LAS VEGAS — ITEXPO — Life as an entrepreneur or a startup worker can be tough and challenging, sometimes seemingly up against all odds. So what keeps people going? Passion and creativity. That’s the message of Apple (AAPL) Co-founder Steve Wozniak, who spoke here today in front of a crowd of his own kind, tech geeks.
Wozniak, the lesser-known founder of Apple who always lived a bit in the shadow of Apple Co-founder Steve Jobs, believes that great tech ideas should be driven by passion and creativity, not always business first
In a talk and Q&A here at ITEXPO, Wozniak expounded on his counter-culture and anti-establishment sensitivities, part of the driving vibe inside of Apple. Wozniak said that people need to follow their own wants and needs and creative forces and ignore the noise, because that’s how Apple was founded.
“Your wants in life are where to go,” said Wozniak. “Have your own experience… I feel the passion to build and put things together,” said Wozniak. “Don’t expect your first projects in your life to be real successful. You get smarter at building it every single time. It doesn’t come from school. You have to develop you own mind. “
In the Q&A following his talk, Wozniak covered a number of intersting topics ranging from the Apple Newton to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.
On the Newton, Apple’s first, failed attempt at a personal digital assistant (PDA):
“It was very early. It was designed to be intuitive. We had predicted a huge market for PDAs, but the Newton didn’t do very well. But we were correct, the market was huge, but the Newton was just too early with the shape, features. It was too expensive to build it back then.”
On Larry Ellison, the Oracle Corp. Founder and CEO who had some public comments about how Apple might have a hard time succeeding after the death of Steve Jobs:
“Ellison has a big ego and likes to speak like he is in charge of the knowledge,” said Wozniak. “His comments were exaggerated. You can’t take that for reality, Apple going out of business. It is such a huge business with many streams of revenues. The company Apple is not going to go away. As long Apple … keeps building products to help people, that stuff is not going to be forgotten.”
But Wozniak clarified that some concerns make sense:
“Ellison has some validity because there’s no new exciting products in new categories. But you go into plateaus of development. There are lots of smartphones that are good, but they’ve all kind of leveled off. Apple’s at a level playing period. But Apple has one thing, its following. If I see a gold iPhone5 coming, I have to have it. That’s one thing that the brand of Apple has.”
There was one interesting question in whic somebody asked Wozniak if the United States had fallen behind the world in terms of science and education, and whether that was threatening innovation in the U.S. Wozniak had an interesting response:
“Silicon Valley is one of ten counties in the United States where more than half the people don’t speak English at home, because the people in the computer industry come there. We’re known for making things. That comes with a total culture. Believing you can make things with your own eyes, you can make something with zero, the American Dream, that’s what it’s all about. Academic education is not the sort of education that lead to Apple. Steve and I didn’t have that education. I don’t really downgrade the U.S. in that way. Maybe we have a lot more people that are illiterate… (at Hewlett-Packard Co.) the PhDs used to ask me how to solve the problems.
This is the charm of the The Woz, as Wozniak is known. It’s clear that The Woz has a strong streak of anti-establishment in him. He speaks to the passion of the everyman, and made it clear that he “doesn’t like to be around CEOs doing important stuff.” He’s more interested in individual passions and creativity.
This was clear in several digs he took at the business community. He believes that ultimately creativity is victorious over business, because many businessmen are short-sighted, “only worrying about the profit in the next quarter.”
“The business people always used to say that the Mac is a toy, it would not be a business computer.” said Wozniak.
Another example he gave was why he went to start Apple because Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), where he worked at the time, didn’t want to build a new PC. “I got turned down (by HP) five times for the personal computer, so I had to go to Apple and start it up.”
He said that the passion and the vision of the founders is what has kept Apple thriving, because it wasn’t taken over by the business people.”Apple’s a rare exception to still be here.”