1985-2000 Fearless genius! Chronicling the innards of the Dot-Com Boom by Doug Menuez.
These photographs are from Doug Menuez’s new book Fearless Genius: The Digital Revolution in Silicon Valley 1985-2000, from Atria Books, an eyewitness record of the brilliant engineers, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who built our world. To buy the book or learn more, visit http://www.fearlessgenius.org.
In 1985, I returned to San Francisco after covering the horrific famine and conflict in Ethiopia for Newsweek and began looking for a more positive story for the human race. I noticed that in nearby Silicon Valley an explosion of innovation was fueling a digital revolution that might change all our lives. Although I was not interested in technology per se, the people inventing these new tools were an intriguing mystery.
That same year, Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple. He announced he was starting a new company, NeXT, and building a supercomputer to transform education. I’d found my story. I reached out to him through friends and gained unprecedented access to document him for LIFE magazine as he and his team built the NeXT computer. I ended up spending three years there.
Because Steve trusted me, so did the other leading innovators of Silicon Valley. I gained insider access to their secret labs, boardrooms, offices and homes for 15 years as they built the technology that shapes our world today. It was a time of extreme sacrifice, struggle and sublime creativity, and many paid a high price. There were divorces, ruined careers, billions made and then lost in tragic failure. One engineer I knew shot himself, another was committed to the psych ward and a manager went to prison for fraud.
More jobs and wealth were created than at any time in human history.
L. JOHN DOERR, PARTNER AT KLEINER PERKINS CAUFIELD & BYERS
Later, what Steve described as a “noble cause” shifted into an unsustainable gold rush to IPOs during the dot-com boom. When the inevitable bust came in 2000, it was devastating, washing away trillions of dollars, millions of jobs and crashing the economy.
The people I photographed were on a mission. In the early days, money was secondary to inventing impossibly cool, new technology that would improve our lives. Their idealism and passion combined with patient, long-term investors did lead to lots of failures, but it also allowed staggering, unprecedented successes to flower.
And history mattered — Steve Jobs understood this and pumped the giants who’d built the Valley for all their knowledge, which shaped his later success. Today’s entrepreneurs and innovators could surely benefit from the lessons within the history of the digital revolution while we figure out how to catch the next wave to the next tech revolution. It’s coming, and it’s going to be mind-blowing. I can’t wait.
If you give someone a hammer, they can build a house or tear it down. Photoshop is just a better hammer.
RUSSELL BROWN, ADOBE SYSTEMS CREATIVE DIRECTOR, ON IDEA THAT DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY WAS DESTROYING PHOTOGRAPHY
Maybe the revolution is the point, not the profit.
BILL JOY, COFOUNDER, SUN MICROSYSTEMS
I want some kid at Stanford to be able to cure cancer in his dorm room.
STEVE JOBS, ON THE POWER OF THE NEXT WORKSTATION
The best part of the story is, by noon Monday I had ten million dollars in the bank.
SAMIR ARORA, COFOUNDER AND CLO OF INTERNET START-UP NETOBJECTS