Episode 84 – Featuring Bob Herbold

Start Me Up:  Bob Herbold’s Front Row Seat For the Ascension of Microsoft To the Top of the Computer Industry

In 1995, Bill Gates knew that the idea of “personal computing”, which, to that point, had been trickling into the marketplace, was ready to explode into the cultural landscape.

And the founder and CEO of Microsoft had just the product to get it there:  Windows 95.

For Gates, this was finally the user-friendly software the public had been clamoring for, and he knew that as soon as Windows 95 goes to market, any perceived advantages that Apple and their other industry rivals had would be wiped away.

But, like any tech venture at the time, Bill Gates was tasked with answering the $64,000 question:  ”How do we SELL this to the general public?”

The marketing approach clearly needed a hook, and in a brainstorming session, somebody threw out the idea of using the Rolling Stones classic song, “Start Me Up”.

It was an idea easier said than done, given that, in their thirty-plus years to that point, the Stones, specifically lead singer/de facto Stones CEO Mick Jagger, had never given one of their songs up for a commercial.  And given Mick was also an astute scholar in business and economics, it would not be an easy, or inexpensive, task.

But Bill Gates told his man to “work him over”.   And that’s exactly what that man, Bob Herbold, did.  Bob’s team was able to work Mick’s team down to $3 million (from an asking price of $4 million).

They deal was done.  The ad was launched.

For the Stones, the ad opened the floodgates to a new form of revenue, and their songs have appeared in dozens of ads since then.   But for Microsoft, the ad opened the eyes of a consumer base that had not been able to embrace the “cool” factor that technology could provide, and helped propel them to the top of the computing industry.

Bob Herbold’s ability to “work over” Mick Jagger was one of the many reasons Bill Gates had tabbed the longtime Proctor and Gamble executive to be the COO of Microsoft during the Windows 95 launch, and by extension, Microsoft’s launch into the public’s consciousness.   Not only was it the “fun” portion of Bob’s remarkable career, but also one where he learned about what it takes for a company to become hot, how to manage the growth of a company poised for the stratosphere, and how to not let mega-success get to your head along the way.

On this edition of “The Raja Show”, Bob talks with Raja about his remarkable career, what it was like as Bill Gates’ right-hand man during the most successful period in Microsoft’s history, and why it takes guts and courage to truly make a difference in business.