In some sad news, Andy Grove, a.k.a. one of the founders and former CEOs of Intel, passed away yesterday at the age of 79.
The Budapest-born Grove was a mentor to many people in Silicon Valley, including Steve Jobs, who once noted that he was one of the only people Jobs would willingly work for. Grove famously arrived in the United States with less than $20 and rose to turn Intel from a startup into one of the world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip makers.
In a Twitter tribute, Tim Cook wrote that Grove, “was one of the giants of the technology world. He loved our country and epitomized America at its best.”
Andy Grove was one of the giants of the technology world. He loved our country and epitomized America at its best. Rest in peace.
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) March 22, 2016
I won’t try and distill Grove’s life into a single post here, but he’s someone well worth researching if you’re a budding entrepreneur or simply interested in the history of technology. There’s a good tribute to him over at Bloomberg, while he also wrote several books including Swimming Across and the fascinating Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company.
The Steve Jobs connection took place early in Jobs’ career in the late 1970s, and Grove went on to become an unofficial advisor to Jobs at crucial times in his life. It was a conversation with Grove which helped prompt Steve to return to Apple in the late-1990s, as Jobs recalled in his 2011 biography Steve Jobs:
“I knew Apple was a mess [at the time], so I wondered: Do I want to give up this nice lifestyle that I have? What are all the Pixar shareholders going to think? I talked to people I respected. I finally called Andy Grove at about eight one Saturday morning — too early. I gave him the pros and the cons, and in the middle he stopped me and said, ‘Steve, I don’t give a shit about Apple.’ I was stunned. It was then that I realized that I do give a shit about Apple … That was when I decided to go back.”
Grove additionally got a rare apology from Jobs when there was a brief spat over whether or not the Jobs-owned Pixar should be paid for giving Intel suggestions on improving the capacity of its processors to better render 3D graphics. When Jobs was told by Intel’s chief engineer that no official consultancy had been entered into, Jobs forwarded the message to Grove, labelling it “extremely arrogant, given Intel’s dismal showing in understanding computer graphics.”
Grove replied with an equally heated message to Jobs, saying that sharing of ideas is “what friendly companies and friends do for each other.” Jobs immediately backtracked and wrote that: “I have many faults, but one of them is not ingratitude. Therefore, I have changed my position 180 degrees — we will freely help. Thanks for the clearer perspective.”
As a survivor of prostate cancer, Grove was also among the small pool of people Jobs consulted when he got his pancreatic cancer diagnosis. According to Walter Isaacson, Jobs spent hours with Grove discussing the various options available.
As noted, there’s far more to Andy Grove’s life than the Apple connection, and I’d highly recommend reading up on him.
In the meantime, here’s to Intel’s co-founder: Silicon Valley sure would look a lot different without him!