Steve Wozniak recounted anecdotes from his co-founding of Apple and gave a little advice for today’s entrepreneurs Thursday night as part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Helzberg Enterpreneurial Mentoring Program.
Before hundreds in Helzberg Hall, Wozniak, the son of an engineer, recounted how he started what’s now the world’s most valuable company, along with Steve Jobs “and no money — we had no money,” Wozniak said repeatedly.
Some of his thoughts, advice and memories from what he called “great times … fun times”:
▪ “I knew Steve Jobs for five years before we started Apple. Once a year he would come into town and take something I had designed for free, for fun, and turn it into something to make money.”
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▪ One of those early “things” was a Pong game offshoot that became Breakout, a job one could’ve expected at the time to take a year or more. “Steve said there was one problem: I had to do it in four days. … We delivered a working Breakout game to Atari in four days.”
▪ Popular portrayals of the Apple story don’t get everything right, such as the garage where Apple supposedly was born. “We never discussed our product in the garage … what should we build, what should our company be about. We never did stuff, any engineering, protyping or wiring in the garage. … Steve did all the business in his room. … The garage we pretty much used about an hour a week” when parts were delivered.
▪ “Make something you want to use. … You’re forced to make the products better and better for yourself.”
▪ “To me the good entrepreneurships are the ones that include the technical, the engineering.”
▪ “You’re called intelligent if you do well on tests. And you do well on tests by getting the same answer as everyone else. What if you have your own answer?”
▪ “If you see a good mentor, you want to be a mentor when it’s your turn.”
▪ And what’s the next big thing? Wozniak said he was drawn to technology “when I can relate to my machine like a human,” instead of technology that makes him act like a machine.
Wozniak was the second half of the evening’s program at the 1,600-seat Helzberg Hall, and rather than making a speech he shared his thoughts by fielding questions from Mike Lundgren, the founder of TEDxKC and VML’s director of innovation strategy.
His exchange with Lundgren, who previously worked at Apple, General Electric and Iomega, followed the presenting of the mentoring program’s first lifetime achievement awards.
Those awards went to Barnett Helzberg Jr., who founded the program after selling his company, Helzberg Diamonds; the late Ewing Kauffman, who mentored Helzberg for years; and to two mentors who helped get the program going, H&R Block co-founder Henry W. Bloch, and the late Ray Pitman Sr., who designed and built boom trucks and the “cherry picker.”