19 years ago to this date, Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, promising '1000 songs in your pocket'

But the 'Father of the iPod' is someone who later co-created the iPhone, founded Nest and is now Principal at Future Shape that has invested in 200+ start-ups.

Meet Tony Fadell

1969 - Tony Fadell is born. His father worked in Sales with Levi's for 30+ years.

Tony's best lessons on Sales came from his father:

You're not supposed to sell everything. Sell what the customer will be successful with.

It's not a transaction. It's a relationship.

1991/92 - Fadell graduates from the University of Michigan with a BS in Computer Engineering.

He reads a rumour about the founding team of the Mac spinning off into a new company - General Magic.

After a relentless pursuit, Fadell joins as a diagnostics engineer.

Fadell works almost 120 hours a week, overdosing on 8-10 Diet Cokes a day.

He eventually stops, which leads to 3 weeks of continuous headache. But he remains off caffeine even today.

General Magic is trying to build the iPhone, 15 years too soon - a bad processor, poor battery tech, analogue communications and low email usage.

Their effort fails due to lack of discipline and understanding of customer, product, timeline and go-to-market strategy.

1995 – Fadell joins Philips, which was a huge culture shift in terms of moving from a start-up to a large corporate.

He struggles with managing people and undertakes sessions to understand more about empathy, leading, motivating, decision making and social interactions.

Fadell believes in doing and learning rather than the other way round.

His recommendation to new managers:


1999 - Fadell starts his own company, Fuse Systems.

It was here that he planned to develop a small hard disk-based music player and an online-store-for-music.

Fadell pitches his ideas to 80 venture capital investors and gets rejected by EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

2001 – Fadell joins Apple as a consultant after Steve Jobs is impressed with the idea that he had back at Fuse.

Fadell had earlier met Jobs at the birthday party of Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the original Mac dev team and founder of General Magic.

Fun fact: Steve Jobs, then with NeXT, arrived at the birthday party on his bicycle.

Back then, Apple was struggling with the Mac, fighting for its life with a debt of $500 mn, and just about breaking even quarter to quarter.

With the backing of Steve Jobs, development of the iPod begins.

What helps is the acquisition of SoundJam MP a year earlier, which later becomes iTunes.

Steve Jobs signs off on the final design in March 2001 and in less than a year, Apple launches the iPod.

Fadell learnt the art of storytelling from Jobs, who believed in great stories and great analogies.

When @waltmossberg asked Jobs what it was like to be a major Windows developer, he replied:

"It's like giving a glass of ice water to someone in Hell."

If you have a great analogy for someone, they will repeat it to someone else.

The iPod tagline - '1000 songs in your pocket' became the yardstick for all taglines and marketing ideas to follow.

2008 - Fadell leaves Apple.

He believes in ‘getting bored’. As he puts it:

Every 8-10 years, take a pause, get out of the day-to-day grind and take time to get experience and make a decision about your future.

Experiences are incredibly powerful things to learn from.

Fadell take a year-and-a-half-long break.

He takes a tour with his family, living in different cities while remotely designing his house in Lake Tahoe.

During this tour, Fadell struggles with home automation applications and gets the idea for Nest.

2010 - Fadell launches Nest Labs with Matt Rogers, a former Apple colleague.

Nest becomes the pioneer in IOT and home automation devices.

Eventually, Google buys Nest in 2014 for $3.2 billion.

/17 Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers
Today, Fadell is the Principal at Future Shape where he believes he is a ‘mentor with money’.

He particularly wants to solve the problem of plastic pollution - something he came across while in Indonesia.

What did Fadell learn?

- Consumption of low-use plastic has skyrocketed thanks to its use as packaging material
- Micro and nano-plastics stay in the environment for 500 years
- Just because plastic is recyclable does not mean it is recycled. It is buried or burnt.

Fadell, through Future Shape, is trying to find and help companies who work in bio-waste based plastics that are consumer compostable.

Fadell believes in offering coaching along with financial investment.

Some other interesting bits about Tony Fadell:
- Fadell has over 300 patents to his name
- Attended 12 schools in 15 years
- Gifts his friends the Oura Ring for sleep tracking
- Doesn’t drink alcohol after spending 2 weeks in Saudi Arabia
- His wife also worked at Apple

/21 The Oura Ring
Book recommendations by Tony Fadell:
- Thinking, Fast and Slow
- In Praise of Shadows (which he also gifts his friends)
- Getting to Yes
- Who Moved My Cheese?

I’ll leave you with Tony’s lessons on how to solve a problem:

Look broader. Look closer. Think younger.

Listen to the questions your kids ask you. Sometimes, you may not have the answer.

Keep pushing. Stay a beginner.


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