When entrepreneurs, or innovative companies, take large risks, and succeed, we sometimes begrudge them their success. But we should remember that sometimes they took great risks, and that they could have lost everything if they had lost the ‘bets’ they made.
One of the most famous examples of ‘betting the company’ is when Tom Watson, Jr. of IBM ‘bet the company’ on the development of the expensive, but pathbreaking, system 360.
This episode is mentioned many places. One that I ran across recently is in Gerstner’s memoir of his own time at IBM. The following lines appear in Gerstner’s brief summary of some important periods in IBM’s earlier history:
Much has been written about this period and how Tom "bet the company" on a revolutionary new product line called the System/360—the original name of IBM’s wildly successful mainframe family.
To grasp what System/360 did for IBM and its effect on the computing landscape, one needs to look no further than Microsoft, its Windows operating system, and the PC revolution. System/360 was the Windows of its era—an era that IBM led for nearly three decades. (p. 114)
The reference to the Gerstner book, is:
Gerstner, Louis V., Jr. Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Leading a Great Enterprise through Dramatic Change. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.