Al Gore on Steve Jobs: "the experience of failure really caused him to dig deep"

By James Robinson , written on June 10, 2014

From The News Desk

“I never knew him to smell bad,” laughed Vice-President Al Gore on stage at Southland this morning, reflecting on his decades-long friendship with the late Steve Jobs and the supposed image of Jobs as a shoeless, shower-avoiding young entrepreneur in the late 1970s.

As Gore relayed, he and Jobs first met after the release of the Apple II in 1976. The tax system was not friendly to computer companies at the time, and Jobs came to meet with Gore when he was a new congressman from Tennessee. Gore ended up co-sponsoring a bill to put Apple II computers in schools and, as Vice President in the Clinton White House, Gore was reported to have the only Mac computer in the administration.

After leaving the White House at the start of 2001 -- “involuntarily,” Gore ribbed -- the first board he joined in 2001 was Google’s. But when he changed his mind against running for the Presidency again in 2004, he accepted an offer to join Apple's board. The stock price then was $7.

“I used to stay at his house,” Gore said, remembering trips out to Silicon Valley to see Jobs. “I miss him a lot.”

Gore said that he saw Jobs grow “stronger and wiser over the years.” (Though, in Jobs’ period of ‘failure,’ he still managed to found Pixar.)

“In Steve’s case, the experience of failure really caused him to dig deep. That’s my impression, and he learned some lessons that you really can’t learn any other way,” Gore said. It was a universal lesson for all entrepreneurs -- Gore included. “In my own life, in a very different way, I learned what many people here have also learned: that you grow the most when you go through the most difficult and painful experiences.”

According to Gore, Jobs had a sense at first of how Google and Apple could grow in tandem. But eventually, serving on both boards became untenable. “The Android project… it caused some bad blood between the two companies. And then with Chrome and with some other initiatives, it became obvious,” he said.

His friendship with Jobs made which company he would remain affiliated with an obvious choice, and Apple's board of directors is now the only one with which Gore is officially involved.

“It was easy for me to make a transition.”

Image by Geoffrey Ellis for Pando