Xiaomi founder Lei Jun gained attention for his company by dressing like Steve Jobs and releasing a string of iPhone-alike devices. Now we know the reason: Because it was Jobs’ story which prompted the entrepreneur to get into the computer business.
In a recent book, Jun noted how he became interested in the tech industry after reading the 1980s book Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer. The book, by Michael Swaine and Paul Freiberger, tells the story of Jobs’ rivalry with Bill Gates, leading up to the launch of the Macintosh.
“That book from the 80s, the printing was blurry, and the translation was different from what it was today, but reading it made me unbelievably excited,” he said. “Fire in the Valley gave me inspiration: If you have a dream you might as well go for it, maybe you’ll end up creating a world class company.”
When he was in his final year of college, Lei launched a business making chips that allowed computers to more easily process data in Chinese. It failed, but he claims that it was the result of his admiration for Jobs and his Microsoft rival.
“At the time I thought Jobs and Gates were successful right out of school, so why couldn’t I be?” he said in a Chinese language book titled Seizing the Opportune Moment. “Just thinking about this, my blood rushed and I got dizzy. Looking back on it now it was so strange, we basically never discussed when starting a company who would invest, how to open a bank account, or how to make money.”
Fire in the Valley, for those unfamiliar with it, was later adapted into the excellent TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, whose director I previously interviewed for Cult of Mac.
According to some predictions, Xiaomi could be on the verge of overtaking Apple as the world’s largest second smartphone maker due to its immense popularity in populous markets like China and India.