Long-time marketing/sales/tech guy Bill Campbell passed yesterday.
Not a lot of people outside Silicon Valley knew him… but everyone inside did. Among his many business feats, he somehow managed to play significant roles at arguably the two most important — and competitive — technology companies in the world, Apple and Google… at the same time! If ever there was a testament to how good Bill was — or how much influence he had in Silicon Valley — that’s it.
As significant, Bill was very active in the Sacred Heart community (where my daughter goes to school)… not just donating (which he did a LOT of), but participating, too… indeed, he coached a generation of “powder puff” girl football players. Sadly my daughter will have missed the coaching-experience-of-a-lifetime by just a year.
I always chuckle when I think how I met Bill. It was at a big Macworld party. At the urinal. Just two guys having a simple chat. No stranger to a locker room, Bill was absolutely a guy’s guy.
I met with Bill in (ahem) a more professional environment when he took over the Claris division of Apple. My T/Maker business partner Heidi Roizen and I pitched Bill on making our award-winning word processor, WriteNow For Macintosh, the upgrade to MacWrite. At one point during the conversation Bill took us on a tour of Claris’ new headquarters… mostly empty because the spin-out was brand new… and mostly there were just IT and facilities folks walking around. What impressed me about Bill was he knew everyone by name… essentially the “little” people… and true to his coaching reputation, high-fived several of them as we walked by.
He just seemed like someone you wanted to play for… err, I mean, work for.
Nothing came of the conversations, but we stayed in touch. Bill asked me to serve on the board of Great Plains Software (eventually acquired by Microsoft) and, unfortunately, I was in the process of taking a company public and felt I couldn’t short-change my shareholders, things were so incredibly, incredibly hectic. On top of that Laurie’s dad was in the process of passing away. Reluctantly, and hesitantly, I explained all of this to him… and to my great relief he couldn’t have been more gracious — and supportive — in his understanding… it was easy to see why he was a true elder statesman.
Our paths would cross from time to time. Ironically, about 25 years after my Claris meeting, I was cleaning out my basement and found an old WriteNow t-shirt… to which I proudly wore to the next sporting event at Sacred Heart. As luck would have it, I ran into Bill… and without skipping a beat, he pointed at my t-shirt and laughed, saying something like, “it’s still going strong after all these years!” Goodness knows he’s had a lot more important things on his mind between then and now… but it brought such a smile to my face that he remembered.
Here’s to someone who went strong for 75 years. Rest in peace, Coach.