Scott McNealy was my hero
If you are running a company chances are you had a hero in innovation, business or programming when you were younger. I know I had. My business hero was not Steve Jobs nor Bill Gates or even Ingvar Kamprad. My hero was Scott McNealy.
Mr Scott McNealy is the co-founder of Sun together with Mr Vinod Khosla, Mr Bill Joy and Mr Andreas von Bechtolsheim (also one of the first investors in Google — he wrote a check before Mr Larry Page and Mr Sergey Brin had a bank account!). They were all Stanford mates and SUN is an acronym for Stanford University Network. The business was built around a Unix workstation that Andy Bechtolsheim developed getting tired waiting for timeslots on the University system. Mr Vinod Khosla saw a business in this and pulled in the others. Multi-billion-dollar company Sun was recently acquired by Mr Larry Ellison’s Oracle, but Mr McNealy was long gone. He did spend 22 years as CEO before he left, though… That is twentytwo. Today most CEOs should be happy if they are allowed to stay on for three years.
My admiration for Mr McNealy was based on a three main factors:
1. He was a real sports buff in a technology world. Mr McNealy actually branded himself a golf player whom ended up in business by accident. In other words: humble man.
2. He had enormous integrity. He always said what was on his liberal mind and even stood up against Microsoft (unusual during the 80s and 90s). This led to problems. For example, Mr McNealy said back in 1999: “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” Some people were outraged by this. Now they post their lives on Facebook…
3. He got technology. Ever heard “the network is the computer“? Sun started using this motto/vision in late 1990s (probably Mr John Gage coined it). Since he got technology he also managed to transform Sun from workstations, chip design, software, enterprise hardware to Java just to mention a few things. This was not without road bumps, but he did it well. Mr McNealy was not trained in technology by the way. He studied business at Stanford.
There is no biography on Mr Scott McNealy as far as I know. Someone should write one.
Mr McNealy ended his good-bye email to SUN employees after 28 years with the company in a fashion that also serves well to end this blog post:
“Kick butt and have fun!”