Do tech companies have DNA?

Welcome to re-run week 😉

I was talking to a friend recently about a company that had restructured and left one of the founders in limbo as a result. My friend said that he was surprised that the company in question would consider walking away from one of its founders. He said that companies like people have DNA and as long as those people continue to contribute and don’t evolve into an internal poison, then walking away from them does not say much about the company in question.

Historically we have seen many companies and employees come and go and not all for obvious reasons. If we consider the most successful company on the planet however, there is evidence to suggest that corporate DNA does exist. If we look at Apple Computer Inc. it evolved into a large company and its founder Steve Jobs was shuffled off to an adviser position. Steve eventually left the company to start Next computer where he tried to build the successor to the Macintosh.

Next Computer was not able to replace the Macintosh but that could be partially due to Apple loosing market share to the Microsoft Windows OS. I was an early Mac user and I found myself not able to get the software I needed to do my job because it was only available for Windows. Would Jobs have seen that coming and re-directed the company to deal with the problem?

Jobs did accomplish some things at Next computer. He defined a new language Objective-C and he evolved the MacOS to a Unix based OS based which became OSX. Jobs was eventually convinced to go back to apple to save it from certain death. He started with the iPod and the rest is history.

So was Steve Jobs and example of corporate DNA. By removing Jobs from the Apple equation, did that facilitate the company’s slide toward corporate death? I don’t think we can answer that question without a much more in depth analysis of the supporting data. I do believe that corporate cultures come and go. People join a company because of its culture and if that culture changes the people may not change with it.

When senior people leave a company it almost always raises questions in the minds of those they leave behind. Many times the exodus of a key employee can cause others to follow suit. Sometimes this is a direct result of the initial action and sometime it’s just a lack of confidence or a fear that the culture has changed.

So what do we take away from the Apple example? There are very few Steve Jobs and things have definitely changed for tech companies post-bubble. I don’t know if we can draw any direct conclusions, but I do believe in corporate DNA and I believe it should be considered as a factor when company growth requires a change in corporate structure.

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