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Andy Grove wasn’t one to mince words. In 2005 I interviewed him for a profile of Intel’s newly appointed CEO, Paul Otellini. The rap on Otellini was that he wasn’t a technologist, like the first three, larger-than-life chief executives of Intel (INTC): Bob Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Grove. Grove’s one-word response: “Bullshit.”
This was typical Grove. He was an American original, in a way only an immigrant can be—a thick-accented, scientist-turned-businessman who spoke forcefully and wrote gracefully in English on topics as varied as his management philosophy, his battle with prostate cancer, and his story of coming to the U.S. Grove was famously profane, harsh, driven, and driving. And as his one-time research assistant Robert Siegel remembered him Tuesday, when Grove died at home in Los Altos, Calif., at the age of 79, the titan of Silicon Valley also wasn’t above being challenged.
Grove is one of the small handful of people who created Silicon Valley as it is today. Intel’s accomplishments run deeper than having developed a powerful monopoly position in the microprocessors that drove the growth of personal computers. Grove’s Intel also showed how to use marketing—“Intel Inside”—to convince consumers they wanted a product whose technical specifications they’d never understand. His Intel gave cubicles a good name, a place where the lowly and the godly worked near one another. Grove also showed businesses of all stripes the importance of change when he took Intel out of the memory-chip market as it was being clobbered by Japan.
Major changes afoot at Intel.
Grove was a mentor to a generation of Intel executives and also other entrepreneurs who shared his values, dreams, and tactics. Chief among these was Steve Jobs.
He also was a fierce defender of Silicon Valley. When I mentioned to him in 2005 that I’d recently read the seminal Tom Wolfe profile of Bob Noyce in Esquire from 1983, one of the finest pieces of journalism I’ve ever read about Silicon Valley, Grove reacted violently. “I hated that article,” he said. “That man didn’t understand this place at all.”
Grove certainly understood this place. After all, he helped make it what it is.