giant orbit of people. Some you know of; others you don’t. And some who you will know of some day.
In his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address, Jobs mentioned Stewart Brand, the creator of the Whole Earth Catalog. But for me, the name Stewart Brand is connected with a company he created that I became part of as a guest from time to time in the 90s: The Global Business Network.
The Global Business Network was born by Brand and Peter Schwartz in Emeryville, Ca in the mid-late 80s and I discovered it in 1988 via a column in the San Francisco Examiner about Scanario Planning.
At that time, I was very much into System Dynamics and systems thinking as a whole, so the idea that someone geographically close to me started a consulting firm based on Scanario Planning was just incredible. So I cold-called “GBN” and wound up attending a Christmas Party in 1988, where I met Ken Hamik and Bob Klein.
Bob Klein was working on an incredible “study” called “The Global Teenager” which was based on the idea that teens around the World were connected by a small set of the same desires and habits that could be used to determine something as simple as a marketing plan, to something as complex as national urban planning. He was also in the middle of creating another labor of love, a small corner Oakland restaurant and cafe called Oliveto within a new building called Market Hall.
After a while, Bob’s work on the Global Teenager gave way to the growing Oliveto, now one of the best restaurants in America.
Hamik started Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Strategic Planning Division, and now is Vice President at Triple Aught in Berkeley, CA. where Ken is a noted futurist. Need to catch up with Ken.
And at those parties I would try to convince Peter Schwartz that Scenario Planning and System Dynamics were compatible in a way he didn’t want to accept. I think Peter saw “SD” as too mechanical in its expression, whereas SP was more like true story-telling. I disagree, and that’s for another blog post – besides, he may have got my religion and sees it my way now. I don’t know.
But I do know that if I continued on this path, I would wind up connecting every person in and out of tech in the Bay Area I’ve ever met. Some famous, others not, but all incredible people.
And what they all have in common is that they live and work in the Bay Area, and have these intertwined social groups who’s venn diagrams have a scary number of overlaps and merges.
That’s what made Steve Jobs. He could only happen in the Bay Area.