John Sculley

Former President and CEO of Pepsi, Former CEO of Apple Computer, High-Tech Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist

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John Sculley Speaker Biography

Former President and CEO of Pepsi, Former CEO of Apple Computer, High-Tech Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist

As a boy, John Sculley loved to tinker with electronics; when he was five, he asked Santa for a dry-cell battery, a buzzer, and hookup wire. At ten, he was dismantling radios and converting them into intercoms. As a teen, he invented a color cathode-ray tube that, if someone hadn’t beaten him to the patent, would have been the prototype for the Triniton color TV tube. It should be no surprise, then, that Sculley is a recognized expert and popular speaker about high-tech tools for tackling such challenges as corporate revitalization and the high cost of health care. What may be surprising is the path that led him here.


The son of a Wall Street lawyer father and an artistic mother, John Sculley was born in New York City and grew up in Bermuda and on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. As college approached, he was more interested in architecture and industrial design than in marketing or technology. He earned an undergraduate degree from Brown University and enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Architecture. But a summer internship at a New York industrial design firm convinced Sculley that marketers, not designers, were calling the shots. So he switched to Wharton, Penn’s prestigious graduate school of business.

The Pepsi-Cola Company

After earning his MBA in 1963, and taking advantage of his interest in math and statistical modeling, Sculley worked in market research for a New York advertising agency. Four years later, as big corporations began moving their marketing operations in-house, he joined the Pepsi-Cola Company as a trainee. Sculley describes his first few months at Pepsi as a whirlwind of different jobs in different cities as he learned the rules of corporate culture and the ropes of the soft drink industry. By 1970, at age 30, he was Pepsi’s youngest vice president of marketing, managing a staff of 75. In 1977, after heading the company’s International Foods division and then serving as senior vice president for US sales and marketing, he was named the youngest ever President of Pepsi-Cola. Sculley credits his years at Pepsi for the evolution of his marketing approach. He says, “My ideas about marketing revolved around building the best possible consumer experiences and then helping find the most creative ways to tease a consumer’s curiosity to become our loyal user.”


In his 1987 book, Odyssey, Sculley says that it was a speech by anthropologist Margaret Mead that inspired the revitalized Pepsi Generation campaign. Mead noted that the single most important factor for marketers since the end of World War II was the emergence of an affluent middle class. Sculley focused on how Pepsi could tap into the children of this generation by associating Pepsi via television with the Baby Boomers’ lifestyle activities.

The Pepsi Challenge

The Pepsi Challenge was another consumer-experience-centered campaign, designed to capture the surprise of Coca-Cola drinkers when they discovered that they had chosen Pepsi over Coke in a blind product taste test. By the time Sculley left Pepsi in 1983, the Pepsi brand had become the largest-selling consumer packaged goods brand in America, surpassing Coca-Cola in market share.


The partnership of Steve Jobs and John Sculley has been well-documented in Sculley’s own book, in countless interviews, and, most recently, in the biography of Jobs written by Walter Isaacson, published shortly after Jobs’ death in late 2011.
Why did Jobs hire Sculley? Says Sculley, “Steve wanted to be CEO, but the Apple board felt he wasn’t ready. Steve was still over a year away from launching the Mac and the company needed the aging Apple II to continue to provide cash flow for the next three years.”

Third Wave Companies

Today, John Sculley is focused on sharing his considerable experience with corporate executives, “serial entrepreneurs,” and third-wave companies that are not afraid to take risks, to adapt to change, or to use technological advances to achieve their goals. Sculley has a lot to say about the emergence of third-wave companies – not only high-tech companies, but others with the ability to transform their products and organization in response to changes in the economy, social habits, and customer interests. First-wave companies were built in the agricultural age, says Sculley. Second-wave companies were built for growth; hence, their strength lies in stability. In contrast, the strength of third-wave companies lies in change: These are what Sculley calls “the adaptive companies.” He is currently working with a handful of start-up companies that are using advanced digital technology to produce health-care-related tools – tools that have the potential to decrease dramatically the $2.5 trillion spent annually on health care in the United States.

John Sculley Speaking Topics

Power Shifts: Getting Used to the New Normal

Audiences learn about the power shifts that are transforming business and why we are only at the beginning. When you look around at today's business world, what new ground rules do you see? How is the power in the marketplace shifting, and what do these shifts mean to your business? Just as importantly, how can you not simply respond, but take advantage of them?

How Companies Create Innovation

Large public companies are typically not good at innovation as their organizations are measured on their execution ability to scale revenue, not disrupting important existing profit centers. Disruptive innovation happens at moments of secular change and the biggest opportunities are usually on the edges of transformation, which are also areas of the highest risk. John learned there is a fine line between success and failure when one is attempting disruptive innovation out-on-the-edge. Consequently, my world is focused on small entrepreneurial companies who are comfortable taking high risks and has no existing profits to protect. In this speech I discuss strategies, personal experience case histories, and first principles for disruptive innovation.

Commoditization of Almost Everything

As GDP growth in the EU and USA has slowed, 75% of the world’s GDP is now coming from emerging markets where a rapidly developing new middle class of 2 billion people who want autos, digital life products, condos, furniture, food services, shopping malls, etc. What's different about this new middle class from the West is, are the price points for everything which will be much lower than what we are accustomed to in the West. The derivative effect is the half-life of new products is greatly reduced and commoditization is happening in months not years as in the past. So the "new normal" requires first understanding how commoditization will touch each company and what are the strategic options? John Sculley has extensive experience in digital electronics, supply-chain systems both in North America and South Asia. John is also a recognized expert in US healthcare reform, mobility and the cloud, financial services and Internet marketing, creating companies in India and ASEAN countries.

Consumer Driven Healthcare Services

When John Sculley was recruited to Apple by Steve Jobs it was because Steve believed that personal computers would need to be marketed as Big Brand consumer appliances using similar marketing skills that Sculley had helped create at PepsiCo with what John calls "experience marketing". 30 years later, a similar opportunity has arrived to consumerize the delivery of healthcare services and once again John Sculley is at the forefront. In this speech John Sculley talks about disruptively innovative companies he is involved with as an investor, mentor and board member: MDLIVE - tele health; Misfit Wearables -miniature sensors that can monitor health vital signs and Big Data analytics; Zensey – consumer engagement engine service for self-insured corporations; Watermark Medical - home diagnostics testing for sleep APNEA and others. John Sculley is uniquely qualified as a spokes person as he has 30 years of experience in high technology and 7 years of healthcare experience; a lifetime as one of the best known Big Brand marketers in the world and John is deeply involved in some of the most innovative new healthcare firms.

The Reinvention of Work

John Sculley has a long history with his interest in the reinvention of work going back to the 1980s when he was Apple CEO and the launching of "desktop publishing". Currently John is a co-owner of a $400 million billings Vendor Managed Services firm called NextSouce that focuses on the high growth opportunities for temporary staffing and project oriented work. John is also an investor and board member in 2 mobile wireless technology companies which are key building blocks for knowledge worker collaboration: Openpeak: is a bring-your-own-device enterprise software firm; and 3Cinteractive: is a mobile unified communications and business analytic enterprise software firm. In this speech John talks about trends and opportunities for leaps in productivity via new technology tools for knowledge workers including Big Data analytics and social media.

Customers-in-Control vs. Producers-in-Control

Enabling customers to not just expect, but demand the best products, best services, customized, at the lowest price and ASAP.

John Sculley Books

Moonshot!: Game-Changing Strategies to Build Billion-Dollar Businesses
Purchase Book
Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple: A Journey of Adventure, Ideas, and the Future
Purchase Book

John Sculley Videos

John Sculley Speaker Testimonials

"Sculley was everyone's favorite CEO before he even spoke. The time he spent with clients had them endeared to his low-key and honest style. He did a great job of wrapping up the content of our meeting. Given our topic, it's hard to imagine how someone could have done better. The audience just loved that he's had so much experience in different industries and could talk so specifically to emerging business opportunities. It he's not busy speaking he's a hidden jewel. Again I'd be happy to be a reference for him."

- | CSC Consulting

John Sculley was a hit. As our keynote speaker, he provided a perfectly-tailored presentation, embracing the theme of innovation and sharing his personal experiences revolutionizing industries—from soft drinks to personal computers, and beyond. We are still receiving raves about he demonstration he provided of his Live Picture! Imaging technology.

- Vorhaus | Robbie Vorhaus, President & Chief Executive Officer

"The event was an unqualified success, thanks in no small part to your perspectives and participation. It is clear that your comments were among the most thought provoking and highly regarded."

- | Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce

"Your insights were fascinating and intrigued our audience members, and our sponsors especially enjoyed having breakfast with you. I know your speech will long be remembered as the 'Communications Revolution' continues to evolve."

- Society of International Business Fellows | Stewart M. Dansby, Chair

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Recent Books

Moonshot!: Game-Changing Strategies to Build Billion-Dollar Businesses
Purchase Book
Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple: A Journey of Adventure, Ideas, and the Future
Purchase Book

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