Famous deaths inevitably prompt hyperbole, but in the case of Intel's former president, CEO and chairman Andy Grove, it is impossible to overstate his influence. The world has lost a legendary business and technology innovator who profoundly shaped Silicon Valley and its business culture.
A driven and restless Hungarian refugee who made enormous demands on himself, Grove – born András István Gróf – emigrated to the US as a student, studied chemistry, and went to work for pioneering Silicon Valley company Fairchild Semiconductor.
He left with engineers Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce when they founded Intel in 1968, becoming its first employee. A decade later, he was president, then appointed CEO in 1987, just as the computing industry was transfiguring home and business life.
Grove poured himself into building Intel into the most powerful semiconductor company in the world, and one of the most dominant – and domineering – corporations in any field.
Grove brought an influential, highly structured and driven management style to what was then, a more laid-back Californian tech company business landscape epitomised by the easy-going ‘HP Way’ at Hewlett-Packard. Grove’s style set the stage for a new generation of successful technology companies.
The title of his 1996 book Only the Paranoid Survive summed up his (in)famously pugnacious and shrewdly suspicious approach to business and crisis management. The book gave the tech industry one of its seminal terms, 'strategic inflection point', which Grove said was "an event that changes the way we think and act", now widely used to mark fundamental shifts in the technology and business sectors.
Not an easy boss, the mercurial Grove was famous for shouty tantrums and he felt employees owed the company the same intense dedication he offered. Stories abound of him walking the Intel car park early in the morning, checking to see who was already working. Employees arriving after 8am had to clock in as late.
However, he kept management structures flat and accessible, and was respected as much as feared. Shunning an executive office, Grove worked from the same cubicles as other Intel employees.
Grove shaped Intel’s global expansion into countries like Ireland, where the first of several Intel chip fabrication plants opened in the 1990s.
A mentor to many of Silicon Valley’s most famous CEOs, of a vanishing generation heavily shaped by World War and post-war experiences, Grove is one of whom it can truly be said, his like will not be seen again.