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Guy Kawasaki - Talking Tech, Apple, Steve Jobs, Social Media & Privacy
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Guy Kawasaki possesses an extensive knowledge of innovation, entrepreneurship, social media, and marketing. First and foremost, he is an evangelist. The term comes from a Greek word that means “bringing the good news.”

That’s what he does–whether it was the good news of Macintosh or currently the good news of Canva, an online graphics-design firm. He aligns with companies and causes that empower people, foster democracy, and make the world a meritocracy. In addition to his work at Canva, he is a writer (thirteen books), speaker, Mercedes brand ambassador, and an executive fellow at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

Guy is also currently the director and an evangelist for Cheeze. The company is focused on delivering a solution for a lot of people who have become fed up with Facebook and looking for a more private social setting to connect with family and friends. The company has a simple but cool new app, to be called Privy, that lets you create groups and share private photos, videos and everyday moments with family and friends with no ads. It’s currently ” in beta ” on iOS and it’ll be rolling it out sometime during Apple’s WWDC and late June for Android devices.

Guy Kawasaki - Tech Blog Writer Podcast

At this years WWDC keynote, Apple revealed a feature that lets consumers set time limits on social media apps; the demo’s target was Instagram, owned by rival Facebook. There seemed to be an increasing realization in the industry that too much social media is not healthy for our wellbeing. I wanted to find out more about the new app called Privy that debuted at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, how Guy Kawasaki got involved with Privy and the conference’s theme this year.

In our chat, we also learn more about Guy Kawasaki’s story, his time at Apple and the lessons he learned from Steve Jobs. We also discuss Privy, what inspires him and what advice he would pass down to anyone listening to this tech podcast while on their own tech startup journey.

Transcription of the Podcast Interview

Neil: A massive warm welcome to the show Guy. I mean you’re a man that needs no introduction, but for listeners to this show scattered all over the world in 165 different countries, can you tell them a little about who you are and what you do?

Guy Kawasaki: I am currently the chief evangelist of Canva and online graphic design service. I’m on the board of directors of Cheese, which is a company that has provided a new antisocial app called privy. I am also a Mercedes Benz brand ambassador. Many people have probably or maybe have heard of me because of my work at Apple. At Apple I was a software evangelist and then chief evangelist of the company.

Neil: Fantastic. Now you’ve spent the whole week at WWDC this week, so what sights and sounds have you been soaking up? Is there anything really excited you?

Guy: WWDC is always anything. You know, that that’s the go-to place. So it’s quite exciting. Mostly software and services announcement and everybody always hope as a new phone or pad or pod or in my case Macintosh, but lots of announcements, more the technology, more capability for Siri, more, just more, you know, better stuff for IOS system 12, life is good.

Neil: Absolutely and like you said a few moments ago, you launched your tech career at Apple as the company’s chief evangelist, marketing the original Macintosh computer. I’ve got to ask, I mean, did you learn any crucial lessons when you work closely with that late tech visionary Steve Jobs?

Guy: Oh my God, we could go on for an hour on that question alone, just a couple of the most significant lessons. First I learned that your current customers can’t necessarily tell you how to truly innovate. Mostly they tell you how to make better, faster, cheaper, whatever they’re already getting from you. So in Apple’s case, better, faster, cheaper apple too, as opposed to Macintosh or more lately, better, faster, cheaper, Macintosh as opposed to IOS device. So that’s number 1.

Number 2, I think he, he taught us that you know, you have to get it to market. You can’t wait for this perfect product at the perfect time. Macintosh 128 k back in 1984 was hardly perfect, but it was good enough to ship and once you ship you learn a whole lot more than sitting around in the echo chamber and the 3rd important less than I’d like to mention is that Steve truly was egalitarian in the sense that he did not care about what race, color, creed, sexual orientation, religion, anything like that you were. All he cared was whether you were competent enough or not, and if you weren’t, it didn’t matter and if you were, it also didn’t matter and so he was way ahead of his time in terms of creating a meritocracy.

Neil: Now you’re someone who has experienced the highs and the lows of silicon valley, so from the outside looking in now, it feels like there’s always been this thirst to make a difference where everyone is armed with his can-do attitude, but I’m curious has silicon valley changed that much over the years?

Guy: Well this is a very complex question. From the outside looking in, I could see why you have that impression, but I will tell you something. While silicon valley, it’s never as good or as bad as it seeks. Having said that, it’s always pretty good, so I think it’s because there’s an optimism, naivety, a romantic kind of notion that the world can be a better place, that great products and services can dent the universe and that must be in the water or the air or something. We’re all hallucinating that way.

Neil: So have you noticed any changes towards attitudes around things like privacy? Obviously especially the last couple of months, but that’s going to change how we act on social media, etc, isn’t it?

Guy: Yes. Well, privacy has become a huge deal these days and I think that, you know, that’s a good development that someone, some company is going to have to set the standard so that all other companies have to aspire to that same goal and you know, in a way privy, this product from cheese is a reaction to social media is lack of privacy and the hostility and the trolls and the fake accounts and the false identities and the inefficiency of social media.

Neil: I’m glad you mentioned privy there and that’s something that we can expand on in just a moment because it just seemed that more and more people are looking for social alternatives to Facebook, Snapchat, etc, due to the awareness around that digital footprint and how a few photos from a night out could even prevent you from getting good job of your dreams in a few years from now. Do you think that is a trend that is only going to continue and people will continue to retreat from sharing everything, including what they eat on social media platforms such as Facebook then?

Guy: I’m somewhat conflicted, but we hope so. In my case, for example, I have about 12 million followers on also on all social media platforms, but there’s also a need where I want to share some pictures, some videos, some links and comments to a very small group of people, e.g my family. I also want to know that every picture, every share is seen by everyone in my family. So with these platforms, algorithms, you know, even if someone has voluntarily opted in to follow me, it’s not clear they see everything I do. So the whole vision of privy is that it is double opt-in. You have to be invited to an album and you have to accept that invitation. Once you’re in there, everybody sees everything.

So the best example of my use of privy is my family album. So there’s six of us in this group and we post pictures that I would not post on social media in any other way, not because they’re, you know, nude or anything, but because they’re just funny for only six people. For example, I posted a picture of our pug when he had pooped inside the house. There are only six people who would find that really funny and insightful, so you know, that’s a perfect kind of picture.

Neil: Maybe seven people because I find it quite funny myself, but Privy buy cheese as it’s been described as an alternative to Facebook and Instagram and it’s also been termed the anti-social media app but how did you get involved with it?

Guy: Well, funny story. So the CEO of the company was in Palo Alto at the Apple store trying to buy, I think the wireless headphones. He got to talking to the manager of the store, explain what he did and the manager who is a friend of mine said, Oh, you ought to meet this guy. So he calls me up and he says, Oh, meet this guy, just met from Dubai and I said, all right, so, I meet them the next day at the restaurant and the rest is history.

Neil: So before speaking with you today, I did the obvious thing. I did a bit of research, I’d downloaded privy and the first thing I noticed after years of using social media apps is the timeline was empty but I guess that’s kind of the point. So for anyone listening to us that is downloading privy as we speak, I mean, how’d you get the most out of the platform?

Guy: I think the way to get the most out of a platform to start an album, and I would put your family in it for first, so your spouse, parents, brothers, sister, kids because that’s the most obvious use for people that these are the four or five, six people that we want to share funny stuff that’s just not appropriate. To use an extreme example, let’s say you have little kids and they’re taking a bath naked and you want to send that to the grandparents. Well, you couldn’t exactly post that on Instagram and you know after yesterday where you learned that Facebook had $14, million instances where or what people thought were private messages were not private messages. You might be a little hesitant to use any kind of social media platform. So that’s the use case. So once you understand that family members are sharing with just family members, then in my case I have another album that’s for my surfing buddies in California. I have another album for my surfing buddies in Hawaii. So, you know, those are the three main albums that I share with and in total, I think I may have 20 people in all of those and yet I have 12 million people in social media.

Neil: I love when you say that because in many ways I’ve noticed that most people that I know are retreating sharing links, images and conversations on social media and retreating those private group chats on messaging platforms such as Whatsapp and telegram. So what would you say to users of those platforms to try and tempt over to privilege?

Guy: Okay, so with WhatsApp, let’s say you create this private group. I think though, the reason why that doesn’t work so well is because let’s say you have six people in Whatsapp, you post a picture where your pug pooped on the rug, you put that on the WhatsApp in the morning and then throughout the day, six people react to that, they ask other questions completely unrelated to this, right? So there’s a bunch of stuff happening and then you know, eight hours later your daughter says that is one funny picture.

Now the question is because it’s a stream, like a twitter timeline, who knows what that last comment refers to because it happened, you know, the thing that she’s commenting on happened 12 hours before and there have been lots of messages between them. So the difference here is that privy, the photo is the unit. So the comments are attached to the specific photo, not a stream of consciousness, or be a stream of consciousness within only six people. So that’s the key.

Neil: Gotcha. Okay. Now, well now I’m armed with the information. I would definitely be checking that out this weekend and getting my family in there.

Guy: Step one is to go to the far left. There’s three sorts of top levels of the privy. The camera, the timeline of all activities in all albums and the creation of an album. So go to the creation of an album, which is the one to the farthest to the left and create an album. Invite people from your address book to your family. As soon as they accept, you’re in there together and start posting.

Neil: And is that on android and IOS or just IOS at the moment?

Guy: It is IOS only. Android will be out in a month.

Neil: Fantastic. Now also Guy while I’ve got you on the show, I was going to say there are endless lists of books online such as, 12 books you should read before starting a business that you recommend and there are so many lists like that out there, but I’ve got to ask, what is the favorite book that made a profound impact on your life?

Guy: With Great Joy. I recommend a book called “If you want to write” by a woman named Brenda Ueland, U-E-L-A-N-D.  This is a book ostensibly written for writers how to get away from the naysaying and negativity, external and internal, and to become a writer and now, not everybody wants to be a writer, but substitute or whatever you want to be for the word writing. So if you want to be a programmer, if you want to be a videographer, if you want it to be a musician, and I think this book will change your life. This book changed my life. It enabled me to become a writer.

Neil: I can hear people adding that book to their Amazon basket as we speak. I do speak with a lot of tech startups on this show at various stages of their startup journey. So what is the one piece of advice you could offer anyone listening that could be at any stage of that startup journey, what would that advice be?

Guy: Well two pieces of advice. First, get the prototype out. You know, the purpose of a business is not to create a powerpoint pitch. The purpose of a business is to create customers and the only way you create a customer is with a product.

The second piece of advice is never to ask people to do something you won’t do. Of course, this assumes you’re not a psychopath, so you know if you won’t fill out 16 fields of personal information to get a free account, if you won’t provide a credit card number, even though you know you’re told and you won’t be charged, you won’t do those kinds of things. Don’t ask people to do those kinds of things.

Neil: Fantastic advice. Well, a huge thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.

Guy: Thank you.

Neil: Now privy is an app I will be checking out this weekend and I think it’s ideal for listeners looking for that increased privacy control of their own info and also tied of the commercialism of their own personal relationships. I think there’s going to be a lot of people interested in that, but more than anything, just a big thank you for taking that time to come and speak with me today.

Guy: Thank you. All right. Take care. Have a good weekend.

Neil: They always say, never meet your heroes because they’re only going to disappoint you and shatter any illusions that you might have, but thankfully I’ve had nothing to worry about because when I spoke with Guy today, he was an absolute gentleman and despite his huge successes, he was an incredibly down to Earth guy.

I mean behind the scenes guy took time out of his birthday party preparations for his son and even got up incredibly early in the morning to speak with me and share his story with you all today. So Guy, I stand up in my podcast chair and salute you here in the UK because I loved hearing about what inspired Guy to start writing and we’ll be adding that book that he mentioned to my virtual shopping cart after this episode today and I also promised to report back with my thoughts on that and like

I said at the beginning of the show a few weeks ago, we spoke to John Sculley about his time driving trucks at Pepsi and working his way up to become the CEO and eventually becoming the CEO of apple and working alongside Steve Jobs and I love Guy Story for the exact same reason. One of the most frequently asked questions I get from listeners is, Neil, after 500 episodes, what have you learned from your guests? What do they all have in common? And the answer is they all work hard and even more importantly, they all remain humble.

I haven’t encountered any arrogance or heirs of self-importance from any of my guests. So if you’re listening to the show anywhere in the world and you want to follow in the footsteps of some of the most successful people in the world, believe me when I say nice guys, don’t finish last.

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