Steve Wozniak (Woz) designed and built the first home microcomputer in the year I was born. When you listen to him speak, it is clear that he is very much the same person today that he was back then - his own twitter bio sums it up best: “Engineers first! Human rights. Gadgets. Jokes and pranks”.
I was very fortunate to be able to attend a talk Woz gave today at the Entel Summit here in Chile, where he spoke about the early days of Apple, his motivation, and the values that shaped his life.
I’ll pick out five quotes that caught my attention and tie in with entrepreneurship:
“I could live in Chile.”
Steve started off his speech with this complementary remark - which many might take as throwaway praise to win over the audience - except that’s not Steve’s nature. In a press conference after the talk, Steve spoke further about entrepreneurship and what he had seen and heard about Chile. Yesterday he had met with some Start-Up Chile staff and participants - you can see what he had to say about the programme.
When he said he could live in Chile, what he meant was that Chile had all the factors necessary to create something great. The community and the determination exist. I’m not even sure he was joking when he said he would suggest Start-up Chile to his children.
“Simplicity became a value to me.”
This seems to be one of the few traits that Woz shared with his co-founder Steve Jobs. Refining an idea to the least number of parts and putting the human in the center. In the early days of Apple this meant innovating with the most efficient and effective use of costly parts (doing more with less), and continually refactoring software to it’s simplest form.
“I would eat a TV dinner, watch an episode of Star Trek, then do electronics all night”
Starting out, the young Woz was completely driven by his interest in emerging technology and how microchips could be used to fulfill his vision of computers for everybody. Money wasn’t a factor, but the future portrayed in those Star Trek episodes no doubt fueled his imagination. Not sleeping for four days to meet a deadline to create the first prototype of the Breakout game was exhilarating to him.
“Don’t read someone else’s book. Write your own book.”
This is a point which Steve made numerous times in his talk. Real entrepreneurship is going beyond the boundaries of what you have been taught is possible. Starting out there was no guide on how to create the kind of engineering objectives that Woz achieved. He wrote his own book - forged his own path. I’ve met too many people trying to apply entrepreneurship like it’s a recipe with reproducible results.
“I did it because I loved it”
Woz is a true engineer at heart and his passion for science and technology comes across as infectious. He is so genuine, loyal, open and accessible - and clearly lives and leads by example. Had he not met Steve Jobs he’d likely just continued working at HP and living out his passion in his spare time. Jobs took the genius of Woz and unleashed the business potential. Apple could not have existed without both these visionary men.
This is the major takeaway for me. Certainly you must find the satisfaction in the work. But if you are an engineer/developer or technical minded person and you want to take this beyond a passion then you need to find a catalyst who will apply the market potential to your idea.
I found the talk to be a great source of inspiration. Thanks to Entel for bring Steve to Chile so he could share his knowledge and experience.