How Steve Jobs influenced Frank Quattrone

Jul 27, 2011

The tech banker Frank Quattrone has been through multiple technology cycles in Silicon Valley, having been around long enough to know many of its central characters when they were just getting started. A Philadelphian when he arrived for business school in his young 20s, Quattrone went one to an illustrious career banking some of the industry's biggest IPOs, including Cisco (csco), Netscape and Amazon (amzn). In an interview at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference on July 20 he re-counted the role a very young Apple Computer and its young founder had on his career.

I was fortunate that I came out to the Valley in 1979 to go to Stanford Business School, and my very first assignment as a teaching assistant for an investments professor was to go down to this computer company in Cupertino called Apple. (aapl)

It was the year before they went public.  He said, "Go get an Apple IIe and bring it back here, and import an investment program from the HP (hpq) mini-computer onto this Apple IIe."  I said "Okay, I can do that."  So when I opened it up, there really wasn't much inside other than, you know, the single board computer with a keyboard, and this green screen that didn't have any word processing or database or applications of any kind.  It just had the Basic programming language.

So I thought yes, small mini-computer. What's the big deal?  Then a year later, that same investments professor had a class that I attended in the fall of 1980, as Apple was going public.  He brought the then 25 year-old Steve Jobs into our classroom to tell us all about how PCs were going to change the world, and how they were going to be used to communicate, as well as to do commerce and all this other stuff, and how he had traded in his Volkswagen van for a few hundred bucks to get the company started.

I was also 25 at the time.  I thought I was kind of a hotshot, because I had had two years of work experience at Morgan Stanley (ms), and I was about to get my Stanford MBA.  Here's a guy my age, who had just created a company that Wall Street was about to value at a billion dollars. So that's what got me really focused on, you know, people who like to change the world in Silicon Valley.

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