Tim Bucher, founder and CEO of a photo storage and sharing startup called Lyve, has had a long career in Silicon Valley, working directly with some of the brightest minds in tech, including Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Michael Dell.
Bucher’s tech career started when he joined Sun Microsystems straight out of college. After Bucher became a lead engineer, Steve Jobs poached him to work at NeXT Computers. Bucher left NeXT after two years, but would re-join Jobs more than a decade later, as the senior vice president of Macintosh engineering at Apple.
He became VP of consumer products at Microsoft in 1998 after the company bought WebTV Networks, where he had helped develop one of the first internet-connected TVs. Bucher eventually joined Dell as a VP of consumer software, after the company bought acquired his mobile entertainment company, ZING.
Now, he works on Lyve, which he founded to help people manage their unruly photo collections. The company’s free app collects and sorts an unlimited number of your stored photos, so they’re accessible from any device, and it also sells a physical storage device, the 2-terabyte, $US299 Lyve Home.
When Bucher looks back at his career, he says that working with Jobs, Gates, and Dell taught various leadership and management principles through example that he continues to carry with him today.
“Bill is so smart, that when he would meet with you, he would inspire you by his grasp of what it was that you were responsible for,” Bucher told Business Insider. “So he would lead you very intellectually.”
Bucher says that that extreme intelligence could be intimidating. But he remembers one particularly poignant one-on-one where Gates seemed on edge. When Bucher realised that it was because Gates and his wife were about to have a child and congratulated him, it was one of the first times he saw his boss’s hyper-intelligent demeanor soften into something more human. Bucher says still holds onto the poignancy of that moment, and does his best to maintain his compassion and humanity as a CEO. To this day, Bucher says Gates is very gracious and has even advised him about his current startup, Lyve.
Jobs’ form of intimidation was much more in-your-face, Bucher recalls. He could be unpredictable and insult you if he didn’t think you were doing the right thing. If Jobs ever called Bucher when he wasn’t available, Jobs would berate Bucher’s secretary over the phone. Stories of Jobs being a jerk are a dime a dozen, but Bucher said that he respected his boss despite the explosiveness of his management style because of his amazing product sense.
Although Bucher avoids Jobs’ occasionally-abrasive management style, he strives to emulate his passion for the product and attention to detail at Lyve. He wants employees to obsess over product minutiae, but he won’t call them on weekends or the middle of the night.
Michael Dell’s leadership style, Bucher says, stood out because even as CEO he was always willing to get down on one knee and be on the same level as different teams. He would meet with employees and have incredible conversations about products, from a technical angle. He could get down-and-dirty. That inspired Bucher, and he says that he still tries to sit down with new interns or engineers at Lyve to talk through problems with them. He’ll still file bugs.
“I’m very blessed and very humbled that I got to learn from those guys,” he says. “And others too.”
Although the management lessons he learned from Gates, Jobs, and Dell are nuanced, he says he can compact their product inspiration much more succinctly: Gates taught him that it was all about software, Jobs taught him that it was all about design, and Dell taught him that it was all about cost.
“If you take those three things together, it’s very powerful in today’s consumer world,” Bucher says. “And I’m trying to apply all of that to Lyve. Lyve is all about its software and how it can robustly, but seamlessly, help you manage your photos. And we have devices that are beautiful, because we pay attention to every little detail. Steve really helped me understand the importance of that. And yet we try to balance that with cost. Which is why we made sure that there’s at least a free version of the product.”
Bucher founded Lyve in 2012.