An email interview with the serial entrepreneur behind the technology inside the Jawbone Up fitness-tracking wristband.
Lewis Schiff, Inc.com
In 1983, Philippe Kahn emigrated from France to the United States with just $2,000, and a software program he co-created called Turbo Pascal. The company he built around that program, Borland International, sold for $75 million in 2009.
As a Silicon Valley pioneer, he’s been known for developing cutting-edge products such as one the first camera phones and, more recently, the technology inside Jawbone’s “Jawbone Up” fitness tracking wristband. Today, he’s founder and CEO of Fullpower Technologies.
Inc. Business Owners Council’s Lewis Schiff recently interviewed Kahn by email:
You are known as one of the swashbuckling entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley. In my book, Business Brilliant, I wrote about one of your early business adventures launching Borland. When you arrived from France with no money to market Turbo Pascal, you relied on a high-stakes ruse to fool the leading computer magazine, Byte, into extending you credit in order to pay for advertising. What other bold business tactics have you used?
Another story, and perhaps a more important event as it put me in contact with the key technology influencers of the time, is my first press conference. It was at the Las Vegas Comdex show a few months [after I convinced Byte magazine to run my advertisements on credit]. I asked the–now famous–casino mogul Sheldon Adelson for credit for a small booth and a press conference. He said, “if you can’t afford to pay me upfront, perhaps you should ask McDonald’s.” That wasn’t meant seriously, but I thought about it and I set up my first press conference in Las Vegas at McDonald’s! Ten journalists came and among them, Jerry Pournelle, who wrote my technology up and got me started with orders pooring in. Jerry became a sort of father figure. And I was star-struck. I loved his book, The Moth in God’s Eye.