The below recap from the “Brand Building for Startups” session with Allison Johnson is courtesy of Arjun Vasan of Cycle (fna SnapBite):
Across the table sat Allison Johnson, with a raven-colored lock of hair flicked between her battle-weary eyes; an insider at the most secretive organization of our time, a confidant of the most innovative genius of his generation. What secrets could she reveal of the workings of the most valuable and powerful company on Earth? Of a man that for most present was not merely myth, legend and icon, but the template for all that we wish to be.
Disappoint, she did not. Over the next hour Ms. Johnson, former VP Marketing at Apple Inc, regaled us with tales of victory and defeat, of brilliance and mania, of leadership and conflict, of obsession and finally of the triumph of a company that more than any other could be said to be the reflection of the mind and will of one man. Of course, I could be writing of none other than Steve Jobs and Apple.
It’s hard to tell how much of what she said is applicable to companies at our stage; except, hard to imagine as it may be, Apple itself was the original 2-man startup in a Silicon Valley garage. So, as a startup founder, must one emulate the Jobsmeister to go from a couple 20-somethings to more than 60,000 employees (not counting untold hordes in China), millions salivating at each of your product launches at each of nearly 400 retail stores, over $100 billion in revenue (should I continue?)?
According to Ms. Johnson this is not only an impossible goal, but, thankfully, an unnecessary one. Steve Jobs built uniquely great products because he was uncommonly in tune with his own human nature. Build the product you yourself want, tell its story in your own words, be uncompromising in your vision, attention to detail and the talent you bring in to support you: then the world will be your oyster. Or something like that.