Twelve years after his departure from Apple Computer, the Woz is back in the boardroom.
In the same year that saw his fellow Apple founder, Steve Jobs, reclaim his place in the industry limelight, Steve Wozniak has joined the board of Breakthrough Software, a Silicon Valley start-up whose flagship Web-building product for small- and medium-sized businesses has yet to be released.
The eccentric Wozniak, known universally as "the Woz," has taken an unusually non-corporate path since leaving Apple in 1985. His resume boasts more of bettering the lives of students in Los Gatos, California, schools than of building companies and making deals. Among his current projects is Unuson, a company that serves as a platform for his philanthropic activities and stands for "Unite us in Song."
"I definitely wouldn't say he's a typical board member," said Breakthrough chief executive officer Trevor Stout. "He provides more of a love of the technology, rather than just having another CFO on the board who's more concerned with the business numbers. He's centered on the technological and visionary aspects, which is great."
Wozniak's board membership with Breakthrough is his first in "at least five years," according to Stout. Board positions since his Apple tenure include the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose, the San Jose Cleveland Ballet, and game-provider Electronic Arts.
Wozniak's current employment status is "essentially retired," according to Stout. On his Web site, the new member of the board says he is still on the Apple payroll, but that he prefers to be "basically retired" because of family reasons.
Wozniak said he chose to become involved with Breakthrough partially because of Stout and company president Randall Schmitz. "Their energy, drive, and determination reminded me of Steve Jobs and myself in the early days of Apple," Wozniak said in a statement. "These qualities, coupled with an excellent technology that I believe will win in the marketplace, drew me in."
Breakthrough, which plans to launch its flagship product this month, is a spinoff of EDnet subsidiary Internet Business Solutions. The new company is using technology developed for IBS to offer what it calls "point-and-click" Web-authoring software to small- to medium-sized businesses. The product will be available for download at first from the Breakthrough Web site and through Internet service providers; a retail launch is scheduled for the first quarter of 1998.
Founded in 1996, the company has fewer than 30 employees, according to Stout, and a board made up of Stout, Wozniak, Schmitz, and EDnet CFO Alan Geddes. The company is privately funded and expects to grow beyond 50 employees with revenue in the millions in its first year, according to Stout.