Bill Campbell

Michael E. Kirkpatrick ·

I never knew Bill Campbell but what I read impresses me. From Ken Auletta at The New Yorker in his article “Postscript: Bill Campbell, 1940-2016”:

In the brief history of modern Silicon Valley, Bill Campbell, who died yesterday, at the age of seventy-five, is a giant. His various titles–Columbia football coach, Apple executive, co-founder of Go Corp., Intuit C.E.O., chairman of Apple, chairman of the Columbia University board–do not convey his influence. In the world capital of engineering, where per-capita income can seem inversely related to social skills, Campbell was the man who taught founders to look up from their computer screens. He was known throughout the Valley as “the Coach,” the experienced executive who added a touch of humanity as he quietly instructed Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Marc Andreessen, Ben Horowitz, the founders of Twitter, Sheryl Sandberg, and countless other entrepreneurs on the human dimensions of management, on the importance of listening to employees and customers, of partnering with others. His obituary was not featured on the front of most newspapers, or at the top of most technology news sites, but it should have been.

Ben Horowitz wrote his own remembrance on Medium simply titled “Bill”. Bill’s empathy appears unmatched. Ben’s wife Felicia Horowitz wrote back in February in “Somewhere In-Between” about her son’s transgender transition and mentions Bill in this story:

The weekend started with a wonderful gift from my friend Bill Campbell. Bill knew about Jules’ transition, but not just in a peripheral way. Bill had known Jules since he was a little kid and always took an interest in Jules’ well being. Bill knew that Jules loved football and gave us his luxury box at the new 49er stadium, because he thought that would be a great family event and wanted to create a safe environment. We were so excited that we arrived at the game two hours early and decided to take a tour of the new stadium. In doing so, we bumped into some old friends and it was great to see them as well, but I noticed that they noticed Jules’ appearance. They did not know that Jules was transgender, but they seemed awfully focused on him. As locked in as they were, they said nothing. We let them know that we were in Bill’s box and they said that they wanted to come by and see it. This was a little odd as they were in a box only a few yards away, so I imagine their box was much like ours. When they arrived in the box, the true mission became clear”Š – ”Šthey weren’t there to see the box, they were there for a closer look at Jules, the circus freak. It hurts my heart to type that.

The next day at my house, Bill asked me how it went at the game. I thanked him profusely for the wonderful box and experience and support, but felt compelled to relay the story. He listened carefully and slowly started to cry. When he finally spoke, his words were: “Unfortunately, this is only the beginning.”

To those who knew Bill, my condolences. What little I know about Bill impresses me and it’s clear that Silicon Valley has lost a trusted and valued friend, mentor and Coach.