Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak in Trondheim

Friday was a special day for everyone interested in electronics and computers in Trondheim.

Two student groups Startit and Spark were able to get the Co-Founder of Apple to visit the university where I graduated in 1992. For those of you who do not know the history, he was the Engineer that build the fist Apple computer. He and Steve Jobs established Apple in 1976 together with Ronald Wayne who a year later sold his shares to Jobs and Wozniak for $800.

Wozniak was the star of the student arrangement and was the last person to enter the stage.  They originally had a fairly large auditorium set up for the event, but they sold out all the tickets immediately. Then they moved it to the largest auditorium at the university and it was packed! It was a lot of student, journalists, business people and investors that wanted to listen to his story. And he did not disappoint us.

Wozniak mentioned two interesting reasons for success. First, he had no money and had to build Apple step by step for as little money as possible. Second, he had never done it before and had to be creative and think out of the box. These two things made them think business and differentiation from day one.

Another interesting thing was his comments about being market driven.

The combination of strong engineers, people with good market and customer insight is of course a perfect combination. If you combine that with good marketing and presentation of the result it will produce results.

Without any comparison, this is what we did at Atmel when we build the AVR products that led to a 1 Billion dollar business for Atmel. Still without comparison it was interesting to listen to how Wozniak described a model that was almost identical to what we did when we build AVR. And identical to many many other success stories in the industry.

I think there are a few very important lessons in this. The second most important thing after getting the right people will be to burn as little cash as possible. We all know that things take longer then expected and to run out of cash is no fun. This is an area where we in Norway have something to learn. It is not joke that many Bay Area companies start up in crappy offices like a garage. And when they move into an office they are packed. Like Tesla, Nest and many others. I remember the first Atmel office in Trondheim where we had one box as table and another box as the chair. No furniture at all…We rented a corner in a lawyers office and had to pay in advance. Due to his heavy smoking we had to leave it after a few months.

Apple stared in a garage in Los Altos, California. Funny enough Wozniak claims that Apple was not driven from the garage, but rather the bedroom! Steve Jobs took his sales calls from his bedroom and was on the street selling when he was not there. He also talked about how they worked long hours to avoid adding more people then they really needed.

To get money to start Apple Wozniak had to sell his most valuable possession!

Wozniak was clearly a very talented engineer and had a lot of in-depth stories about things he had developed. All of it sounded like groundbreaking stuff.

Like most Engineers Wozniak had a lot of practical jokes. Here is a good one:

Wozniak sounds like a great guy. I wish him well.

Here is a longer, but better video from a local newspaper

http://www.adressa.no/tv/?id=25987

Alf

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

So, after more then 20 years with creative engineering I have decided to start a blog. I do this because I have so much to share with other engineers, managers and top executives. Together with a great team we created the AVR microprocessor and created almost a $1B business for Atmel. We created some very innovative processors and tools that unleashed the potential of engineers around the world. We created the AVR Freaks that engage some of the best, embedded engineers in the world and gave us the inspiration to move on. The journey from being a young engineer out of university to be a top-level executive in a large American company has been interesting. This journey has taught me a lot about successful innovative cultures, how politics can influence motivation and creative thinking and not at least how to stimulate teamwork and curiosity. I recently moved to Energy Micro. I moved back to a company that had all the values and drive our original AVR team had. I joined a group of passionate curious engineers because I wanted to move faster and innovate more. This blog will be about inspiration, innovation and curiosity. It will be about new technologies, fundamental technologies and wild ideas for revolutionary technologies. It will also be about management styles and how important the company culture is for success. I will share with you how I believe the right culture develops, how they need to be maintained and how they can fall apart. I have a lot to share with you and I will do so over time. I am too busy to blog every day, but I hope you still will follow this blog and give me feedback on things you would like to understand further. I might even add some posts about my passion for photography, cycling, skiing, sailing and more. I believe success in business has to do with a complete human being, where family and personal hobbies plays a significant role.

Alf-Egil