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How this 'profound' lesson from Steve Jobs shaped Laurene Powell Jobs' business

Laurene Powell Jobs speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017. (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)
Steve Jennings

Laurene Powell Jobs met Apple founder Steve Jobs when she was a 25-year-old student at Stanford Graduate School of Business. They married in 1991, and they were together until he died of pancreatic cancer in 2011.

"I grew up with him," Powell Jobs told the New York Times on Thursday. "Just like anyone that you share your life with, there's an exchange and a robustness. We had a very, very beautiful and rich connection."

Today, Powell Jobs, 56, is worth an estimated $25 billion. She inherited billions of dollars of stock in Apple and Disney from Jobs, and founded Emerson Collective with a $1.2 billion gift, according to Forbes. The LLC (limited liability corporation), which she runs, is "part charitable foundation, part venture capital firm" and invests in companies that "it says fit within the parameters of its philanthropic mission," according to Bloomberg. (The Collective has invested in businesses ranging from Pinterest to the NHL's Washington Capitals to publication The Atlantic.)

Powell Jobs says there are countless ways in which Steve Jobs has influenced her current work.

"One profound learning I took from him was that we don't have to accept the world that we're born into as something that is fixed and impermeable," she told the Times. "When you zoom in, it's just atoms just like us. And they move all the time. And through energy and force of will and intention and focus, we can actually change [the world]. Move it."

Steve Jobs and Laurene Powell during Pixar Exhibit Launch at The Museum of Modern Art at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, New York, United States. December 13, 2005.
Brian Ach | Getty Images

In other words, people have the potential to enact change in their communities and in the world. 

Powell Jobs says Emerson Collective's many initiatives are a way to live that legacy. For example, in 2015 she launched College Track, a college completion program that helps students earn their bachelors degrees.

"For the students who I work with, I understand that school is their way out," Powell Jobs told the The Washington Post in 2018. "It's really their portal to anything larger than what they see around them. That was true for me." 

Powell Jobs grew up in New Jersey, and said school was her "happy place," in the New York Times interview. "I ended up going to a good college, even though my high school wasn't particularly outstanding," she said. She got her bachelor's degree in political science and economics from the University of Pennsylvania, then got an MBA from Stanford. 

Powell Jobs told The Washington Post that her goal is to "effectively deploy resources."

"I inherited my wealth from my husband, who didn't care about the accumulation of wealth," Powell Jobs told the Times. (The couple lived in a modest Tudor-style home in a neighborhood in Palo Alto in the '90s, though Jobs drove expensive cars, including a BMW Z8 convertible.) "I am doing this in honor of his work, and I've dedicated my life to doing the very best I can to distribute it effectively, in ways that lift up individuals and communities in a sustainable way."

Powell Jobs added that she Jobs weren't interested in "legacy" wealth, and therefore she has no plans to leave her three children — Eve, 22; Erin, 25; and Reed, 28 — her fortune. "If I live long enough, it ends with me," she told the Times.

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