Last night we lost a cultural icon, a technology legend, an American inspiration and a global leader. I’ll always remember where I was and what I was doing when I got the news. I was walking into dinner with my family when my iPhone email notification went off. It was an email from my aunt out in Cali that was titled “Jobs” and read, “Just heard that Steve Jobs has died… Expected but still sad news…”
My heart instantly fell to the floor and I was immediately in shock. I initially thought that my aunt had titled the email subject “Jobs” because our company has been expanding and we have been hiring and perhaps she had a recommendation or question about one of our job postings. I immediately went on Twitter to pull up my feed and was assaulted with updates and hashtags that read: “#RIPSteve Jobs, #Sad, #ThinkDifferent, #StayHungry, #ThankYouSteve, #RememberSteveJobs, etc” At the same time I walked to my dinner table and my brother said, “Steve Jobs just died”. I said, “I know” and our table conversation ensued, filled with memories, praise and sorrow.
Many of you don’t formally know me, but my name is Andreas Leptourgos. I am President and CEO of BuyBackWorld.com. I co-founded this company with my partner, Steve Francess, over two years ago and we’ve enjoyed every moment of it. We’ve interacted with thousands of you over the years and we love being a part of the consumer technology industry that so intimately touches our lives each and every day. Although we’ll probably never reach the heights attained by Steve Jobs, he served as an inspiration for both of us, not only in business, but in life. Like him and Woz in a garage, we both started out in a small NYC apartment building, working well into the nights powered by excitement and driven by a child-like enthusiasm for what we were creating and still continue to create. Steve Jobs has always held a special place in my mind as a symbol of the American dream, paving the way for other young entrepreneurs to take the stage and carry the torch that makes this country so great.
Instead of writing about all that Apple and Steve Jobs have done in a strictly factual reporting fashion, I’m expressing my memories as a personal memoir and tribute to one of my largest sources of inspiration and closest business idols. I’m sure we all have an Apple story to share so here’s how mine goes goes:
I didn’t grow up an Apple fan. In fact, I used to fight with my cousins about how many ways a PC was better and how the Mac was only meant for designers with no practical application in real life. I was 10 and they were 15. This was about 15 years ago, long before Apple revolutionized and reinvented itself over and over again. Little did I know how much my attitude would change over the years.
I was an early adopter of technology, however, and this gave me early exposure to what would become an integral part of not only my life, but my career, business, and passion, years later. I was fortunate enough to have a computer at home as a kid. I remember the day my father ordered it and then the day it came – it took up the entire space in our basement and cost $10,000. I remember keeping my floppy discs in a plastic container and labeling them with the information they contained, always paying close attention to write in perfect penmanship in an effort to mirror “computer font” as closely as possible. Little did I know that I was doing the exact opposite of what Steve Jobs had done so famously years before – applying knowledge of calligraphy and admiration of penmanship to invent “computer font.” Here I was trying to reverse engineer it and copy it by hand, silly me.
Moving past CD Players and Walkmans, I remember my first MP3 Player. It wasn’t an iPod, it was an Archos Jukebox. I was heavily into sports at the time and this was a durable, rugged player which held a lot of songs for the time period it was invented. I must’ve got this right around 2000, just when iPods were beginning to hit the scene. It’s crazy to think this whole industry is only 10 years old, we’ve come such a long way in such a short time.
My true technological passion was, and still is, cellphones. I remember when I got my first cellphone, a Sony Ericsson T39 on the Voicestream network (later acquired by T-Mobile). At the time, the hottest selling devices were Motorola’s with their StarTacs and Vaders. I was young, but I would work summer jobs to buy the latest and greatest devices – I had to have the “coolest” one out there. After using my T39 I bought an Innostream INNO 90, which had flashing lights around the caller ID. From there I got one of the world’s first camera phones. I eventually moved onto Blackberries and didn’t actually make the move to iPhone until 2010 with the release of the iPhone 4.
During this last decade, the smartphone and mobile movement has been unprecedented and has forever changed how we interact with each other. Steve Jobs was at the forefront of this movement, pioneering what and how we experienced technology. Apple made products that were not only beautiful to look at, but awesome to use. Let’s take a look back at my Apple purchases over the years and why I’ve come to truly appreciate all that Steve Jobs has contributed to our lives:
Going back to my first MP3 Player, it was clunky, cumbersome and hard to load up with songs. I bought an iPod Mini in college and instantly fell in love. It entertained me on the T (public transport in Boston) on my way to class, at the gym and all over the city as I walked around. It was quick, effortless and seamless to use. This was what I’ve been missing out on, huh? Plug in my iPod, drag and drop from iTunes and voila, I was on my way to listening to all the music I loved. This is great I thought.
After college I bought my first Macbook laptop. It’s still sitting right next to me on my desk as I’m writing this out. Using two fingers to scroll web pages was a welcome change to my browsing experience. It was here that I started to realize that there were different components to Internet usage: business and pleasure. For all my Excel and Word needs, I still enjoyed using my PC, but in terms of sheer Internet pleasure and browsing experience, nothing rendered my online usage like my Mac. I still love my Macbook and always will.
After using a Blackberry for about 5 years across various Curves, Pearls, and Bold models, I finally wanted and demanded real Internet browsing on my phone so I took the plunge to the iPhone 4. I haven’t looked back since and I can’t wait to test out Siri. Apple has me as a fan for life and it is all because I love using their products.
When Tim Cook took the stage two days ago to commence the iPhone 4S announcement he started with a brief introduction that stated, “I Love Apple” and I think that is a perfect way to describe the relationship individuals share with the brand, something which is extremely rare and highly unusual. I’m not sure I can think of another brand that people truly love.
I never met Steve Jobs personally, but ask anyone who has and one of the first words that come to mind is “perfectionist”. My aunt and grandmother (who is 102 by the way!) live in Palo Alto so I frequent the California region even though I’ve lived in New York my entire life. I’ve visited all the tech campuses (Apple, Google, Facebook etc) there and have even eaten in the Apple cafeteria and spent time talking with the employees. Never before in my life have I seen a company so dedicated to their trade before. Never before in my life have I seen so many people working together for a common goal and making it work so well. These encounters are all a direct reflection of Steve Jobs’ leadership, something which I’ve always tried to mirror in my own life.
Visiting Apple was like being granted access to a magical playground, much like winning the Golden Ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to explore and experience Willy Wonka’s magical wonders. That is exactly how I felt when I went there, I remember talking about how the iPad was being tested for years and came out before the iPhone even though we never heard of it until three years after the iPhone. The amount of secrecy and dedication to the brand was unparalled and I will never forget how the light just seemed to shine through every part of the Apple Campus, as I’m sure it will in their new proposed home. I also recall asking, “do you guys ever see Steve Jobs around here?” and being told, “who? ‘The Boss’? That’s what we call him around here.” Funny, just like Elvis and the Beatles he admired, he wowed crowds both internally and externally.
Steve Jobs elevated himself to a God like level among his peers; read reporter’s accounts of their interactions with him and you’ll begin to understand how little he gave them, yet how much they kept asking for. I’ve heard many people say above all else, Steve Jobs was a visionary, someone who knew what people wanted before they knew they wanted it. If that holds true, it only makes sense of how they’ve interacted with him over the years. Every interaction was magical, mythical and powerful, a visit from a supreme being who chose to grace us with his presence to unveil what we would instantly long for. He gave us a glimpse of the future and made it tangible, attainable and ubiquitous. If this is the case, then Steve Jobs truly was a visionary because he prepared us all for his passing, before we were even ready for it.
Setting Apple on its current path and positioning it for global domination in the consumer electronics market was no mistake, it was a tactfully calculated move. I’d love to tell everyone to stay up tonight and preorder the iPhone 4S because it marks the last iPhone to be released while Steve Jobs was still at Apple, but that wouldn’t be true. If you know anything about Steve Jobs, you know he’s already planned out the next 10 years of phones that you’ll be using and he’s already waiting for you to love them the same way he did, smiling from above as the light beams into the Apple campus reminding us that Steve Jobs is with us at every moment of our lives, whether it is through the music we listen to, the calls we make, the photos we send, the work we produce or the love we exude; we all carry a little bit of Steve Jobs with us everywhere we go.
I would also like to personally thank Steve Jobs for helping to create the market in which we operate in – the secondary consumer electronics market. Without his innovation, drive and vision, smartphones would never have been able to support all the constant Facebook and Twitter activities we take for granted now. Without those motivations and the push for perfection, companies wouldn’t be compelled to constantly tweak their products for the better. Without all these advances, consumers wouldn’t have a need to update their technology and without all that, our whole industry wouldn’t exist. Beyond that, I personally wouldn’t have found my passion and I’d be stuck on Wall St., in a suit and tie, crunching numbers. For all this, all I can muster up is, “thank you.” Given Apple’s minimalist ethos, I hope it is sufficient.
You will be sorely missed and my thoughts, respects and condolences go out to your family.