Co-founders from two of Silicon Valley’s most innovative companies gave a South Florida audience a glimpse into the early days of developing the technology that would reshape the world.
Steve Wozniak, of Apple, and Chris Hughes, of Facebook, were back-to-back speakers for the three-day Americas Business Council Foundation’s Continuity Forum that wrapped up Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton in Coconut Grove.
The conference brought together innovators, activists, and thought leaders in entrepreneurship and philanthropy and also showcased 32 emerging social entrepreneurial ventures from around the Americas.
On Wednesday afternoon, both men relayed plenty of stories.
As a teenager, Wozniak used to hole up in his bedroom on the weekends, designing a computer on paper.
And he made a game of it — every weekend he would try to make a machine that would work just as well or better but cost a little less than the last design.
That engineering mentality to build things more efficiently as well as the desire to learn never left him, he told the audience. “I would buy my college books on a Friday and be halfway through before the first class on Monday.”
Then he met Steve Jobs, and began working with him on a variety of projects. “Steve Jobs was a hippie with no money. I was an engineer with no money. We had to think creatively. I designed projects for fun, and he would figure out how to make money,” Wozniak recalled as he told how he invented the Apple I and Apple II that started it all and the company’s ups and downs through the years. He called the iPhone the greatest product ever.
As one of the Facebook co-founders that lived in the famous Harvard dorm room, Chris Hughes said the movie The Social Network got a lot of things wrong.
“Our dorm wasn’t like a luxury condo, there was no sex in the bathroom, as far as I know. An alcohol-fueled hackathon, while it looked like a lot of fun, didn’t happen.”
Hughes told the real story of Facebook and described his roommate Mark Zuckerberg as “highly analytical and very skeptical of conventional wisdom.” What the movie did get right, Hughes told the crowd: “Facebook is the defining example of American ingenuity and entrepreneurship of the 21st century.” And at the core: “There’s a new universal respect for the entrepreneur.”
Hughes, now owner and publisher of The New Republic, a 98-year-old publication, also talked about his current passion: How to use mobile and social technologies to support serious long-form journalism into the 21st century.
“Conventional wisdom says this kind of journalism isn’t sustainable. Cynics say the golden age of journalism has past,” said Hughes.
Yet, over the past six months Hughes said it is the long, in-depth New Republic stories that have gone viral.
“Folks are reading just as much news today, if not more. ... We have an opportunity to deliver it across a limitless number of devices. [These trends] all come together to suggest … we are entering a true golden age of journalism.”
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter at @ndahlberg.