Apple and its first investors : hilarious!

This morning, I was participating to a workshop about startups and one question came about the relationships with investors entrepeneurs are trying to attract and invest in their company. I told them it could be frustrating for many reasons, often because VCs never say no but decline too often to invest too. The best illustration comes from Something Ventured, a documentary movie I never stop celebrating. The Apple case is close to being hilarious. You find the extract beginning around minute 51 in the video:


and here is the text: [Narrator] In 1976, the computer was about to get personal. […] For venture capitalists, this represented the opportunity of a lifetime.

[Perkins Chuckles] We turned down Apple Computer. We didn’t – We didn’t even turn it down. We didn’t agree to meet with Jobs and Wozniak.
[Reid Dennis] Oh, that would have been a fabulous investment if we had made it, but we didn’t. We said, “Oh, no, we’re not really in that business.”

[Pitch Johnson] “How can you use a computer at home? You’re gonna put recipes on it?”

[Bill Draper] I sent my partner down to look at Apple. He came back and he said “Guy kept me waiting for an hour, and he’s very arrogant.” And, of course, that’s Steve Jobs! I said, “Well, let’s let it go.” That was a big mistake.

[Narrator] In 1976, the only people who believed in the personal computer… were the geeks and nerds who gathered at Homebrew Computer Clubs.

[Bushnell, founder & CEO of Atari] They needed an investment, and, uh, they offered me a third of Apple Computer for $50,000… and I said, “Gee, I don’t think so.” I could have owned a third of Apple Computer for $50’000. [Sighs] A big mistake. But I said, “Call Don Valentine.”

[Valentine] So we had our meeting. I went to Steve’s house. And we talked, and I was convinced it was a big market… just embryonically beginning. Steve was in his Fu Manchu look, and his question for me- “Tell me what I have to do to have you finance me.” I said, “We have to have someone in the company… who has some sense of management and marketing and channels of distribution.” He said, “Fine. Send me three people.” I sent him three candidates. One he didn’t like. One didn’t like him. And the third one was Mike Markkula. Mike Markkula worked for me at Fairchild before he went to Intel.

[Markkula] I said, “Okay.” ‘Cause that’s what I did on Mondays. I was retired. [Chuckles] I think I was 32 when I retired from Intel. But one day a week, I would help people start companies and write business plans. I did it for free, just for the interaction with bright, uh, people… So I went over and talked to the boys. [Laughs] The two of them did not make a good impression on people. They were bearded. They didn’t smell good. They dressed funny. Young, naive. But Woz had designed a really wonderful, wonderful computer. […] And I came to the conclusion that we could build a Fortune 500 company in less than five years. I said I’d put up the money that was needed.

[Narrator] Mike Markkula came out of retirement, becoming the president and C.E.O. of Apple. And the first call he made was to Arthur Rock. Arthur would have missed Apple if it weren’t for Mike Markkula.

[Rock] Jobs and Wozniak came up to see me, and they were very unappealing. Goatee, long hair [Muttering] Markkula said, “Well, before you make up your mind, there’s a computer show. You ought to come down and see what’s going on.” And he did. He thought somethin’ was happenin’. He wasn’t quite sure what. And there was this booth with everybody around it. I couldn’t even get next to it. And it was the Apple booth.
Then I got a call from Don Valentine. [Chuckles] “I want to put some money in that company” I said, “Okay, you gotta come on the board then.”
You know in the venture capital business, if you look at 200 deals, and you, you might do 10 of’em, and you will think they’re all great, and if one of’em is great, then you’re in the hall of fame.

Just in case, a little more about something ventured from my blog in 2012: https://www.startup-book.com/2012/02/08/something-ventured-a-great-movie/.

Finally, let me remind you of other “missed deals” in another recent post: The amazing challenge of finding great startups.

The Microchip Revolution (Appendix) – Intersil

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was a little desperate to find specific information about Intersil that would allow me to illustrate its shareholding when it went public.

You can skip this very anecdotal narrative which is probably above all an archive for me, but which also shows that you always have to persevere. Note that each country has a register of companies, more or less rich in information, sometimes for a fee, sometimes free. In the USA, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC – www.sec.gov) provides access to all documents about public companies (i.e. listed on a stock exchange). In contrast, private companies (not listed on a stock exchange) are not obliged to publish any information, especially financial. (And I would add that Private Equity – of which venture capital is a part – only finances private companies, i.e. unlisted).

The SEC provides a service – EDGAR – free of charge for all documents published up to the mid-1990s, 1996 to be precise, I think. The SEC sold the pre-1996 documents for around $40-60 and then handed the service over to Thomson Reuters (then Refinitiv) a few years later – a privatization of “public service” and the price rose to $80 then $120-140 per document…

On October 4, I contacted Thomson Reuters asking for the IPO prospectuses of IDT, Lam Research and Intersil.

While I got the first two almost immediately, on October 7 I got a question as an answer for Intersil that asked me to choose a document from the following table:

The question was unsettling because Intersil was not Harris and I wanted a document dated 1972. There should not have been earlier documents.

Intersil was founded in 1967, went public in 1972 and was reportedly acquired in 1981 by General Electric (GE) and in 1988 by Harris (that’s it!) which combined Intersil with units from RCA and GE. In 1999, Harris made Intersil a spin-off which went public again in 2000… In 2017, Japanese company Renesas bought Intersil.

In explaining this situation to the SEC, a second research led them to offer me these documents:

Buying 2 documents at that price made me hesitant. So I needed more information. I contacted individuals:
– Christophe Lecuyer, author of Making Silicon Valley, Innovation and the Growth of High Tech, 1930-1970
– David Fullagar, formerly at Intersil,
– Michelle Lowry at Drexel University,
– Josh Lerner and Paul Gompers at Harvard University,
– Jay Ritter at University of Florida,
as well as institutions:
– The Computer History Museum in San Jose, CA (https://computerhistory.org/)
– The libraries of Stanford University, Harvard University
– The WRDS service at Wharton (Wharton Research Data Services), the business school of the university of Pennsylvania

Most answered even if they had no information. This is the American culture: people try to help, often by giving new names or leads. I must in particular thank Jay Ritter who wrote back immediately: “My records have Intersil going public on Jan 20, 1972 at $14 per share. The first market close may have been $12.00. But I have less information about this company than most IPOs from 1972.” then later “In another file I found that it had ticker ISIL, listed on Nasdaq, might have been a General Electric spinoff, but was VC-financed with Diebold Venture Capital Corp., RCA Corp., Sutter Hill Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Mayfield II, Citicorp Venture Capital, and Small Business Enterprises (Bank America) as investors, Bache was the lead underwriter, and sold 360,000 shares at $14 per share (352,000 newly issued, with 8,000 from selling shareholders).”

Interestingly there are mixed information about 2 different IPOs not to say companies. But I had my date! January 20, 1972.

On October 11, I could contact again Refinitiv and my contact answered “Please allow at least 2-3 hours for this process.” The next day, “They need to scan the microfiche for the document of Intersil. [But] it seems that they are having trouble on finding it.” And the next day, I finally had it which made possible the next table:

Remember Bauer and Wilder have dedicated their book to Jean Hoerni : “This book is dedicated to Jean Hoerni, the inventor of the planar process; without which none of this would have been possible. Hoerni became an entrepreneur and owned about a quarter of Intersil IPO. This is uncommon and huge for a founder. You my not know the investors, this was the sixties. But Arthur Rock is a legend (an investor in Intel, Apple – see my next post!) and Fred Adler is also famous, though to a lesser extent. These were the early days of startups and venture capital, but fundamentally, everything was being invented then and the rules are pretty much the same today.

The Microchip Revolution (Final Part)

I just finished reading The Microchip Revolution about which I wrote for posts here, there and there. This is a beautiful recollection of what Silicon Valley brought to the world. The revolution began with the Traitorous Eight who looked like this when young

and like that a few years later (from the New York Times Julius Blank, Who Built First Chip Maker, Dies at 86)

Fairchild Semiconductor’s founders in 1988. Victor Grinich (left), Jay Last, Jean Hoerni, Julius Blank, Eugene Kleiner, Sheldon Roberts, Robert N. Noyce (seated, left,) and Gordon E. Moore. Credit: Terrence McCarthy

I could not finish this history witout some cap. tables, the ones of companies mentioned here, that I could build: Intel, AMD, Cypress, IDT, Lam Research. I desesperately looked for data about Intersil, but neither the SEC nor Thomson Reuters could help me. Will you?





and as a postcript on Oct 13. 2020, Micron Technology, which had every unusual local investors from Idaho with a convertible loan structure:

The Microchip revolution (part III) : the maturity

You will find part I here and part II there. If the 60s were the early days which ended with the oil crisis in 73, the maturity came in the 80s with a second crisis coming from Japanese competition.

There was still a lot of uncertainty as the authors show in the chapters dedicated to Cypress, IDT, Micron. For example:

Another example about the uncertainty around which technology was superior for memory products at the time is that in 1986, when I was a founder of a semiconductor startup company with a business plan predicated on making bipolar RAM products. This was Synergy Semiconductor. We were funded by two premier Sand Hill Road venture capital firms, Sequoia Capital and Mayfield Funds. Even these supposedly smart VC partners couldn’t predict the superiority of the MOS technology in the memory chip business. Rodgers and Cypress made the correct bet on CMOS. It is also interesting that Sequoia Capital invested in Synergy with bipolar technology and Cypress with CMOS technology, thereby covering their bets. (Synergy never went public, struggled for 10 years and was eventually bought by Micrel.)

Intel didn’t believe that they needed CMOS for their memory or processor products for years. They knew that CMOS was a more complex process, and therefore more expensive, and they were not yet dealing with the high-power limitations of their process. Intel did not switch to CMOS for memory products until 1986. [Page 260]

Entrepreneurship is the ability to face these uncertainties and also to act by taking risks:

I already knew that [Rodgers] was a special guy, very smart, in great shape, from running every day and probably a risk taker, but this was nuts [diving in a dangerous place in Hawaii]. What if the timing was wrong and he gets sucked into the tube? How will I get help, it is a 15-minute walk over lava. But he did it. And then he jumped it. He did it twice! This event defines Rodgers. He is self-assured, even egotistical, but able to back up his decisions with actions and willing to take risks even if the parameters are not totally known. Shortly after the lava leaping escapade, he quit AMD and started Cypress Semiconductors. [Page 252]

While he was still at AMD, [Rodgers] got a call from a venture capitalist who was doing reference checks on an executive and inventor while at Fairchild and who also trying to raise money to start a new business. This got Rodgers thinking: “If this guy can raise money and start a new business, why can’t I do it?” And he began exploring the possibility of doing just that. [Page 253]

This reminds one of my favorite quotes ever, from Tom Perkins the famous P in KPCB (Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers): The difference is in psychology: everybody in Silicon Valley knows somebody that is doing very well in high-tech small companies, start-ups; so they say to themselves “I am smarter than Joe. If he could make millions, I can make a billion”. So they do and they think they will succeed and by thinking they can succeed, they have a good shot at succeeding. That psychology does not exist so much elsewhere.

The Microchip revolution (part II) : the very early days

If you missed Part I, it’s here. All the culture of Silicon Valley was born in these early years. Here are a few examples.

In the early days of the semiconductor, it was mainly about high-quality research: With an absentee boss, Sherman Fairchild, on the East Coast, the group could focus mainly on doing pure research, with no boss to bug them. Their main direction came from intense competition between each other. No VC or corporation would finance anything like this now! [Page 14] The authors are right. Only Google maybe is doing it with or without VC or boss approval and peer pressure is similar.

They finally make and ship their first product in 1958, 100 transistors to IBM. [Page 17]

Jack Kilby was awarded the Nobel prize in physics in 2000 for the invention of the integrated circuit. Unfortunately Bob Noyce had died 10 years earlier and Jean Hoerni passed away 3 years earlier. The Nobel prize is never awarded posthumously. The scientific community informally agreed that both Kilby and Noyce had invented the chip and that they both deserved credit. [Page 21]

Chapter 2 is about a non-startup, Hughes Research Labs, based in Los Angeles.

We did not have stock options; few of us even knew what they were. [Page 48]

Having dynamic leaders who gave free rein to ambitious young engineers and scientists meant that the engineers and researchers were stimulated by competition among themselves rather than by management layers above, which helped create an explosion of papers and patents. However, in both cases [at Fairchild and Hughes RL], the transfer of technologies from R&D to production was not easy. Although they were distinctly different organizations, both were very large corporate structures. But in the case of HRL, having R&D and production in the same physical location meant that discussions between the two groups were quite frequent.

Another difficulty was the lack of stock option program at HRL. This definitely caused significant personal turnover, especially among the non-attached young scientists who were hearing about the new utopic world, and its lucrative stock option packages, up in Silicon Valley. [Page 67]

Chapter 3: Intersil, a lost opportunity.

Another genealogy of Silicon Valley and extracted, the impact of Jean Hoerni.

Intersil was founded by Jean Hoerni, one of the eight traitors. The early days are best described as a mix of genius and chaos. The two most versatile personalities were Jean Hoerni and Don Rodgers, the VP Sales and also ex-Fairchild. Hoerni with 2 PhDs in physics was a shy genius quite the introvert but given to unpredictable mood swings. Rodgers was an extrovert. He came from the rough and tumble, hard-drinking, hard-living Fairchild sales team of the 1960s. One of the early frustrations was the ineffectiveness of the marketing department. [Page 71]

Hoerni’s contentious and rebellious personality often appealed to the young managers and engineers who were also looking for the next opportunity and also rejected conformism and authority, in part to the traumatism of the Vietnam war.

When I [Luc Bauer] started working with Hoerni, he strongly advised me not to be blindly loyal to any company, but only to my own ambition and goals. He said that if your employer doesn’t help you reach them, then you better change companies or start your own because life is too short.
[Page 74]

But Bauer talks about a missed opportunity and the reason follows: just have a look at the revenue growth of Intersil (founded in 67, IPO 72) and Intel (founded in 68, IPO 71):

Joe Rizzi, one of Intersil founders summarized his seven years at Intersil with two words: Lost opportunity. He said that all, or most of the seven product categories could have become sizeable businesses on their own, given enough care and focus to nurture their growth.
At the time, uncertainty in the market pushed to diversity of products. Intel’s narrow product focus was a risky gamble.
[Page 102]. Intersil had $572M in sales in 2014 and was acquired by Renesas in 2017. Intel is now a $71.9B business…

Guy Kawasaki – Make Meaning in Your Company

This morning I was participating to a workshop when a debate started about why making a startup. The best answer I know is from Guy kawasaki:


A presentation by Guy Kawasaki for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program Educators Corner in the School of Engineering at Stanford University. October 20, 2004.

Guy Kawasaki is among other things the author of a great book, the Art of Start

An example of his greate advice below is how to make a 10-slide great presentation of a company pitch:
Art of Start – Kawasaki

The Microchip Revolution by Bauer and Wilder (part I)

I felt a but of nostalgia when I received the following email : “The idea of doing a book on semiconductor startup had been teasing me for a while, I finally found a longtime buddy who has been okay with doing this book over the past 2 years. We were greatly assisted in this mission by the Computer History Museum (CHM) in Mountain View, CA. The book focuses on the period from the late 1950s to the late 1990s, about the development history of MOS and CMOS industrial processes mainly but not only from the point of view of managers, but also workers in fab and fab managers that we were at the time. We describe the development of 9 companies that we knew well and that had developed original technologies: Fairchild, Hughes, Intersil, Eurosil, Intel, AMD, IDT, Cypress, and Micron. The title is The Microchip Revolution – A Brief History.” [1]

I met Luc Bauer in the early 2000s when investing in a startup he was a business angel in and a mentor. I remember how he lectured me saying that Kleiner Perkins was much more professional than we were! Luc is a gentleman which does not mean he cannot be tough when he is frustrated; when people have been working hard in Silicon valley like he did, they can be really tough! But we stayed in touch and I was so happy to begin reading his book a few days ago.

SiliconValleyGenealogy-All

This is a poster about the Silicon Valley Genealogy of semiconductor startups from the mid 50s to the mid 80s. This is what Luc is writing about through 9 companies which I am pretty sure are on this poster. By the way, Luc is there too.

His book begins with Fairchild and the Traitorous Eight and it makes sense as it is at the beginning of the genealogy. By the way the book is dedicated to one of the eight traitors, Jean Hoerni, A Swiss national and one of the rare people I have heard about with 2 PhDs. Luc has the same double culture and double education (BS, EPFL Lausanne and MS, PhD Caltech)

So here are a few excerpts: “A good part of our motivation [for writing the book] was to relive the intensity in our lives when we started in this industry: the endless and stressful hours of looking for yield crash factors, the great excitement and shouts of joy when you see a brand new integrated circuit product coming alive and functioning perfectly when the “hot out of the furnace” processed wafer is put for the first time on the electrical test prober. Another great motivator for us was to propagate an important story to younger generations, that working in high technology fields is hard and exhausting, but also a source of joy and pride as it is easy to see the impact of your hard work on the company you work for and possibly on the workd you live in.”

Let me put this again below, in bold this time:

Another great motivator for us was to propagate an important story to younger generations, that working in high technology fields is hard and exhausting, but also a source of joy and pride as it is easy to see the impact of your hard work on the company you work for and possibly on the workd you live in.

More to come I am sure!

[1] The real email was in French: “L’idée de faire un livre sur le démarrage des semi-conducteurs me taquinait depuis un moment, j’ai finalement trouvé un copain de longue date qui a été d’accord de faire ce livre avec mois ces 2 dernières années. On été beaucoup aidé dans cette mission par le Computer History Museum (CHM) de Mountain View, CA. Le livre se concentre sur la période entre la fin des années 50 jusqu’à la fin des années 90, sur l’histoire de développement des processus industriels MOS et CMOS principalement mais pas seulement du point de vue des chefs, mais aussi des travailleurs de fab et managers de fab que nous étions à ce moment. On décrit le développement de 9 compagnies que nous connaissions bien et qui avaient développé des technologies originales: Fairchild, Hughes, Intersil, Eurosil, Intel, AMD, IDT, Cypress, et Micron. Le titre est The Microchip Revolution – A Brief History.”

Theranos, the (not so)-Silicon Valley biggest scandal ever

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou is a thriller and an amazing document about Silicon-Valley based Theranos, a medtech startup that is probably the biggest scandal ever about a technology startup, and its cofounder Elizabeth Holmes. But it is not so much about Silicon Valley, as I will discuss below, but about where extremes of hubris, lack of ethics, can drive human nature.

This is a thriller, a page-turner, but this is reality, unfortunately. In the end Carreyrou is not really puzzled about Holmes: Was she manipulated, did she lose control, but he has his answers (pages 372-73): Holmes knew exactly what she was doing and she was firmly in control. When one former employee interviewed for a job at Theranos in the summer of 2011, he asked Holmes about the role of the company’s board. She took offense at the question. “The board is just a placeholder,” he recalls her saying: “I make all the decisions here.” … A sociopath is often described as someone with little or no conscience. I’ll leave it to the psychologists to decide whether Holmes fits the clinical profile, but there’s no question that her moral compass was badly askew.

This is a thriller because Carreyrou introduces many individuals who suffered from the company’s total lack of ethis and secretive methods. Theranos did not hesitate to threaten these and used the most expensive lawyers who know how to intimidate. Homes knew how to seduce, to convince: She is also part of this terrible mentality that had been killing us for the last 20 years : if you are not (totally) with me, then you are my ennemy and I will crush you. A must-read!

Now Theranos was based in Silicon Valley but is not an illustration of what Silicon Valley is. People do not have to love Silicon VAlley, but using Theranos as a a reason why is a mistake: Silicon Valley, at least the one I know or I knew and appreciate is a place where trust and honesty are paramount values. This would take to long to explain but here is another quote of why Theranos is really an outlier (not the only one, but they are not so many:

Ah yes, the cap. table. My favorite exercise! Difficult to do here because there is very little information. Here is what I was able to build.

A Fury of Software IPO Filings

After many, many IPO filings from biotech startups in 2020 (I counted 20 out of the 43 I followed and made cap. tables of), the end of August had 8 filings from Software companies (and only 15 in total). I do not think there is any rational here (except maybe Palantir as a trigger), but I decided to have a look at these 8 companies.

These are
BigCommerce (Australia)
Palantir Technologies (see my previous post here)
Asana, Sumo Logic, SnowFlake (Silicon Valley)
Unity Software (Denmark), Jfrog Ltd (Israel)
AmWell (Boston)

You can have a look at some cap. tables in the pdf (pages 633, 636-42) but more than the individual data (also below at the end), it is the (limited) stats which I find interesting:

The data deserve some explanation and also deserve to be compared with the averages of the more than 600 startups studied in the pdf (pages 644-659).

These “young” startups took 12 years to go public, this is much more than in the (recent) past and they used amazing amounts of venture capital, in the hundreds of millions. Even the series A, the 1st round, is huge, about $10M. Their sales are big too (more than $100M for all of them) with a mediam value of $150M. Their losses are not small with a median value of $100M…

Now If we look at shareholding, investors own about 45% of the company, not more than in the past (despite the huge fund raising), IPO shares are pretty small (about 4%). Common shares (mostly employees) is about 35% and you should also notice that these startups have hundreds not to say thousands of employees. As a side comment non-founding CEOs are not the norm and have about 3.5% of the company (CFOs have about 0.7%)

The founders keep about 14%. They are about 2 per company, with a median age of 35 (mean is 33 so slightly lower than the overall 38.

I think all this is pretty interesting and feel free to have a look at overall stats in my post earlier this year: data about equity in 600+ startups.

Equity List August2020

 

Palantir files to go public

I am not sure this was worth a post as there is nothing really surprising with Palantir IPO filing that can be found here on the NASDAQ website. Still, this is Palantir, the secretive software company cofounded by Peter Thiel, Alexander Karp & Stephen Cohen (as well as Joe Lonsdale and Nathan Gettings)


Thiel, Karp, Lonsdale & Cohen (Gettings cannot be found online)

So I did my favorite exercise, building a tentative cap. table. Here it is:

What are the striking facts: the high level of sales, losses and fund raising. The startup, neither its founders are not young anymore… That’s it. Or feel free to comment!