If they really did place likenesses of people next to the words that best defined them in the dictionary, Guy Kawasaki’s picture might fit next to marketing genius in a future edition of Webster’s. In 1984, he helped launch Apple’s weird new Macintosh computer, with its kiddy-cute icons, virtually no supporting applications, counter-Orwellian promotional campaign…and the rest was history.
After leaving Apple a few years later, Kawasaki started a software company, wrote his memoirs and returned briefly to Apple before starting his latest venture, a high-tech seed capital firm called garage.com. You can almost hear the smile in Kawasaki’s voice. He still periodically refers to himself as Apple’s “chief evangelist,” and he is guileless in his enthusiasm for his former employer. He paused a moment before embarking on a promotional tour for his new book, “Rules for Revolutionaries” (HarperBusiness; forthcoming), to speak with SBN.
Of the three dictums that you suggest in your book for capitalist revolutionaries-create like a god, command like a king, work like a slave-which is your weakness?
Create like a god. I do not see myself as a creator or visionary. I see myself as a great recognizer of what can sell. I would not rank myself with [Apple Computer founder] Steve Jobs or any other visionaries who see the future of personal computing or whatever market. But having seen a Macintosh, I can sure as hell tell you it will sell and how to sell it.
Which of the three do you believe is your strength?
Work like a slave.
Does a modern capitalist revolutionary as you define him or her have to own a computer?
No. There are many industries and many markets where without a computer you can still be a revolutionary. But the key part of the question is “have to”-you don’t have to, but it sure would make life easier.
What kind of computer and operating system do you use?
I only use a Macintosh.
How much time per day do you spend online?
Approximately three hours a day answering e-mail, offline. Online browsing, 15 minutes.
What would it take to get you to go back to Apple?
There is no scenario under which I’d go back to Apple. I’m completely dedicated to garage.com. I wouldn’t go back at a mid- or low-level, because I’m too senior and I require too much compensation. And I wouldn’t go back at a high level because working at a company like Apple takes 110 percent of your life.
What device would you most like to design for yourself?
I would like a Breitling Aerospace watch with a worldwide Iridium [satellite] beeper.
What do you like most about the new Volkswagen Beetle? Probably the flower vase. There’s a flower vase on the dashboard. It’s so unexpected. It’s a wink between Volkswagen and its customers.
What cause would you volunteer a month off for without pay? There isn’t one. Say my primary cause is child abuse. If someone asked to me to work in this child abuse center for a month without pay, I would tell them, “You know what? In that month I can make more money and give it to you and do more good than I could working there myself.”
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do. I believe [former Apple executive] Jean-Louis Gassee told me that. But Jean-Louis Gassee says so many things, it eez hard to keep track of zee French madman.
Who do you most admire?
Charles Barkley, because he takes it to the hole.
What deceased person would you most like to spend 20 minutes with?
(Sears and Roebuck co-founder) Richard Sears. He took a very simple concept and just ran with it, and I’d like to know what he learned along the way.
What habit would you most like to break?
Spending three hours a day answering e-mail.
Market share or profit margin?
The answer is neither. Customer satisfaction.
Ignorance or bliss?
I would say ignorance, because ignorance can lead to bliss. You see, in my mind, my perspective, ignorance, i.e., not knowing how hard it is to do something, will enable you or empower you or just by accident allow you to create a revolution. And creating a revolution, when you succeed, is a blissful accomplishment. If I knew how hard it was to evangelize Macintosh that first time, I would never have tried. So my ignorance led to bliss.