Giant tech entrepreneurs who started life in IT jobs

on 16 March 2015

If you thought that some of the leading tech entrepreneurs in the world just 'got there' then think again. The majority of them started life at the bottom of the ladder in an ordinary IT job. They took their place amongst their colleagues every day and nobody had an inkling they were destined for greatness.  They each have their own explanation for their success but when you look at they have all followed their passion while developing their ideas and skills within their innovative environment.

When you read the following maybe it will inspire you to make the changes needed in both your networking and career path in order to become the next success story. The most famous of them all is probably Steve Jobs, or  Zuckerberg but we haven't Zuckerburg here as the majority of people know his story or a version of it from the 2010 film the Social Network, but you may not know as much about the following tech entrepreneurs.

Kevin Systrom

The name may not be instantly recognisable but the name of his company will be. Kevin Systrom is the man behind Instagram; the Mark Zuckerberg of party photos if you will. The irony is that Systrom sold Instagram to Facebook for $1bn and became a self-made billionaire. Kevin went to Stanford university to focus on Computer Science, he found this to be too academic however and changed to Management Science and Engineering. Once again the Zuckerberg parallel emerges as Kevin also spent his spare time playing with code and building web programmes. One of these was a platform for sharing party photos which reignited his passion for photography, especially of the low resolution, retro style.  During one summer he did an internship at Odeo; the podcast start up that was the brainchild of Evan Williams; co-founder of Twitter and learned a lot during his time here including tweaking apps. After graduating Kevin spent 3 years working for Google starting with marketing projects for Calendar and Gmail before moving onto Mergers & Acquisitions. Kevin felt stifled here however as he wasn't working with his beloved code and yearned for a more entrepreneurial environment. He left Google and went to Nextstop; a travel review site which was also eventually bought by Facebook.  Inspired by his love of photography Kevin started a project in his spare time which was an app he called Burbn. This enabled check ins and photos based on location. After securing $500,000 worth of investment he left his job, recruited  a co-founder and Instagram was born.

Dennis Crowley

You will have heard of Foursquare and Dodgeball, but chances are the co-founder Dennis Crowley will have fallen under the radar. While Dodgeball was bought by Google, who eventually closed it down. Foursquare is still going strong and is continuing to evolve thanks to investment running into hundreds of millions. The most recent evolution being the launch of Swarm.  Dennis' career path has seen him teaching himself code while working at Jupiter Communications as a researcher, learning ASP while working for Vindigo in product development and also working in the product development department of MTV (wireless).  His most famous quote is; “Make products you are proud of. Good things happen to good products. Don’t let people tell you it’s a stupid idea. Build it, then decide”.

Steve Jobs

Arguably the most famous of the all, the creator of the iPod and founder of Apple, Steve Jobs. You’d be hard pushed to find someone who hasn’t heard of him but for those not in the tech world his rise to greatest is relatively unknown. Steve was adopted by a California family after his biological mother was barred from marrying Steve’s father, a Syrian.

His adoptive father was keen on electronics and taught Steve basic electronics, taking apart and rebuilding electrical appliances. This interest was furthered with a couple of computer enthusiasts who were building a computer board; one of these local friends was Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Steve dropped out of college but made a little cash that allowed him to attend certain select classes, one of which was calligraphy which he credited for the mac typefaces. At 19 Steve started working for Atari as a developer, a job he was offered because of his good friend Steve Wozniak who had given him a version of a Pong arcade game he had programmed himself. It was recognised at Atari the two Steve’s were a formidable team, with Steve Jobs selling and innovative routes to market and the technical brilliance of Wozniak. The money they made from a “blue box” telephone venture, combined with selling their VW camper was enough to allow them to design the first Apple computer, Apple was founded in 1976.

The rest of the history is pretty well know, Steve Jobs left Apple in 1985, he set up another hardware company and invested heavily in Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios. Steve then returned to his roots at Apple in 1997 saving them from the brink of failure and returning them to the most recognisable tech company in the world with innovative and user friendly products like the iPod, iPhone and iMac.

Steve’s mission was to design and market products that exceeded user expectation; he designed solutions to real problems and marketed them with genius execution.


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