Stross, Randall E.

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Stross, Randall E.

(Randall Stross)

PERSONAL:

Male.

ADDRESSES:

Office—San Jose State University, 1 Washington Sq., San Jose, CA 95192-0065. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]

CAREER:

San Jose State University, San Jose, CA, professor.

WRITINGS:

NONFICTION

The Stubborn Earth: American Agriculturalists on Chinese Soil, 1898-1937, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1986.

(Editor) Technology and Society in Twentieth Century America: An Anthology, Dorsey Press (Chicago, IL), 1989.

Bulls in the China Shop: And Other Sino-American Business Encounters, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 1990.

Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1993.

The Microsoft Way: The Real Story of How the Company Outsmarts Its Competition, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1996.

eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work, Crown Business (New York, NY), 2000.

The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including Fortune, New Republic, and U.S. News & World Report.

SIDELIGHTS:

Randall E. Stross has written several books about technology and its leaders, including The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World, The Microsoft Way: The Real Story of How the Company Outsmarts Its Competition, and Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing, which concerns the cofounder of the Apple Computer company.

In one of his earlier books, Bulls in the China Shop: And Other Sino-American Business Encounters, the author focuses not on technology, but on the experiences of American business people in China during the 1980s, not long after that country was opened to trade with the West. The book ‘is a captivating blend of business history and the examination of intercultural perceptions and attitudes,’ according to Jurgen Osterhammel in the Business History Review. The book is divided into five sections, covering initial business contacts made in 1972; the challenges of living in an expatriate community and of navigating cultural differences while doing business with the Chinese; Chinese efforts to adopt Western management styles; and the growth of Western-style consumerism within China. Osterhammel noted: ‘In spite of a marked lightness of touch, the author's analysis is sober and systematic.’ Madelyn Ross, commenting on the book in the China Business Review, credited the author with doing a good job portraying the American business community in China at that time, including the ‘complex mix of exuberant optimism, frustration, and deep-seeded bitterness’ many of them felt.

In Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing and The Microsoft Way, Stross presents the stories of two key players in the technology boom of the late twentieth century. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded the Apple Computer company during the mid-1970s, bringing the first practical personal computer to the market. By 1982, at the young age of twenty-seven, Jobs had already amassed a fortune, and was listed in Forbes as one of the 400 richest people in the United States. In 1985, following conflicts within the company, Jobs left Apple, intending to build another, even more successful company. Yet NeXT, as he called the venture, failed to live up to his dreams. The story of what went wrong, and what became of NeXT, is the subject of Stross's book. The author shows how Job's ego and personal flaws caused his company to flounder, and according to Don Willmott in PC, the book's lesson, ‘well taught in Stross's detailed account, is as old as the hills that surround Jobs's beloved Silicon Valley: Pride goeth before a fall."

Jobs's capacity for innovation was not matched by his business sense, while rival Bill Gates was able to turn his Microsoft company into the industry leader because of shrewd decisions. Many people have attributed Gates's success to cutthroat marketing techniques, but in his ‘lively, independent-minded report,’ as a Publishers Weekly writer described The Microsoft Way, Stross credits Gates's success to hiring the best people and then fostering their loyalty by creating a special, satisfying work environment.

Stross explores another aspect of the computer boom in his 2000 publication, eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work. The book is derived from the author's two years of observing the working of Benchmark Partners, a venture capital firm whose successes include the Internet auction company eBay. As venture capitalists tend to operate in a culture of secrecy, Stross's inside track makes this book ‘not only a terrific read, but a sociological curiosity,’ stated Angela Gunn on the LA Weekly Web site. A reviewer for Planet IT also recommended this ‘fascinating true story,’ saying that Stross ‘blends a business historian's perspective with a journalist's flair for suspenseful storytelling to look at wealth creation up close."

Stepping back in time, Stross examines the rise of Thomas Edison, the inventor associated with the phonograph, the light bulb, and many other key inventions. Reviewing The Wizard of Menlo Park, Gilbert Taylor remarked in Booklist that although Edison's story has been told countless times, Stross ‘distinctively positions his book under the theme of Edison's celebrity,’ revealing the legendary inventor as ‘a human-scaled character."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Antioch Review, spring, 1994, Steve Brzezinski, review of Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing.

Booklist, March 1, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World, p. 49.

Business History Review, winter, 1992, Jurgen Osterhammel, review of Bulls in the China Shop: And Other Sino-American Business Encounters.

China Business Review, November 1, 1991, Madelyn Ross, review of Bulls in the China Shop, p. 41.

Economist, December 25, 1993, review of Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing, p. 116.

Electronic Business, July, 2000, Tam Harbert, review of eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work, p. 126.

Fortune, February 7, 1994, Alan Deutschman, review of Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing, p. 157.

Library Journal, March 15, 2007, Michael D. Cramer, review of The Wizard of Menlo Park, p. 79.

Marketing Computers, December, 1996, review of The Microsoft Way: The Real Story of How the Company Outsmarts Its Competition, p. 57.

Orlando Business Journal, June 23, 2000, review of eBoys, p. 25.

PC Magazine, May 17, 1994, Don Willmott, review of Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing, p. 73.

Planet IT, May 25, 2000, review of eBoys; September 7, 2000, review of eBoys.

Publishers Weekly, October 4, 1993, review of Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing, p. 58; October 14, 1996, review of The Microsoft Way, p. 73.

Science News, April 7, 2007, review of The Wizard of Menlo Park, p. 223.

South Florida Business Journal, August 31, 2001, review of eBoys, p. 8.

ONLINE

LA Weekly,http://www.laweekly.com/ (October 4, 2007), Angela Gunn, review of eBoys.

Randall Stross Home Page,http://www.randallstross.com (October 4, 2007).

San Jose State University College of Business Web site,http://www.cob.sjsu.edu/ (October 4, 2007), biographical information on Randall Stross.