A couple of ounces of dynamite makes for a great firecracker.
I didnt quite know what a chemist was, but I kept it up and got my PhD in physical chemistry.
That may not sound like much now, but it was a months salary in 1957.
This was the first of the Silicon Valley spin-offs that we suffered. After our initial feelings of shock and betrayal, we sat down and discussed what we should do.
We still werent really quite entrepreneurs, but we had learned something along the way.
We had no idea at all that we had turned the first stone on something that was going to be an $80 billion business.
I felt that new management would probably change the nature of the company significantly. I decided Id rather leave before any changes, than after. So, the two of us set off to do something else.
We saw semiconductor memory as an opportunity to make something complex and sell t for all kinds of digital applications. So that was the first thing we went after. That was really the basis of our business plan.
Fortunately, very much by luck, we had hit on a technology that had just the right degree of difficulty for a successful startup. This was how Intel began.
One of my colleagues claimed Shockley could see electrons. He had a tremendous feeling for what was going on, say, in silicon.
He had some peculiar ideas for motivating people. I had no management experience or training. Unfortunately, neither did Shockley/
In such a small entrepreneurial group, having in-people and out-people created some dissention, the sort of thing that makes it hard to keep everybody working together as a team.
The beginning of the end, as far as morale was concerned, occurred when we had a minor problem in the company and Shockley decided that the entire staff was going to have to take lie detector tests to find out who was responsible for it.
We were told essentially that Shockley was in charge, and if we didnt like it we probably ought to look at doing something else.
Most of what I learned as an entrepreneur was by trial and error.
I had no training in business after my sophomore year of college. I didnt take any courses outside of chemistry, math, and physics.
I think a lot of this really could have been learned more efficiently.
Building a successful enterprise is satisfying and rewarding.
Broadening the education to include some instruction in business a little bit about finance and organizations would certainly be useful, and I think a course in this direction would probably be a significant addition to the curriculum.
There is such a thing as a natural-born entrepreneur, for whom the entrepreneurial urge drives everything, and who can make a business out of almost anything. But the accidental entrepreneur like me has to fall into the opportunity or be pushed into it. Then the entrepreneurial spirit eventually catches on.
To me the opportunities to start a company are few and far between. Im not the sort of entrepreneur who can just say, Im going to start a company. Lets look for an opportunity.
They talked to us and said: You dont want to look for a company to hire you; you want to set up your own company. That didnt sound bad.
None of us knew how to run a company.
We talked about what it ought to be. But even though we talked about it, we were too darned busy doing other things, and we never go around to moving in that direction. So we missed that chance completely.
Long before Apple, one of our engineers came to me with the suggestion that Intel ought to build a computer for the home. And I asked him, What the heck would anyone want a computer for in his home? It seemed ridiculous!
We took some fairly aggressive and not always successful steps toward producing computer products early in the companys life.
It ended up being so slow it could do hardly anything, and we had to abandon it. But at least it was an aggressive shot one that we just didnt target correctly.
In retrospect, there are a lot of things we could have done better along the way. But, we did enough right to grow a fairly large company.
Its important to remember one thing that is essential for any entrepreneurial organization. Do what you do well. Look at other things as incremental opportunities, but dont change the basis of what you do well.
My advice to Caltech is this: Help students a bit if they want to move in entrepreneurial directions, but dont change the basic nature of Caltech education.
We recognized that there were existing semiconductor companies that would probably come into our area if we were successful.
We wanted to get big enough before they got turned around, to make it so they couldnt put us out of business. We moved from that point to the point where we have a major influence on, really, the electronics industry worldwide, particularly everything associated with computing.
I think what keeps a lot of us going in this business is the opportunity to compete. You know, to gain. You dont have to be in good physical shape. So its exciting. It really gets peoples juices flowing.
There is no better chance to train managers than in a start-up, where they have the opportunity to see the entire company as it grows.
Now, I don't mind missing an opportunity because we tried and failed. We took some fairly aggressive and not always successful steps toward producing computer products early in the company's life - for example, the 432. The 432 was probably the first 32-bit microprocessor; it was hardware designed to execute object-oriented software; the hardware and software were designed together and had many advanced features. At the time that we designed the system, the technology wasn't quite ready for such complexity, and in order to get all the functionality on the chip, we had to sacrifice performance. It ended up being so slow it could do hardly anything, and we had to abandon it. But at least it was an aggressive shot - one that we just didn't target correctly.
From the beginning at Intel, we planned on being big.