After the passing of Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, there have been a plethora of side stories that have sprung up in the whirlwind of media attention now pointed at the company and everyone involved with it. None are more intriguing then that of Ronald Wayne, a Cleveland born slot-machine aficionado who, at the founding of Apple in 1976, owned 10% of the company. With a market cap of around $370 billion, Apple is one of the biggest companies in the world today, and one would expect someone who owns 10% of that to be living quite extravagantly. But not Mr. Wayne. The 77 year old drives a Chevy and lives in a modest 1 story flat in the quiet Pahrump, Nevada, spending his days semi-retired consulting to companies that need product development help. Why doesn’t he live in mansions? Drive a sports car? Do anything you would would expect of an Apple co-founder? Well, because he sold his stock in the company 2 weeks after its creation for a mere $2300. His reasoning behind his departure from Apple? Risk. This article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal goes on to explain that at its inception, Wayne was the adult of the party. Jobs and Wozniak were the poor, young visionaries, and Wayne was the older one with more to lose. Jobs and Wozniak established a $15,000 line of credit to pay for a contract with a computer retailer notorious for not paying its bills, and Wayne saw himself as the one who would have to buck up if this deal went sour. That fact, and Wayne’s ill experience with the failure of a slot machine company he started 5 years prior, contributed to his backing out of Apple. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. Apple’s first year of sales were $174,000 and by 1980 had already skyrocketed to $117 million.
But this is not a story of remorse and ill-wishing. Since the passing of Jobs, Wayne has been bombarded with calls from media outlets all over the world, curious to know what happened so many years ago. Asked about whether or not he regretted his decisions and if he had been forced out by Jobs and Wozniak, Wayne has given roughly the same answers to every reporter: “I sometimes have to fend off the accusation that I was diddled out of something. It’s totally untrue. There was no antagonism. Nobody diddled me out of anything. They knew exactly why I was backing out. It didn’t take me long to realize I had no business being in business. I’m a better engineer than I am a businessman.”
The most humbling part about this story is not Wayne’s admittance that he missed out of billions of dollars, but the admittance that he instead lost a close friend. A quote from a story on the Las Vegas Review-Journal summed up his thoughts on this topic beautifully, “the fates are perverse and unkind and unjust. I drew very lucky in my genetic pool, and am sitting here at 77, while we ask what Steve, who was a monumental contributor to human society, could have achieved in the extra 20 years I got out of life. It’s profoundly unfair.”
Mr. Wayne’s sentiments is something we all can agree with: life is unfair. Whether it be missing out on billions or dying before the world is done with you, life goes on without heeding to what we say we want out of it. The only thing it does listen to is the effort we put into it. Take advantage of the time that is given and do what you love, as you never know when the fairy tale will end.