With the late Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Apple Inc.'s co-founders, dominating the tech world for decades, it’s easy to overlook the vital role played by a lesser-known figure: Mike Markkula.
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While Jobs and Wozniak captured the limelight, Markkula’s contributions to Apple's success were no less significant. From angel investor to CEO and chairman, Markkula’s journey with Apple showcased his belief in the power of personal computers.
Born on Feb. 11, 1942, in Los Angeles, Markkula was no stranger to the world of technology. Armed with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, this Trojan brother was already well-versed in the intricacies of the field. Markkula’s career at Fairchild Semiconductor International Inc. and Intel Corp., where he retired as a millionaire at the young age of 32, showcased his deep understanding of the tech landscape.
It was during an encounter with Jobs and Wozniak that Markkula’s trajectory took a momentous turn. Recognizing the potential of the Apple II computer, Markkula’s imagination soared. Fueling his conviction with action, Markkula emerged from retirement in 1977, becoming an angel investor in Apple. His $250,000 investment, a combination of loans and equity, solidified his position as the second CEO, third employee and a significant one-third owner of the budding company. In 2023, a one-third stake in Apple would be worth about $900 billion.
This unfortunate reality for Markkula highlights an important lesson for investors and the general potential with longer-term investments and the lucrative but volatile nature of startups. For example, despite the recent decline in venture capital, retail investors have invested over $1 billion through startup investing platforms like StartEngine.
Markkula’s ImpactMarkkula, eight years older than Wozniak and 13 years older than Jobs, brought a mature perspective and technical prowess to the table. His contributions to Apple’s early innovations, including writing several programs for the Apple II and beta testing hardware and software, further solidified his importance at the company.
Markkula’s business expertise breathed new life into Apple’s operations. He orchestrated credit arrangements and secured vital venture capital investments, propelling the company forward.
With the appointment of executive Michael Scott as Apple’s first president and CEO, Markkula’s vision for a Fortune 500 company started to take shape. He believed they could achieve that goal within five years. In May 1983, Apple made its debut on the Fortune 500 list at No. 411. Apple become the fastest-growing company in history.
Apple’s sales skyrocketed, with revenue climbing from $773,000 in 1977 to $117 million in 1980, the year of the company's initial public offering. Markkula’s equity investment yielded a 220,552% gain, leaving his shares worth $203 million.
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As a CEO himself from 1981 to 1983 and later chairman of the board of directors from 1985 to 1997, Markkula proved to be the steady hand steering Apple through turbulent waters. He played a pivotal role in preserving the Macintosh plan, even when Jobs attempted to derail it multiple times in favor of his own project Lisa.
Markkula’s unwavering support for Macintosh and his alignment with John Sculley, Apple's CEO from 1983 to 1993, during a critical dispute with Jobs ultimately led to Jobs’ departure from the company.
A 1996 article reported that Markkula sold 500,000 shares, amounting to 14% of his stake in the company. But he still retained 3.1 million shares, making him the largest individual shareholder at that time. The sale was attributed to “personal reasons,” as stated by an Apple spokeswoman, although no further details were provided.
Despite retiring from Apple in 1997, shortly after Jobs’ triumphant return as interim CEO, Markkula’s impact continued to resonate. He supported Jobs’ comeback and, more importantly, left behind a legacy of keen decision-making. Markkula’s intuition, especially when it came to the personal computer market, proved spot-on.
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This article Apple's Lesser-Known Co-Founder Owned ⅓ Of The Company But Missed Out On A Potential $900 Billion Fortune originally appeared on Benzinga.com
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