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What I Learned From Steve Jobs


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Matt MacInnis of Inkling shares lessons from his former boss at Apple.

In 2009, Matt MacInnis quit his marketing job at Apple to start Inkling, a platform for publishing interactive iPad textbooks and manuals. Five years and nearly $50 million in VC funding later, MacInnis is helping to transform the book publishing industry, with a little inspiration from his former boss.

The original idea for Inkling was already well formed before I left Apple. I knew the iPad was coming, and there were no tools available to develop beautiful content. That’s one of the things that helped push me to start my own company. The other was that, as a Canadian, I finally got my U.S. green card.

I quit Apple on a Friday, and by Monday morning I had filed incorporation papers in Delaware. Still, I spent a lot of hours that weekend looking in the mirror and asking myself, “What the hell did I just do?”

My goal was to do for the iPad what Adobe had done for desktop publishing. With Inkling, you have to publish an electronic book or document only once, and it creates versions for Kindles, desktop computers, tablets, mobile devices, whatever.

The minute Steve Jobs showed the original iPhone to the world, suddenly people didn’t want their shitty flip phones anymore. I wanted to do that with Inkling. When we show publishers the work we did for the electronic version of Nathan Myhrvold’s cookbook, Modernist Cuisine,they immediately understand what Inkling can do. The book comes alive with step-by-step instructions, interactive graphics, and recipes that automatically adjust according to how many people you want to cook for.

We try to solve pain points that customers didn’t even know they had. Yes, we listen to our customers, but they’re not always the best equipped to solve their own problems. Steve was the king of this. He could see problems in multiple areas and come up with an elegant solution. And he’d do it again and again and again. That was his true genius.


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