Hello, I’m Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe - to-do app for teams. I write essays, books, work on projects and I podcast for you using #iPadOnly in #NoOffice as I believe that work is not a place you go to, it’s a thing you do. More…

How Steve Jobs inspired me as an entrepreneur


Steve Jobs stepped down from being the CEO of Apple due to his health problems. I’m sure Apple will be just fine as he shaped it to the company they are now. He shaped more than Apple, he shaped many entrepreneurs and startup founders like myself and I have a lot to thank him for. In this post I’d like to highlight some of Steve’s influences on my life.

How Steve Jobs inspired me as an entrepreneur

1. Be a “product guy”

I built Nozbe for myself first because this was how I wanted to manage my time and my projects. Now years later this still is the way I work and our company’s focus is to make the experience even better for us and for our customers. Many times over Steve in his presentations highlighted how they built something at Apple that they would want to use themselves.

I’m not perfect, nor is Steve, but because we use the products we built every day, we know what works and what doesn’t and what needs improvement. I’m very much a product guy just like Steve and I care about my product more than anything else.

2. Master the presentation skills

I talk fast, too fast for most of the people. It doesn’t matter in whether it’s in my mother tongue (Polish) or in English, or German or Spanish… I talk too fast. But I like to share my knowledge and I like public speaking. Steve and his famous keynote speeches proved that with practice I can get better. And I did. I’m not perfect but if you ask anyone who’s been hearing me speak and do a presentation on startups or productivity, he’ll tell you I’m quite OK. It took lots of practice but it paid off and now I know I can deliver a speech and do it well thanks to what I learned from Steve.

3. The “devil lies in the details”.

I used to not care too much about design - for me the practicality was more important. I worked on a very practical and very powerful ThinkPad laptop and love it despite the fact that it’s so ugly. Then I got the Macbook Air. And I got to know the Mac OSX system with all the beautifully designed apps there… and I started to understand how aesthetically pleasing product is so much superior to the one that is just OK… and how even the tiniest details make a product a lot more usable.

4. Embrace change and look where “the puck is going to be”

I built in a week to have an iPhone web app just one week after the original iPhone was announced. Yet I failed to understand the importance of the App store and was very late with the iPhone app and now with the Mac app. I still have a lot to learn but now I know we should be investing more in the future and try out a lot more things to see where the world is going. We are doing this now in our company and the first results are very encouraging. Steve was never afraid of change. I think this is one of the most important reasons why Apple is so different from any other big corporation with established customers. They just go with their gut and make radical changes even though they know for a fact that people might not love them at first.

5. Focus on profitability and build a sustainable business

Even when Apple had a really small market share with the iPhone, they were already more profitable than the then-mobile-leader Nokia. They focused on profitability and not market-reach. They didn’t compromise the quality of their product to get more eyeballs. Many startup founders forget about the fact that cash-flow and profitability are key ingredients to their success and they can make or break their business. Nozbe was launched as a side project and I was the only person working on it for the first year. I only hired someone when I knew I could pay them a salary and pay the bills. This is how stuff works in business.

And there is one more thing…

Sometimes Steve Jobs would almost end his presentation and then just add “one more thing” which would actually be the key to his speech. Here’s what I’ve learned from Steve above everything else mentioned in this post:

Find what you love. Don’t settle. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Many people forget about finding what they really love to do. They settle for something which is “OK” and spend their entire life doing it. I’ve found what I love and that’s why even though I work from home I never lose motivation to work more and to “change the world” with my Nozbe application, Productive! Magazine and everything else that I do. I love my job and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Steve Jobs in his Stanford Commencement Speech said it better. Even if you have already seen this video, it’s worth watching it again. Here’s Steve Jobs shining and inspiring young students and people like us: