Learning from Steve Jobs
Finding inspiration for ERPNext from Next Computer, the precursor to the new Apple
Being a fan of Apple products, I am very conscious to keep a safe distance from it being an obsession.
As a programmer, I had obvious preference for the other Steve (Wozniak) and I carefully avoided Walter Issacson's official biography of Steve Jobs. But last week, as I was browsing in the local bookstore, I could not resist picking up a copy of his newest biography Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schendler and Rick Tetzeli.
To my surprise, I found myself relating to a lot of stuff about Steve Jobs. For all Apple fans, the story is familiar.
In 1985, Steve Jobs was thrown out of Apple for his disastrous performance in managing Apple III, Lisa and the Macintosh (which was a failure when it was launched). The board decided that Steve Jobs was not a good manager and enough was enough.
After he was out of Apple, he started building what he thought Apple should be, by starting Next Computers, his new venture. Next Computer was a failure too until it was acquired back by Apple in 1997 and Steve Jobs was back in fashion after the success of Toy Story and Pixar.
The years that Steve Jobs spent in comparative oblivion prepared him for his second coming at Apple, where we know he launched a series of culture defining products. Maybe Steve Jobs learned from his failures, or maybe he stuck to his guns long enough to succeed. Either ways, there are a lot of very interesting lessons.
ERPNext is a kind of second coming for me too.
Born out of the hippie movement of the 70s, Apple was idealistic even in its state of failure, whereas its nemesis for many years, Microsoft was realist.
A lot of people accuse me of being an idealist, which implies being a dreamer and someone who is out of touch with reality. But Apple won because it stayed true to its idealistic roots. It is also why its fans have near religious love for its products. Apples products are beautiful, but also they are bold and have a clear vision.
With Next Computer, Steve Jobs and his developers led by Avie Tevanian spent ten years building a high quality Operating System on top of Unix. A software product like an Operating System takes a long time to mature.
ERP is also a product that takes a long time to mature, that is why there are so few startups in the ERP space. ERPs are like Operating Systems for Organizations.
The Operating System built by Next Computer today runs on all Apple machines, be it laptops, desktops, tablets or phones.
It takes a lot more for idealists to succeed than realists. But when idealists do succeed, it feels really great. Like Next, I hope ERPNext has its redemption too. I am more inspired than ever to stick to my idealist goals.
Rushabh is a software developer and founder of ERPNext. He usually writes about the startup experience, open source and the technologies he is working on.