Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 23rd Mar 2012 15:09 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless I'm currently reading Jerry Kaplan's excellent book "Startup: a Silicon Valley adventure". In this book, Kaplan, founder and CEO of GO Corp., details the founding, financing and eventual demise of his highly innovative company, including the development and workings of their product. What's so surprising about this book is just how timeless it really is - the names and products may have changed, but the business practices and company attitudes surely haven't.
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In what way was Kaplan in the trenches? You've fallen for the hagiography of the opening chapters of Kaplan's view of events. Kaplan and Kapor didn't think up pen-based tablt computing for the first time out of the ether on that plane trip. Pen computing was invented in the 50s and 60s with the RAND Tablet and the Styalator. Kay fully conceptualized tablet pen computing and its social implications in the 60s. People had already been thinking about it for a hundred years. Carr, the chief architect of anything actually produced by GO, brought all of his expertise and knowledge from Xerox Parc developing the Alto. Pencept, along with several others, was well ahead of GO in terms of timing and technology -- they just didn't get the hype being an oldschool NE tech corridor company rather than a flashy, well-financed SV startup... And ultimately GO purchased them to improve the quality of their system and handwritten recognition. Every tech company in the early 80s was trying the same -- the reason GO failed so spectacularly is they didn't have one piece of the pie, so they shopped it to EVERYONE in order to get them to make a device or make an OS component, or to make apps, and every time the potential partners were not convinced by the pitch or were already working on one or more pieces or knew they could execute the whole package better than GO ever could (the only sucker was AT&T and even then, they mostly fell for it just to rationalize their development of microprocessors). Kaplan was no more in the trenches than Steve Jobs was -- and he was certainly orders of magnitude separated from the trenches than someone like Sakoman. Kaplan seems to, even now, want to hold onto some of that hagiography of a serendipitous idea shared over a troubled flight that no one else had had before him, but even in his shared comment here, it is very clear that even he can't hold onto that myth. (Heck, it's been more than a decade since I read it, but I seem to recall Kaplan even then pointing out in the book that he was shocked he was able to pitch investors when he didn't have any tech or much of an original idea or much chance of successfully bringing it to market; that he was able to get so much money for so long on passion alone, and that whatever products they did produce was based solely on the ability to buy up or attract the real trench workers away from larger companies already working on the same thing.)

Trying to carve out some special "original idea" or "in the trenches" grunt work for Kaplan is at best odd and biased and at worst just plain wrong. (Or is that the other way around?)

Edited 2012-03-25 18:22 UTC

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