Hollywood and Silicon Valley are like two ships passing in the night. They are not trading passengers. They speak a differ- ent jargon; they have grown up with completely different models for how to grow a business, for how to attract and retain em- ployees, for everything. They’ve grown up with completely different role models, and so
the people think entirely differ-
ently. I mean, when you’re in
Silicon Valley, you don’t have to
explain Silicon Valley to anyone
else because everybody’s here
and understands it. And the same
is evidently true of Holly wood—
neither side can explain them-
selves to the other very well at all.
These are parallel universes
that have less in common than
one would think. What I like in
Silicon Valley is to hang out with
the engineers. What I like about
the people I’ve met from Holly-
wood are the creative people.
They’re the heart of Hollywood,
not the people driving around in
their Mercedes SLs talking on
their cellular phones and making
deals, the agents and stuff; I
couldn’t care less about that—
that’s not Hollywood to me.
The part of Hollywood that
we have attracted [at Pixar] is the
creative side, the creative talent.
We value that exactly equally
with the technical talent.
take them—Jobs was convinced that Pixar’s technology could revolutionize the business model
for animation, which was then primarily a hand-drawn art—he recognized that the partnership
had more or less saved the company: “It’s the biggest thing I’ve done for Pixar,” he said. So he
found a common bond between the companies. “There was a certain amount of fear and trepida-
tion, but what always happened was that making a great movie was the focal point of everybody’s
concerns. One way to drive fear out of a relationship is to realize that your partner’s values are the
same as yours, that what you care about is exactly what they care about. In my opinion, that drives
fear out and makes for a great partnership, whether it’s a corporate partnership or a marriage.”
Then he set about designing an organization that could deliver a great movie—and many more.
His foray into Hollywood had taught him a great deal. “I started to learn about how films are
made. Basically, it’s bands of gypsies getting together to make a film. After the film, they disband.
The problem with that is we want to build a company, not just make a single movie.”
This time, there was no flighty discussion of an “open” corporation. “Incentive structures
work,” he told me. “So you have to be very careful of what you incent people to do, because various
incentive structures create all sorts of consequences that you can’t anticipate. Everybody at Pixar
is incented to build the company: whether they’re working on the film; whether they’re working
on a potential direct-to-video product; whether they’re working on a CD-ROM. Whatever their
combination of creative and technical talent may be, we want them incented to make the whole
There was another compensation detail that reflected how completely Jobs was able to mesh
the values of Silicon Valley with Hollywood. Pixar paid its animators just as well as its software
geniuses (beginning an escalation in salaries that Katzenberg accelerated later that decade at
Dream Works). “We value them both equally,” Jobs said of Pixar’s two talent camps. “Some people
say we should value one higher than the other, but we value them equally, we pay them equally,
they have stock equally. We made that decision very early. Ed Catmull made that decision, actually.
We will always do that; that’s one of Pixar’s core values.”
These were the decisions that cemented the company’s future success. When Disney surprised
Jobs by scheduling Pixar’s first movie as its 1995 holiday feature, his team was ready, with a little
picture called Toy Story. And Jobs, armed with a renegotiated Disney deal for three pictures, was
ready too; Pixar went public 10 days after Toy Story’s stunning debut, raising nearly $100 million.
After that, it was as if the company hit the fast-forward button. And for the rest of his life, Jobs
enjoyed Pixar as he enjoyed little else. Now was the time to throw away the used furniture and
build a proper studio in Emeryville, California. He relished this so much more than the NeXT
headquarters—after all, this time he and his team had earned it. The design blended aspects of a
Hollywood lot and an old-fashioned brick factory building, perfect for his star animators and
programmers, perfect for working with Tom Hanks, Ellen DeGeneres, Owen Wilson, and all the
other stars who enjoyed voicing Pixar characters. The custom-made bricks came in 12 shades,
and if the colors weren’t distributed evenly enough, Jobs would have the bricklayers pull them
down and do it again. He would visit the construction site as often as he could as it came together,
often clambering around the buildings at night, when no one but the security guards were around.
He also created something called Pixar University for the staff, where his brilliant engineers
and clever artists and smart financial people could take classes in all kinds of subjects, to better
appreciate what their coworkers did. There were classes in the visual arts, dance, computer programming, foreign languages, drama, mathematics, creative writing, and even accounting. “It
is,” he once told me, “the coolest place to work in the world.”
For all the joy that Pixar brought Jobs, it was NeXT that got him back to Apple.
After failing to develop new software architecture for the Mac and bungling a joint venture with
IBM, Apple was on its deathbed in 1996. NeXT had a powerful, modern operating system and one
very persuasive storyteller, who managed to convince CEO Amelio that his stepchild could be
Apple’s salvation. In late 1996, Jobs sold NeXT to Apple for $400 million, which he used to pay back
Perot, Canon, and some other early investors. Within six months, Jobs had mounted a putsch and
became Apple’s “iCEO,” with the i standing for what proved to be a deeply false “interim.”
The ensuing tale, the saga of the modern Apple, is simply the story of the man who emerged
from that 11-year business school and implemented the lessons he had learned along the way. As
was true when he started at Pixar and NeXT, Jobs had many of the details wrong when he first
returned to the Apple helm. He imagined that the company’s business would always be selling