SAN FRANCISCO —
Bushnell's newly released book, "Finding The Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Hire, Keep and Nurture Creative Talent," is the latest chapter in a diverse career that spans more than 20 different startups that he either launched on his own or groomed at Catalyst Technologies, a business incubator that he once ran.
He has often pursued ideas before the technology needed to support them was advanced enough to create a mass market. Bushnell financed Etak, an automobile mapping system created in 1983 by the navigator of his yacht and later sold to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Bushnell also dabbled in electronic commerce during the 1980s by launching ByVideo, which took online orders through kiosks set up in airports and other locations. In his most costly mistake, Bushnell lost nearly all of a $28 million investment in Androbot, another 1980s-era startup. It developed 3-foot-tall robots that were supposed to serve the dual role of companion and butler. (Bushnell relied on Apple's computers to control the early models.)
Bushnell's best-known accomplishments came at Atari, which helped launch the modern video game industry with the 1972 release of "Pong," and at the Chuck E Cheese restaurant chain, which specializes in pizza, arcade entertainment and musical performances by animatronic animals. It's an odyssey that led actor Leonardo DiCaprio to obtain the film rights to Bushnell's life for a possible movie starring DiCaprio in the lead role.
While at Atari, Bushnell began to break the corporate mold, creating a template that is now common through much of Silicon Valley. He allowed employees to turn Atari's lobby into a cross between a video game arcade and the Amazon jungle. He started holding keg parties and hiring live bands to play for his employees after work. He encouraged workers to nap during their shifts, reasoning that a short rest would stimulate more creativity when they were awake. He also promised a summer sabbatical every seven years.