Spotlighting Entrepreneurs: A Technology "iCon"


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Have you seen or do you own an iMac, iPod, iPad, iPhone or an iTunes account?  If so, you have Mr. Steve Jobs to thank for those products!  This lesson will introduce you to the economic concept of entrepreneurship and spotlight the life of a well known entrepreneur. In addition, this lesson will show the impact of Mr. Job's life on the economy and how technology has changed how we live and work.  


How much time do you spend each day on your cell phone, computer, iPod, and other technology devices?  How important are these products to you? What are some ways consumers use them/ How would yourlife be different if these products were not in the market? There is a story behind every invention and innovation. Today you will meet the man behind the iPad, iPod, iMac, and iTunes and learn characteristics of being an entrepreneur.  It's time to log on and tune in to a biographical sketch of Steve Jobs and identify the risks and rewards associated with beginning a business.


Use the following Econ Tech Bytes worksheet to guide you as read the following. 

Do you have an interest in a particular field of study? Do you like to figure out "how" things work and think of ways to improve things? Do you like the thought of starting your own business? Do you like to be your own boss? If so, you may be an entrepreneur someday.

What does an entrepreneur do? An entrepreneur is "one who draws upon his or her skills and initiative to launch a new business venture with the aim of making a profit. Often a risk-taker, inclined to see opportunity when others do not."

Do you know what the term "icon" means? Actually, most of the time we think of an icon as " a pictogram displayed on a screen used to navigate a computer or other mobile device." An icon is  also "a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol of something."  Today's lesson will introduce us to a very successful entrepreneur with a fascinating story. He is an icon in the field of technology. Read the following biographical sketch and be prepared to discuss what you read later.

Steve Jobs was born on February 24, 1955, in San Francisco, California, and was adopted by Paul and Clara Job. Steve's mother was an accountant, and his father was a machinist who fixed cars as a hobby.

Steve knew how to read when he entered kindergarten. He said his two favorite things to do in kindergarten were to read books and go outside and chase butterflies. He was not interested in school much until he entered fourth grade and had Mrs. Hill as his teacher. She offered him many incentives to learn. He did so well in 4th grade that he was able to skip 5th grade and go right to middle school.

As Steve grew up he became increasingly curious about the world of electronics that filled his neighbors’ garages. He often watched his father building and repairing things. Steve's dad gave him workbench space in the garage and taught him how to build things, take them apart and put them back together again. Steve became very interested in how things worked and were built. He learned that through exploration he could understand very complex things.

When Steve arrived in Homestead High School, he enrolled in a popular electronics class. His electronics teacher later recalled a time when Steve called up Bill Hewlett himself, co-founder of Hewlett Packard, to get spare parts for his homework. As it turned out, he even received a summer job at HP’s factory.

In 1974, Steve got a job as a technician at the video game maker, Atari. He liked the opportunity to get paid for something he loved to do. He saved his money and backpacked around the country of India and then returned to Atari.

Steve Jobs met Steve Wozniak, nicknamed Woz, and discovered they had many things in common. In 1976, Jobs and Wozniak formed Apple Computer Company. They took a risk to start the business by raising $1,300 to invest by Jobs selling his Volkswagen Microbus and Steve Wozniak his special calculator. Steve Jobs became an entrepreneur at the age of 21.

These two gentlemen faced a huge obstacle in the computer market. In the 1970s, most computers were so large that one could fill a room, and they cost so much that consumers could not afford to buy them. Jobs and Wozniak designed their computer to be sold to individual users who would demand their product. They created personal computers. When the Apple I entered the marketplace, consumers were presented with a smaller, cheaper, and affordable option. Their first model earned them $774,000. Three years after they released their second model, the Apple II, sales had increased 700 percent to $139 million dollars. In 1980, the company became a publicly traded company with a market value of $1.2 billion on the very first day of trading.

Jobs has been very successful in business. He was always willing to take the risks involved with introducing products into the marketplace. The Apple III computer suffered technical and marketing problems. Jobs and Wozniak decided to remove the product from the market, improve the product and reintroduce later. In 1983, Jobs unveiled the Lisa. It was designed for people who did not have many computer skills. It did not sell well. Competition from other computer firms also caused Apple to struggle.

Always perservering, Apple introduced the Macintosh in 1984. It didn't sell well at first to consumers. In 1985, Jobs resigned from the company he had helped start.

Did he quit? No! He hired some of his former employees and started NeXT. The NeXT machine never caught on because it was too costly, had a black and white screen and could not be linked to other computers or run common software.

So, Steve Jobs then purchased a small computer animated company called Pixar from filmmaker George Lucas. Nine years later, Pixar released Toy Story. Other movies that came out included Toy Story 2, A Bugs' Life, and Monsters, Inc. which were all very successful.

In 1995, Apple purchased NeXT Software for over $400 million, and Steve Jobs returned to Apple as a part time consultant and Chief Executive Officer. The following years saw the unveiling of the iMac, iBook, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad.

From an article entitled, What Students Can Learn From Steve Jobs, the author stated:

"There were computers before the Apple. There were mp3 players before the iPod. There were mobile phones before the iPhone, and there were tablet computers before the iPad. In each, though, Jobs and his colleagues took the time to understand how the function performed by the device fit into the daily narrative of our lives. They carefully built stories, and from those, they built tools of deceptive simplicity. When computers had cursor keys, they gave us a mouse. When computers had text, they gave us icons. When music was pirated, they gave us iTunes. Innovation is not merely a cool invention. Innovation finds the value of that invention in people’s lives." Steve Jobs was innovative and had a very entrepreneurial spirit.

Steve Jobs suffered with cancer for several years before his death on October 5, 2011. Do you think consumers are aware of and appreciate the products he brought to market? Just ask anyone holding an iMac, iPhone, iPad, or listening to music they downloaded from iTunes, and you'll have your answer.

 Now let's review what we just learned:

At the beginning of the lesson we discovered that an entrepreneur is "one who draws upon his or her skills and initiative to launch a new business venture with the aim of making a profit. Often a risk-taker, this person is inclined to see opportunity when others do not."

  1. Identify some special skills and initiative that Steve Jobs had.
  2. What risks did Steve Jobs encounter as an entrepreneur?
  3. In the definition we learn that entrepreneurs aim at making a profit. Profit is "the money left over after expenses have been subtracted from sales. Did Steve earn a profit? What evidence do you have to support your answer?
  4. How could you know for sure that he earned a profit?
  5. The final part of the definition says that an entrepreneur can "see opportunity where others cannot." Based on the quote from the article, "What Students Can Learn From Steve Jobs" and your own perspective, do you believe Steve Jobs was able to see opportunities?


Today's lesson has taught us that an entrepreneur is a person "who draws upon his or her skills and initiative to launch new business venture with the aim of making a profit. Often a risk-taker, this person is inclined to see opportunity when others do not."  Steve Jobs had a love for learning how things worked at a young age and developed many skills throughout his life that helped him develop many technology products for consumers.

Here is a interactive "rollover" with some of the most successful entrepreneurs and some fun facts about their lives.

This is a "drag and drop" interactive where you'll drag the company logo to the correct owner.


Imagine you are being interviewed by a student assigned to write a paper about Steve Jobs and entrepreneurship. He has several questions to ask you.

  1. What does the word entrepreneur mean?
  2. Explain why you think Steve Jobs was or was not a risk taker.
  3. The definition of entrepreneur is "one who draws upon his or her skills and initiative to launch a new business venture with the aim of making a profit." What skills and initiative did Steve Jobs have that might fit this definition of an entrepreneur?
  4. Did he make a profit? How do you know?


iMagine iNnovation!

Create a product for the market that you feel consumers would demand. Make a prototype of the product. Steve Jobs was quoted in "What Student Can Learn From Steve Jobs" as saying that he demanded that his employees explain a product's function and purpose in 30 seconds. Create a commercial for your new product. Be prepared to tell your class the following things in your 30 second commercial: name of product, price of product, benefits of product, and where product can be purchased.