Robbie Bach on 20 years Xbox, the future of America, and his new novel, ‘The Wilkes Insurrection’
Can you believe the Xbox has been around for 20 years?
Our guest on this week’s GeekWire Podcast, Robbie Bach.
These days, Bach is the chairman of the board of directors of Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, DC-based think tank that promotes bipartisanship. He serves on the national board of governors for Boys and Girls Club of America and is on the board of Augmented reality company Magic Leap.
And on top of that, he just published his second book, which is his debut novel, a tech thriller called Wilkes Rebellion.
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How does he end up writing a novel: “I wrote my first book, Xbox Revisited, that you and I discussed many years ago. And I discovered that I really enjoy writing. So I started writing novels based on the characters. So I actually wrote 100 pages of arcs, about four or five characters running around in my head. And from there, I said, ‘Oh, I can see a conspiracy here.’ … At the end of the day, there’s a bit of a message about what’s going on in the country. ”
Imagine the main character of the book: “The main character, Major Tamika Smith, is a mean guy, but also has real human challenges, real problems she faces in her life. And I think that’s what drew me to her. I probably spend 40% of the time in the book writing from a woman’s point of view, which is super interesting and intellectually challenging.”
Reflect on the Xbox experience: “When you are a beginner, the probability of success is low. And Xbox is purely a startup. We will not fail for lack of funding. But like any other startup, we had to figure out what made us different. We had to figure out what was different for us and why people would accept another entry into the video game space. “
Leadership lessons learned: “The biggest thing I want to tell myself is pay attention to strategy, and pay attention to culture. When I talk to startup CEOs, I’m asking them questions about technology and products, and all that. But I ask more questions about do you really understand your core strategy? And have you really thought consciously about your team’s culture? It’s a function of what I’ve learned during Xbox startup. “
His role on the Magic Leap board: “I joined the board because I was quite excited about AR technology. I’ve never been a big fan of virtual reality. I’m still a bit cautious about what I would call full virtual reality. But the idea of being able to enhance our surroundings, and interact with that increase, is pretty powerful. “
Challenges facing Facebook in the ‘metaverse’: “When your business model is the eyeball, it pushes you to do things that aren’t necessarily in the best interest of society. And that’s the basic problem. Alex Kantrowitz Wrote an article this week thinks that LinkedIn is the best social media model because it doesn’t rely on advertising to generate most of the revenue. That’s basically what the trouble with social media is: a business model that doesn’t match up with doing the right thing. And it’s really hard to get out of that bondage.”
Hope for the future of the country: “We have been in worse places as a country in the last 250 years. And we were more discrete and more discrete. Let’s leave the Civil War aside, that’s a clear example. But if you really look at history carefully, there are four, five, six other examples of where the country was deeply divided, and where we figured out how to get to the other side. … It will take the next generation of leaders to take the lead, who say, ‘Hey, we’re going to lead in a different way than the people we’re leading us right now.’ “
Listen to the full episode above and subscribe GeekWire Podcast for previous episodes. Hosted by GeekWire co-founders Todd Bishop and John Cook. Produced and edited by Curt Milton. Theme music by Daniel LK Caldwell.