Tony Fadell is one of the most important figures in Apple’s (AAPL) history. As the creator of the iPod, he helped turn the struggling company’s fortunes around. And as the co-creator of the iPhone, he can take (at least some) credit for Apple becoming a company with a market cap of more than $2.5 trillion.
But Fadell wasn’t sure he wanted to join up with Apple when he pitched the idea for the iPod.
“Apple was a very, very different company back then,” Fadell told Yahoo Finance. “A lot of people weren’t ready to join up [with] Apple. I certainly wasn’t. It took me weeks to figure out if I was going to actually join, because it wasn’t the Apple we know today.”
But Fadell, who is promoting his book “Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making,” took the chance. And now Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world.
Fadell, however, didn’t think up the iPod or iPhone overnight. It took years and a string of failures to get to that point, he explained.
“I think the thing I have to look back on is that 10 years before leading up to [the iPod] was failure after failure after failure,” Fadell said. “Whether it’s General Magic or Philips. The things that we talk about, all the failures in the book that we talked about, [it is] so seminal and so important to actually being able to move at speed and at scale with the iPod”
And if it weren’t for the mentors he had at the time, Fadell says he may not have persevered. To pay it forward, he wrote “Build” as a means to mentor entrepreneurs en masse.
“The book is an encyclopedia of mentorship,” Fadell explained. “I didn’t want an autobiography. I didn’t want any of that stuff. I wanted to really help people.”
Fadell has, of course, done far more than create the iPod and iPhone. The engineer also co-founded Nest, which sold to Google (GOOG, GOOGL) for $3.2 billion in 2014.
The idea for the company, Fadell said, came about when he was working on his house in Tahoe. When it came time to install a thermostat, he said he was befuddled as to why they all looked so outdated and, most importantly, why they weren’t, well, smarter.
“When it came to Nest, it was really about the pain of comfort. An ugly device, an absolutely ugly device that no one loved, no one cared about, they usually hid, they didn’t pay anything for, but it controlled 50% of your home energy bill,” he said.
Nest has since expanded beyond its original thermostat to produces alarms, security cameras, smoke detectors and a slew of other devices.
It’s safe to say Fadell is a successful entrepreneur and engineer, but writing “Build,” he said, was a completely new experience.
“I’m not a writer. I’ve never done a book before. But you know, I didn’t make an iPod before either. I didn’t make a lot of things,” Fadell said with a laugh.
“You’ve got to just do, fail, learn. So hopefully, this isn’t going to be a failure.”
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