For many Apple fans who remember Steve Jobs only as the austere, turtleneck-wearing digital emperor he was during his CEO stint at Apple, Jobs’ NeXT years — referring to the company he founded after parting ways with Apple in 1985 — are something of a mystery.
In many Jobs biographies, NeXT is often largely skipped over. In fact, the company had its own fascinating trajectory — and one of its big turning points was a June 13, 1989 investment by Canon which (briefly) left Jobs’ would-be Apple beater flush with cash.
After leaving Apple, Jobs put a lot of his own money into NeXT, which quickly began hemorrhaging cash. Japanese company Canon produced the optical disk drive for the NeXT Computer, as well as a key component for its printer. In June 1989, Jobs flew to Tokyo along with two other key NeXT executives to seek additional funds. Canon was impressed — and offered $100 million in exchange for a 16.67 percent stake in the company.
Jobs accepted, and the extra cash raised NeXT’s valuation to $600 million: an impressive amount considering the fact that it only had 200 employees. Jobs celebrated by moving NeXT to a new HQ in Redwood City, which he ordered be lavishly redecorated.
While not strictly a moment in Apple history, so much as Steve Jobs’ history, the Canon investment was significant because it helped move Jobs’ idea for NeXT away from his original niche idea of building a super-powered higher education computer and toward one aimed at selling to companies. When NeXT’s software later helped form the basis of OS X, and Jobs rejoined Apple, the focus on selling computers to businesses continued.
Besides all that, isn’t it crazy to think there was a time when $100 million would buy a 16.67 percent share of a company founded by Steve Jobs? (Even if that company didn’t turn out to be Apple!)