/// Q&A: Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell on Innovation, the “Next Steve Jobs” and Why Mobile Games Are “Over”
If you live in Silicon Valley or any other tech-savvy area, there are three words you may have heard a lot in the past year and a half: Who is the “next Steve Jobs?” Nolan Bushnell, Atari co-founder and one-time employer of both Jobs and Steve Wozniak shortly before the two started Apple, doesn’t have any specific names to answer that question. But what he does have is a new book, out today, to aid in the search: “ Finding the Next Steve Jobs — How to Find, Hire, Keep and Nurture Creative Talent .” And Bushnell should know about the importance of recognizing that talent — during Atari’s heyday, he turned down the opportunity to own one-third of Jobs’s and Wozniak’s nascent company. By 1980, he writes in the book, “I was beginning to think it might turn out to be a mistake.” “Finding the Next Steve Jobs” is being released by Net Minds , a print/ebook hybrid publishing startup led by former Yahoo exec Tim Sanders. Bushnell said it uses Jobs as a metaphor for the creative iconoclasts who clash with corporate culture and can’t get hired. He sat down with AllThingsD to explain further. AllThingsD: Just how close were you to Steve after his brief involvement with Atari? Nolan Bushnell: We’d talk on the phone infrequently, but he’d come up to [my house in] Woodside about once a month, usually on a Saturday or Sunday morning, and we’d go up on the hill and talk. Occasionally, I’d go down to his place, but a lot of the time it was him coming up to my place. Why are we even looking for the “next Steve Jobs?” Steve took a failing computer company — and they probably would have never brought him back if they weren’t at the end of their rope — and turned it into the highest-market-cap company in the world. People were always aware that innovative solutions are good for your company. I think this just underscored it in a really powerful way. It wasn’t just through cutting costs or innovative marketing. Though Steve was a pretty good marketer. But that was when he returned to Apple in 1997. Most of the time when people talk about the “next Steve Jobs,” they’re using that phrase to refer to entrepreneurs who are still early on in their careers. So, are those people really that hard up for work?