It may be difficult for readers of this blog, with access to the internet, mobile phones and the luxuries of modern day life – especially in America – to understand what it meant to live behind the Iron Curtain. But it is that understanding that’s needed to truly comprehend what GRAPHISOFT founder, Gabor Bojar went through to begin his company and why he felt compelled to recognize the role the late Steve Jobs played in that beginning.
Even the concept of the Iron Curtain, a term that symbolizes the ideological fighting and physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1989 is a foreign one to many in the United States.
Before the Iron Curtain lifted, before the Berlin Wall fell – the people of Hungary – as well as many who lived in Eastern Bloc nations, were subjected to censorship, prevented from consuming any imported products, held back by corruption and cronyism and forbidden from traveling. Such was life before 1989 – under communism, it was against the law to own a personal computer.
When GRAPHISOFT first began, Gabor Bojar made a presentation of 3D modeling software at an exhibition in Munich in November, 1983. In attendance at the exhibition, an Apple representative took interest. He met with Bojar and inquired as to the feasibility of installing the software onto Apple’s new computer model, the Lisa, so that it could be presented at the next CeBIT show (the largest IT show in Europe) in Hanover the following April.
That exhibition became the European debut of the Macintosh. Steve Jobs visited the CeBIT show, and after a somewhat incognito visit to the Graphisoft booth, took a very public interest in this very early version of ArchiCAD. Bojar and his team were instructed by Apple marketing to hone the presentation to no more than five minutes – but Jobs had so many questions he ended up spending a full half an hour learning about the technology behind the software. That was when he personally endorsed the continuing marketing support of GRAPHISOFT by Apple.
GRAPHISOFT may have gone on to exist and prosper had that meeting never happened, but according to Bojar it would not be the same company it is today. Working with Apple and Jobs taught the young company how to market a “usable product”. The team began to work and market that product with passion, focusing on the right market with the right product and with the right marketing strategy. But GRAPHISOFT did not blindly follow the Steve Jobs’ protocol – instead in terms of his missing the importance of compatibility with the rest of the PC world, Graphisoft recognized it and made it a priority that continues today.
Bojar describes how he smuggled in the first Macintosh computer in such a matter of fact manner, one can fail to appreciate the feat once accomplished. “A real entrepreneur is never afraid to take a risk,” he told me in an interview. And so he risked a prison sentence by taking a strictly embargoed product on board a plane to Budapest and six months later had created a version of ArchiCAD for the Mac.
And so that is why GRAPHISOFT commissioned Hungarian sculptor, Erno Toth to create a larger than life sculpture of the late Apple co-founder. The statue was dedicated and unveiled December 21, at Graphisoft Park near the company’s headquarters in Budapest, Hungary. The statue is homage to the inspiration Jobs provided to Bojar some thirty years ago, in appreciation of his contribution to the success of Graphisoft.
Below is an excerpt from GRAPHISOFT founder, Gabor Bojar’s remarks during the dedication.
We often hear that successful entrepreneurs have responsibilities toward society. By and large, these are equated with charitable efforts. This is a serious underestimation of our responsibilities toward society – responsibilities that cannot be met with simple donations.
Our responsibilities are far greater. We must always ensure that the business that we run day in and day out doesn’t simply produce a profit for the owners, but also benefits all of society. Profit isn’t a goal; it’s a tool. We need profits, too, to change the world, but we should never confuse a goal with a tool. Steve Jobs’ good friend Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, helped Jobs’ return to Apple and offered to buy Apple. Steve said that wouldn’t be necessary. He was right. It wasn’t Jobs who needed Apple, it was Apple who needed Jobs. But Larry didn’t understand. ’That’s all fine, but how do we make money?” he asked. “We don’t,” Steve said. “We have plenty. We need Apple to change the world.”
And another thing, or as he used to say at the end of his legendary presentations, “…and one more thing!” He was a real leader in the true sense of the word, because he didn’t personally create the miracles, but rather, with his fantastic charisma and power of suggestion, brought out the best in his colleagues. We know he was a very difficult man as well, maybe even unbearable, but geniuses are generally difficult people. And his best, most innovative colleagues put up with his quirks and stood by him to the end because they knew that he brought out the best in them. A poor leader is one who wants to be the best at everything and only wants to be surrounded by yes-men. These types usually end up destroying companies, and even countries.
I began this commemoration by talking about the historical role of the IT revolution currently underway, and I’d like to close in the same vein. Just as the Sumerians who first used the written word had no way of knowing that the information they gathered, archived, and passed on would lead to the building of the pyramids, the Acropolis, and the Cathedral in Cologne, we, too, have no idea where and what kinds of new civilizations our information technology revolution will lead to. We can best serve Steve Jobs’ legacy if we all, to the best of our ability, carry on his spirit in our firms, and further the cause of this amazing and new information technology revolution.
Gabor Bojar chronicled his adventure in entrepreneurship during Hungarian Perestroika in his book “The GRAPHISOFT Story”