Steve Wozniak on accepting crypto pitches in ‘Unicorn Hunters’

Yahoo Finance’s Brian Sozzi and Julie Hyman speak with Apple Co-Founder and ‘Unicorn Hunters’ Circle of Money Investor, Steve Wozniak, about his new TV show, Apple earnings, the state of big tech, and much more.

Video transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: First, we begin on those Apple earnings. The company is seeing strong demand for iPhones, Macs, and AirPods, but CEO, Tim Cook, is warning that supply chain issues may hold back the holiday quarter. Who better to talk all things Apple than Apple co-founder and a panelist on the new show, "Unicorn Hunters," Steve Wozniak.

Steve, a real pleasure to have you here this morning here. Let's start on those Apple earnings, though. Is this one of the most challenging periods you've seen in recent memory for Apple?

STEVE WOZNIAK: Well, to tell you the truth, I would, no. I don't follow financial news. I don't look at the earnings. And I don't care. I'm glad that Apple is such a healthy company.

We're a company that actually managed to keep our name. It was, you know, well respected. No, I worry about largeness, and size, and that, but I don't study it. You know, it's like, let other people analyze those sort of things.

I'm just into, are products good? Oh my gosh. Do they enhance our life? Is something new? Are we changing? You know, I'm just into, like, what is the technology and who are the creators.

JULIE HYMAN: So, Steve, let's talk about the technology then for Apple, right? I mean, it seems like the biggest problem for the company right now is getting the technology into people's hands. But from a more product design perspective, there were a few complaints, right, with this latest product cycle that the stuff didn't offer enough new bells and whistles, or wasn't sort of big enough change from the last product cycle. How are you viewing it when it comes to that? I mean, it's tough to reinvent the wheel every single time, right?

STEVE WOZNIAK: Well, I kind of have to agree, but in technology, it's like, you always want to kind keep up with the newest, and sometimes you're five years behind, seven years behind, you know. And oh my gosh, it's still working for you. And it's just like, that's where the sales come from.

I got the new iPhone, and I can't tell the difference, really. The software that's in it applies to older iPhones, I presume, and that's the good part. I got the new watch, I can't tell the difference. I have the new computer, I've been so busy, I haven't had time to open it yet.

BRIAN SOZZI: Steve, how important is it that Apple is now using its own chips increasingly in its products?

STEVE WOZNIAK: Oh, unbelievably important. I mean, even before Apple, I was doing chip design work at Hewlett Packard. And the heart, a company like Apple normally would sit back and say, what chips are the chip makers supplying. And the reps would come in from, you know, Intel and other companies, and Samsung, here's what we have and here's the deal we can work with you. And and that sort of sets the level of your product. And then now, you're trapped.

If we only had the forewithal to think from the ground up, we have these features in the chip. We organize it this way. My gosh, our product will come into place better. That is pure marketing, knowing what to do, what to price it at, and what people want.

And that's really the most important drive of Apple, is really marketing, even in products. What should-- that was right from the very start. I mean, we started with an engineering driven product, my Apple too. And that was all the revenues of the company for the first 10 years.

But really, from the point we started the real company with investment, we will be a market driven company that's more important than engineering, and that came from our adult, Mike Makula, our funder, you know, [INAUDIBLE] on us. So, from that very first year on, that's how I believed, OK, people who are successful, you should listen to them and they know what they're talking about, and the marketing is so important. Now, it drove us to a lot of, what I call very bad engineering decisions, at points in time. So, we made marketing mistakes, but we're human.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, well, of course, the big sort of revolutionary part of looking at it in a different way was the ease of use, right, with Apple products, I think, which is sort of bound up in the marketing, I think. You mentioned that the products, we weren't seeing that much of a different cycle to cycle with this iteration. What, like, you know, as a guy who's really into this stuff, what do you want your iPhone to do that it doesn't do now? Like, what would be the next big, cool thing for you?

STEVE WOZNIAK: My gosh. I don't know. Limit spam even better than it does Apple [INAUDIBLE]. I am so glad that Apple is taking steps that don't send my real email address out to, you know, retailers for credit card purchases and all. And they don't send my real email out sometime in other cases, like, when I download videos that are in a web page.

Wow, now, you can be secretive and hidden. And I like that. I like a quiet life, you know, where I am on my own. And I don't want to be hit by every social thing in the world. I grew up shy and unsocial. I was a geek.

BRIAN SOZZI: Steve, has Apple reached the edge or just the peak of what it can do with a product, like the Apple Watch? I mean, to be fair, full disclosure, I'm wearing my Apple Watch right now. I love this thing. I have my AirPods being charged with now. I love them. What else can they do with them that they're not doing now?

STEVE WOZNIAK: It's interesting you're talking about wearables, because it's the trend. The world is heading towards smaller devices all the time. And some really impressive wearables come out that do interesting things, nonetheless. The Apple Watch has become kind of the most important technology in my life.

I tend to go from the computer that I'm on now here at home or in a hotel to my watch and I tend to skip all the iPhone stuff, walking around trying to text and all this. I type into work for one thing. So, the QWERTY screen that pops up on you're-- you're texting on a phone, doesn't work as well for me as for some people. And the watch, I just love everything about it so much.

I also love not having to learn structure. You tap here on a phone, you tap over there, then you type this. And you know the procedures, so you do it very fast and it becomes natural to you. And then there's a change in the operating system. My God, I've got to go somewhere else, this and that, and you get frustrated.

But I like to use voice. You have a thought in your head. You don't have to say, well, how does that thought translate to a certain structure to get done what I want to do. And so, I just speak what I want and the watch works that way.

Now, I often carry the watch, I even skip the phone. The phone is in my pocket, it's weighing me down. Forget it. You know, I do Apple Pay as kind of the best thing on the watch. Tap, tap, and you're paying, and you get around the problem with the FACEIT while you're trying to do Apple Pay that you have on the phone.

I do all my texting to my wife, for example, you know, what I'm doing, and emails and stuff like that. I asked for questions of the world, you know. What is the population of India? You know, something like that. And it's just the most wonderful device in the world.

Smaller things get, the more personal it is myself. I don't know the versions of the watch. You know, it's almost like, for the last 15 years, has my computer life really changed that much, and it's really hard to say, and say for sure. But every single step up, oh my gosh, I've got the latest. I didn't even buy the new Apple Watch, to tell you the truth, even though it's the most important thing in my category. But certain people in Apple sometimes get certain new products sent to them. So--

JULIE HYMAN: Certain people, certain people who--

STEVE WOZNIAK: This is [INAUDIBLE] 7, Series 6 or Series 7, you can't even hardly tell. But you can tell when people are wearing Apple Watches all over. I'm glad that it sort of struck out as its own little characteristic shape or whatever, distinct.

JULIE HYMAN: So, the next wearable, is it going to be maybe some glasses, perhaps? I mean, you mentioned that other company that announced a new corporate name for itself, that it's bringing new attention to the metaverse, although so many different companies are in that space already. Is that the next big thing? Is that the next big wave, all of the ways that we are going to be interacting with the metaverse?

STEVE WOZNIAK: You know, the user interface is really the definition of how computer technology moves through time. And I think it's very important. I think that AR and VR are coming. That there are a lot of problems to solve to make them, like, every day for every one.

I like the idea of glasses. There was a prior big well-known company that had a glass out, and I was like, one of the very few people that actually liked it. It was kind of neat having a whole new operating system to deal with. And so, it has kept my interest, but it really didn't catch on.

As far as the company with the new name, they have a problem, even with a new name, you know, of we're going to be a little cautious how much we trust them. You know, what company had to change its name? I started out saying, Apple managed to keep its name throughout times. You know, that means you have a very good brand and the name is worth something.

JULIE HYMAN: So, you know, I mean, you could say Google sort of changed its corporate name. Although we still call the thing Google. But so, if I can, I'm going to say the name out loud, Facebook, you know, what are still the problems of Facebook? I mean, I think we know what the problems of Facebook are, but do you think that they are solvable? Do you think there's the will and the ability to solve some of these ethical tech problems?

STEVE WOZNIAK: Well, of course, the movie, "The Social Network," was very popular online, and got into a lot of those problems. You have people working behind the scenes just to track your actions and get you more involved in all that, and I don't like it. That book, "No Filter," by the guy who had started Instagram or whatever, I come out with book after book after book, so many negative things about what Facebook is doing. Can they change?

Well, one question you could ask, is can a person change their personality, how they deal with others and the world? Can they change it after, say, age 23 when their personality has settled in? And you know, I took courses as a psychology major. I'm sorry, you don't change. You don't change.

It's very, very, very, very drastic cases that will cause you to change your personality. How nice you are to people, for example. And you know, what you pay attention to. So, I don't think the company is going to change, let's say, what we call bad and good, you know, how it operates with people.

No. I think what it would take is certain kinds of legislation saying maybe, you have to be able to reach a human, for one thing, if you have a problem. And you have to have human oversight and looking at things, and not just assume that algorithms, little formulas about the world, you know, saying if this happens, then this is going to be next. Get away from that. And at least let people opt out.

One thing I would like is, my God, just let me pay a certain price per month to not be tracked. And that settles [INAUDIBLE] people who want it for free, want Facebook for free, gosh, great, and they don't mind being tracked, fine. But at least give the choice, because choice is equivalent to wealth.

BRIAN SOZZI: Steve, let's switch gears. Your "Unicorn Hunters," your new show. How can I successfully pitch Steve Wozniak?


STEVE WOZNIAK: You have to get accepted. There are so many-- turns out there are so many hundreds of thousands of people have great ideas and want to make pitches. I've actually done a lot of, like, you know, maybe university level and things like that, done a lot of judging pitches people have, elevator pitches stuff [INAUDIBLE].

The thing is, people who have a new product will go around maybe to venture capitalists and they think it's worth starting a company, going in the money route, not just sharing their tech, what they have with other people, like I did. And they'll go then they'll make presentations to very big investors that will meet with them, you know, and decide on them. And sometimes, they have little [INAUDIBLE] just not what we're doing this month.

But you know what? This show is taking these kind of little startups that have ideas and letting normal people at home watching, you know, we'll have a network deal soon, and watch it on TV and saying, oh my gosh, listen to that that's coming out. These people have created this, and here's how they thought it out, and the steps they took. And can come to their own decisions, is this something, is it going to go somewhere, based upon what the product is, not a lot of the other financial world considerations, duh, duh, duh, this right and that right.

No, but really, they, normal people, just don't have that opportunity before. And our show is about letting them be investors, you know, at smaller amounts and whatnot, but more massive. And it's a little like "Shark Tank," but we're not aimed at the sharks, we're the sharks and we're the investors. Not at all. It's the home audience, we're trying to democratize things that way.

JULIE HYMAN: That is very cool, I think, especially because it's right in the name, companies are waiting so much longer typically to go public, right? I guess they either don't wait at all and go public through a SPAC, where people can't necessarily buy until the last second, or they wait till they're huge and a lot of the early stage growth has happened already. So, what's the mechanism by which people who are watching the show can invest in those pre-IPO companies?

STEVE WOZNIAK: Well, you're asking kind of the wrong question. A pre-IPO company, well, you can-- I don't really do it, because I don't invest. So, I can't really-- you're asking the wrong person.

You know, I'd like to put something to say, here's a company that has a great idea. I would like to join them and have a part partnership and interest in that. But I'm not in the category of just a guy at home saying, whoa, I'm hearing something you never get to hear in life about something so new, and it might have these advantages, and it might work, and it might not, and it's risky, but I get to participate. So, I'm glad that we're just opening up the game to others.

I wouldn't say, you know, your own categories have to be your own-- the decision has to be in your own. I would never say, oh, you better pick this one. This is going to make a ton, you know, and this is going to go way up. And I don't like to do the up and downs myself. I'm kind of a peaceful person.

I'd like to think in long term, will this company in a long term, are they making a difference in the world with their product, and will it be successful, and will it have the revenues to pay for itself? And I make mistakes. I mean, I was one of the ones that didn't think there was a need for Uber.

BRIAN SOZZI: Point noted. Steve, let's say I was an applicant on the show. I come to you with a good-- what I think is a good pitch on crypto. Something related to crypto, trading, whatever it is. Are you a believer in crypto? Is that a pitch you would entertain?


Crypto has an awful lot of promise through the Blockchain of different things it can do differently than before in life, you know, right down to elections even. And it has a very trustable format that can't be modified easily with humans in control of it. I mean, look at our US dollars. I mean, US dollars, the government can just create new dollars and borrow and borrow, and it's like you never have it fixed.

Like, Bitcoin was the gold. Bitcoin is mathematics, mathematical purity. There can never be another Bitcoin created. Bitcoin doesn't even have a creator that we know of. Bitcoin isn't run by some company. It's just mathematically pure. And I believe nature over humans always.

You know, I think we should start our year not at January 1, we shouldn't even have months, to tell you the truth, in my opinion. It was a stupid idea, but you couldn't use numbers back in the times of Roman numerals, where our calendar came from. And we should start at the winter solstice, something in nature that really doesn't change much. But so, anyway, that's all.

BRIAN SOZZI: Steve, are you in the camp that crypto will change how we do business? It will change maybe how I buy my iPhone five years from now?

STEVE WOZNIAK: Yes, I'm in that camp that crypto will be used effectively. It's just one of them, but we have so many digital ways to pay for things now, even just to transfer money to people. I mean, it goes way back to PayPal and you know, now, we have Apple Pay, Apple Cash, and we have all the Venmo and all that. So, we already have other modes than crypto.

Crypto just has a little bit of anonymity. And I don't know if that's right that, oh gosh, I can do things without people knowing. I think that everything you do in life, you should be willing to stand up and say, this is me doing this transaction. And crypto, it's hard to trace back to, you know, who's doing what. It's possible, though.

But I would love to [INAUDIBLE]. I love it when, you know, people like Jack Dorsey talk, and how crypto should be the heart of our business dealings. The trouble is the government will never allow it to be out of their control. If it got to the point that everything was being done with crypto, and it didn't pass through governments for observation, and taxation, and all that, no, governments would just disallow it. They wouldn't give up their power.

That's where the heart of a lot of the power comes from, the US dollar. Heck, if there's inflation, your house goes up 10 times in 40 years, and you think you're a smart investor. No. You have an old house, you used to have a new house, now you got an old house, but the government says 90% of its value is earnings, and we're going to tax it.

Oh my gosh, the government makes all its taxes off inflation. It's all-- I don't know. To me, it's kind of an artificial system. It's not like, science, and math, and logic, and computer programming.

BRIAN SOZZI: Steve, I'll just say this, you're one cool dude. Thank you for coming on Yahoo Finance this morning. It was a real treat. Apple co-founder and panelist on the new show, "Unicorn Hunters," Steve Wozniak. Have a great weekend.