OnQ Blog

Qualcomm Co-Founder Dr. Irwin Jacobs pays a special visit to the company he helped launch 35 years ago

Ahead of Qualcomm’s 35th anniversary, the former chairman sits down for a fireside chat to discuss the company’s early days, its culture, and the key to its future.

Jul 15, 2020

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.


When Dr. Irwin Jacobs co-founded Qualcomm with a few fellow tech veterans in 1985, he thought, perhaps, the company could one day reach 100 employees.

Now 35 years later, Qualcomm has 175 offices and more than 37,000 employees across the world. “Clearly, I was wrong,” Irwin remarked during a recent virtual fireside chat to celebrate Qualcomm’s 35th anniversary. (Stay tuned for the chat on the Qualcomm Podcast.)

In fact, since Dr. Jacobs co-founded the company, whose name was created by combining “Quality” and “Communications,” Qualcomm has evolved into the world’s leading wireless technology innovator. We’ve ushered the mobile ecosystem through every wireless transition up through 5G — and we continue to develop breakthrough technologies in AI, XR, IoT, and beyond. Our research has enabled our customers across the world, and we have 140,000 global patents and patent applications. Plus, we launched Qualcomm Ventures to invest in other technology leaders who are just as committed to innovation.

Dr. Jacobs retired from Qualcomm in 2012, so this was truly a special event – one for which more than 5,700 Qualcomm employees tuned in live. Hosted by SVP and Division President of QGOV Kim Koro, the chat kicked off with his early vision for the company, and discussed everything from Qualcomm’s current work to Irwin’s own ethos.

“When we founded Qualcomm, we really didn't have a product in mind,” Irwin said. “We knew wireless and digital would be useful, but we've counted on the fact that if we kept thinking about things and looking for possible problems, that we could provide elegant solutions. That rather than making small changes, we would be able to make large changes, and that we would find areas that could be worked on by us. And we'd do something very interesting.”

He continued with thoughts about taking risks, camaraderie, and “working together toward making something happen.” And while he may have been referring to the early days when talking about doing what others think is impossible, it's an idea that’s remained an integral part of the company DNA.

“You know that is so true, [and] so much about what it feels like to work at Qualcomm even still to this day,” Kim replied.

Looking forward, Irwin shared thoughts about what Qualcomm is working on now. He’s particularly excited about the growing capabilities of chips, including the addition of AI, the ability to pack in even more technology while reducing to five nanometers, and the opportunities presented by 5G.

“As we get further and further into 5G, providing low power, high data rates, low latency, and higher reliability, people are going to come up with applications that we haven't really even thought about,” he said. “They'll find better ways to use this new platform that's spreading and do wonderful things with it.”

As the conversation came to a close, Kim was curious about what advice Irwin has for the next generation of Qualcomm employees. His answer boiled down to one thing: keep innovating.

“I urge everyone to continue to think of Qualcomm as a startup, open to brand new ideas and various new things… [and] take those ideas and turn them into reality.”

“So just keep an open mind,” he continued. “Keep thinking about new things. Keep working in new areas, and make sure you share those ideas around so others can appreciate, hone them, and see which ones really will see the light of day and make a major difference.”


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The OnQ Team