A Look Back At How Silicon Valley Was Born: Those Who Made A Difference

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Museum Victorias for Unsplash

During the “dot-com boom” years between 1995 and 2000, it was not uncommon for Silicon Valley investors to hear venture capital proposals for funding include a statement such as, “Two principals in the new company have each had two previous failures in new ventures, and they’ve really learned from that.”

Ben and Mena Trott had lost their jobs in start-up tech companies in 2003, when they were 24 years old. Without money, but with their faith in their own hands, Mena, who was a graphic artist, journaled her feelings, and she began to toy around with design concepts for her journalizing. Ben, who happened to be a programmer, helped her in the areas where she needed technical advice.

Friends started asking to use Mena’s “program,” which led to the birth of Six Apart. The company developed several applications that were seminal in the development of the “blog” phenomena. Perhaps lesser known among Silicon Valley innovation stories, numbering in the thousands, Mena reflects the “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again” San Francisco values of taking risks and of moving beyond failures.

Among the ten-thousand-plus companies in the San Francisco Bay Area that serve the nation and the world, the well-known tech innovators include the following: 23andMe, Adobe Inc., Airbnb, Ancestry, Apple, Ask.com, Autodesk, Barracuda Networks, Cisco, Craigslist, DocuSign, Dropbox, eBay, Evernote, Facebook, Fitbit, Gap, Google, GoPro, Hewlett-Packard, Instacart, Intuit, Jawbone, LinkedIn, Lyft, Marvell Studios, McAfee, Mozilla, Nest Labs, Netflix, Palantir Technologies, Pandora Radio, Quora, Sage, SanDisk, Seagate Technology, Sephora, Silicon Graphics, Slack Technologies, SurveyMonkey, Symantec, Tesla, Twitter, Uber, VMware, Wikimedia, Yahoo!, Yelp, Zendesk, Zillow, and Zynga.

Electronic technology in the region continues to explore at the cutting edge. Crunchbase identifies 626 artificial intelligence companies now functioning in the Silicon Valley area. Of all the well-known tech innovators, no one is better known or more influential than San Francisco native Steve Jobs. His brilliance and creativity have touched people globally. No matter what language you speak, everyone knows the name Steve Jobs.

Jobs was born in 1955 to Abdulfattah Jandali and Joanne Schieble. Jandali was a Syrian political refugee who came to the United States. He was studying for his PhD in economics at the University of Wisconsin, where he met Schieble. He was a Muslim, she a Catholic. When she became pregnant, she wanted to marry Jandali, but her father did not allow that, so she went to San Francisco, where Steve was born, and where he was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs.

He grew up in Mountain View, where he learned the mechanics and electronics from his dad. He attended Reed College for a short period of time in 1972 and then dropped out. He traveled the world for several years, spending the bulk of his time in India studying Zen Buddhism and seeking spiritual enlightenment.

After his return to Silicon Valley, at the age of 21 he and his high school friend Steve Wozniak founded Apple computers. Jobs, who is widely recognized as a pioneer of the personal computer revolution, went on to serve as chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Apple Inc., chairman of Pixar, and founder and CEO of NeXT.

It’s not difficult to marvel at the inventions and recognize the influence Jobs has had on thousands of would-be startup CEOs who seek to emulate his vision for supplying the world with gadgets they didn’t know they needed.

Jobs summed it up this way: Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.

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