1:03 - Going to Stanford after EPFL
7:41 - The hardware/software combination
17:50 - Meeting Bill Gates
21:13 - Saying no to Apple
55:18 - 6 grandchildren and 1 boat
Daniel Borel is the co-founder and chairman emeritus of Logitech, the world's largest manufacturer of computer peripherals — with headquarters in Switzerland! After studying Physics at EPFL, Daniel went on to do his masters at Stanford.
In the 70's, Stanford was on fire. The Apple computer had just been created, as had Bill Gates' Microsoft, and the first microprocessors, operating systems and programming languages were just coming up. It felt like a technological revolution was imminent, and Daniel wanted to be a part of it. Together with fellow Stanford student Pierluigi, Daniel developed a word processing system, and their company address was "165 university avenue" — famously shared by Google and Paypal. Unfortunately, this project didn't take off, and Daniel ended up moving back to Switzerland to accommodate his wife's wish of setting up her own veterinary practice (which was not possible in the US since they did not recognize her diploma as valid).
Then in 1981, at his father-in-law's farm in the canton of Vaud, Daniel founded Logitech together with co-founders Pierluigi and Giacomo. Their product was a mix of hardware and software, which is a notoriously difficult thing to pull off, but Daniel believes that that's where you can really make a difference, and that this is what ensured their survival in an extremely competitive world.
How competitive, you may ask? Well, after meeting Bill Gates at a beach party in 1982, Daniel began talks with Microsoft — but they soon realized that the tips they were giving Microsoft on why not to buy from Logitech's japanese competitor, Alps, were actually being passed on to Alps. This made Daniel give up on Microsoft altogether.
With the rise of competition between computer manufacturers in the early 90s, prices went down dramatically, and Logitech had to move its manufacturing to China in order to produce cheaper and be able to compete.
In 1998 he decided to step down as CEO: after a crazy, decades-long ride, it was time for a rest. Nowadays, he keeps himself busy with his many grandchildren, his boat, and his philanthropic endeavors: Swiss-up, a foundation dedicated to fostering excellence in Swiss education, and Defitech, which manufactures computer technology for people with disabilities.
"Try and fail, and never fail to try, but don't put all your eggs in the same basket."
"Success is never final."
"By having a passion, you avoid having a job."
If you would like to listen to more conversations with Swiss people in America, check out our episode with Alex Fries.
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