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Apple Fellow Kicks Off $50K Contest


Ying Lee--The Tech
Guy Kawasaki, Apple fellow and CEO of garage.com, spoke at the kickoff of the $50K competition in Room 10-250 on Wednesday night.

By FrankDabek
NewsEditor

The 50K Entrepreneurship Competition kicked off its final stage on Wednesday with a keynote speech from Apple Fellow and author Guy Kawasaki to a packed audience in 10-250.

The 50K competition challenges students to develop business plans and compete for 50,000 dollars in capital to be divided among the top three winners. Teams wishing to enter the competition should register at http://web.mit.edu/50k/www/ and must submit an executive summary of their plan by February 25. All teams must contain at least one full-time MIT student.

Kawasaki discusses time at Apple

Kawasaki presented an address designed to assist competitors in turning their business plans into successful start-up ventures. The speech, entitled "Top 10 rules for revolutionaries," was culled from Kawasaki's experience as part of the Macintosh division of Apple Computer, as a Macintosh evangelist, and most recently as CEO of a new company, garage.com.

Kawasaki began his address by commenting on thebrief introduction he received from contest organizers Patrick J. McCormick '98 and Sally A. Shephard G. "If we were at Stanford, we'd still be on the first speaker," Kawasaki said.

Kawasaki's speech continued along those informal lines as he mixed his advice with reminiscences of his years at Apple. After polling the audience for Macintosh users, he spoke of his beginnings at Apple and called the Macintosh group "the greatest collection of egomaniacs in the history of Silicon Valley."

Kawasaki's rules began with advice seemingly stolen from an Apple billboard: "start thinking different." He enjoined the future entrepreneurs in the audience to "purge yourself of the idols you are worshipping" and engage in "brain-damaged thinking."

Kawasaki held up FedEx and amazon.com as examples of companies that had learned to "think outside of the box." Kawasaki said that it was "pathetic" that most of the audience had not shopped at amazon.com, but offered forgiveness when it was suggested that MIT students steal books from the web-based bookstore instead of purchasing them.

Other advice bestowed upon the eager capitalists in attendance included "Don't worry, be crappy." Kawasaki suggested shipping a product as soon as it is ten times better than the competition rather than waiting for it to be perfect. According to Kawasaki, the original Macintosh 128K was just such a "revolutionary product" and also "a piece of crap computer."

"It is OK to ship crap," he said but said that a good company must "churn, baby, churn" and constantly revise a product. Kawasaki called Xerox an example of a company that failed to ship it's product. "Xerox PARC can't even sue you on time - much less ship," he said, referring to the Palo Alto research lab widely regarded as the source of the windowing interface popularized by Apple.

In perhaps the only positive statement Kawasaki made in regards to software giant Microsoft, he said "Microsoft is extremely good at churning." Immediately after that statement, however, he hardened his stance towards Apple's traditional rival. "By 2005 Microsoft will have an [operating system] that equals the 1997 MacOS," he said.

Kawasaki also said that a good team needs a "strong, egotistical leader" and a "small, crappy building with lousy furniture."

He suggested that in the early days of a start-up, evangelists were more important than sales and that businesses should "turn facts into emotions."

Kawasaki moves on

Kawasaki also spoke of his newest venture, a startup called garage.com. He described the company as a "startup to help startups" and said that his goal was to help make the next "Netscape before the last six months" of the year. Kawasaki held up a garage.com t-shirt and said, "the hard part of Silicon Valley is the t-shirt - after that everything is implementation."

In response to a final question regarding Apple's shrinking market share, currently near 5 percent, Kawasaki concluded his speech by noting that "I feel smarter than 95 percent of computer users in the world."

The 50K contest includes participants from every undergraduate class and 23 majors. About 22 percent of those involved are not MIT students. In its history, the contest has generated 30 companies worth over 70 million dollars and has created 500 jobs.