Less than $7 million had gone into the company thus far, and there was little to show for it other than a neat logo and some snazzy offices. It had no
revenue or products, nor any on the horizon. Not surprisingly, the venture capitalists all passed on the offer to invest.
Jobs made an offer to Perot that was three times more costly than had quietly been offered to venture capitalists a few months earlier. For $20 million, Perot would get 16% of the equity in the company, after Jobs put in another
$5 million. That meant the company would be valued at about $126 million. But money was not a major consideration for Perot. After a meeting with
Jobs, he declared that he was in. “I pick the jockeys, and the jockeys pick the horses and ride them,” he told Jobs. “You guys are the ones I’m betting on, so you figure it out.”
There was, however, one cowboy who was dazzled. Ross Perot, the bantam Texan who had founded Electronic Data Systems, then sold it to General Motors for $2.4 billion, happened to watch a PBS documentary, The
Entrepreneurs, which had a segment on Jobs and NeXT in November 1986. He instantly identified with Jobs and his gang, so much so that, as he watched
them on television, he said, “I was finishing their sentences for them.” It was a line eerily similar to one Sculley had often used. Perot called Jobs the next day and offered, “If you ever need an investor, call me.”
Jobs did indeed need one, badly. But he was careful not to show it. He waited a week before calling back. Perot sent some of his analysts to size up NeXT,
but Jobs took care to deal directly with Perot. One of his great regrets in life, Perot later said, was that he had not bought Microsoft, or a large stake in it,
when a very young Bill Gates had come to visit him in Dallas in 1979. By the time Perot called Jobs, Microsoft had just gone public with a $1 billion
valuation. Perot had missed out on the opportunity to make a lot of money and have
a fun adventure.
He was eager
not to make
that mistake again.