When I was 20 years old, I was a computer science major at Columbia University and I needed a summer job. It was 1986 and I was barely aware of a place called Silicon Valley. In those days there was no “startup culture or entrepreneurship movement”. Most people were only recently becoming aware that computers existed and almost nobody knew where they came from. The startups themselves were quite different than today’s breed. Most of the important startups were computer companies like Sun Microsystems, Apollo Computer, Cydrome, Compaq and Silicon Graphics. In 1986, there was no outsourced manufacturing and China was largely irrelevant to the technology industry. All the companies in those days had their own manufacturing—often in Silicon Valley—and were very large in terms of employees compared to today. Having more than 100 employees prior to shipping a product was not unusual.
Although there were important exceptions, very few 20-year-olds started companies in those days. I was not the exception—I just wanted a job. I wanted a job, but I knew absolutely nobody in technology or in Silicon Valley and there were no technology startups in New York. I had no idea how to get a job and then I got a break…….