My alarm goes off at 5 am, it’s day 1 of our first-ever tech conference, and I’m full of excitement.

After six months of intense planning, the day is finally here, and while I’m excited, I’m also anxious to ensure the event is a big success. Not to mention I’ll also be interviewing the legendary Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) in less than 4 hours, live in front of 500+ people. This in itself is a little daunting, but exhilarating at the same time.

Finding the perfect venue

First though, it’s off to the conference center where we needed to complete final preparations for 2 days of amazing speakers, workshops, and Civo product launches. I shouldn’t really call it a “conference center”, as when planning the event we deliberately wanted to avoid having a run-of-the-mill event space and were determined to find a venue that inspired ideas, and promoted creativity and innovation.

The Civo team exploring the Armature Works venue

We were lucky to find the perfect venue in Armature Works, a stunning venue located on the bay in the heart of Tampa. Armature Works is steeped in history, originally used in the early 1900s as a factory for building trains, but more recently converted to a multi-purpose events venue with amazing bars, restaurants, and street food vendors. The event spaces and breakout rooms are a mix between traditional exposed red brick walls and modern furnishings to create invigorating spaces that ticked all the boxes and more. When you step outside, it becomes even more alluring, with its beautiful lawn overlooking the bay, providing a breathtaking backdrop to the Tampa skyline. It’s not hard to see why we chose Armature Works; from the moment we first laid eyes on it, we were instantly sold!

Welcoming our day 1 hosts to the stage

It’s now 8:30 am, and the day 1 hosts Marino ( and Lisa (Cockroach Labs) enter the stage to “I’ve got a feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas. The large room affectionately known as “The Gathering” is now really starting to fill up as we get closer to the “Woz” coming on stage, you can feel a real excitement in the air!

Civo Navigate day 1 hosts Marino and Lisa on stage

Where it all started

Before the “Woz”, I’m called on stage to provide a warm welcome to our guests and to set the scene for the day ahead. Marino, asks me about my days as a racing car driver in the early to mid-nineties (it seems like a lifetime ago now). I competed to a pretty high level, from being a Kart champion to progressing through various single-seater Formula’s right up to Formula 3. Unfortunately, I ran out of sponsorship and was forced to call it a day.

This shaped who I am today, as after motor racing, I fell back on my love for computers, where I grew up playing with modems and bulletin boards in the late eighties. I started my first business in 1999, and this became the void I was able to fill to fuel my competitive spirit.

I had a thirst to build and innovate.

My first company was a domain name and shared web hosting company aimed at small businesses that needed their first website, it grew to become the 5th largest hosting company in the UK and, in many ways, helped shape the future of what Civo has become today. The big difference with was we had little money and were more of a follower than a leader in innovation, as we never had the financial resources to invest in innovation in a meaningful way. It was the relentless pursuit of excellence in customer service that made so successful, and with Civo we’ve been able to continue that legacy, but with a larger focus on innovation, as this time round, we have more funds to invest in disruptive ideas and concepts.

Innovation leaders

There is now only 10 minutes until the “Woz” is on stage. Marino hands me the mic, and it’s over to me. My slides are prepped, and I’m poised to deliver my intro to Civo and our inaugural conference. But wait, where’s the slide clicker!… Marino inadvertently took it with him when leaving the stage! After a mini-panic, I quickly ran off the stage to recover it from him before recomposing myself back on stage, but now with a heart rate a few beats higher!

After a quick welcome to everyone, I presented a few slides about Civo and what we stand for - in a nutshell, we’re cheaper, faster, and simpler to use than the big 3 cloud providers. We were recently called a hyperscaler shaker in a Forbes article…I kind of like that! It was now time to bring our CTO, Dinesh, onto the stage for a co-hosted fireside chat with Steve Wozniak, a true legend of computing… Steve did pretty well in his career too! Jokes aside, Steve is an absolute icon of computing, and I was super excited to be spending time with him.

At Civo, Dinesh is our “Woz” - a true leader of innovation. We’ve worked together for over 10 years now; he has an incredible mind and is an inspiration to our team. Dinesh says the real meaning of his CTO acronym is ‘Chief Taco Officer’ - as internally on our Slack channel we reward employees with tacos emojis for recognition of their amazing work. Dinesh is firmly at the top of the leaderboard in tacos given out. There is true innovation flooding out of Civo, we have a team I am super proud of, and Dinesh plays a huge part in this.

Dinesh, Steve and Mark at Civo Navigate

A few quick words with Dinesh as he enters the stage and a bad joke about his first computer being a Windows 95 PC (sorry Steve), and we are ready to welcome the “Woz” onto the stage!

Sitting down with Steve Wozniak

Naturally, the “Woz” enters the stage with huge applause, a quick handshake, and he’s seated on a comfy cream sofa. With pleasantries exchanged, it was quickly onto our first question about Steve’s childhood and how he got started with computing. Steve recounted countless stories of mixing his love of practical jokes with his lust for computing.

Dinesh, Steve and Mark on stage at Civo Navigate

Apple I and Apple II

After correcting some common misconceptions about the creation of Apple I and Apple II (such as how movies usually mix up the roles he and Steve Jobs played in getting the computers set up), Steve outlines the success of these models. He mentions being rejected by Hewlett Packard (HP) when launching Apple II, the first computer available for personal use to display color graphics in 1977!

The future of technology

With artificial intelligence on the rise, Steve begins to speak about his doubts surrounding the hype as he feels nothing can compare to the human brain. A discussion begins on Tesla and Lucid electric cars, as Steve and his wife had previously had bad experiences with both. I see him look down at his watch after commenting on how Tesla vehicles were meant to be driving themselves across the country by 2016 (which he mentions was not their experience after some troubling navigation issues).

Steve Wozniak on stage at Civo Navigate speaking about the future of technology

Launching his first cluster

As the interview ended, the room cleared, and I could show the “Woz” what Civo was all about. I watch keenly as Steve launches his first-ever Kubernetes cluster using Civo, it is a real pinch-me moment! He even takes the time to name his own cluster and pick out the size/instance he wants (he comments on how he always goes for the one with the best performance!)

We share a few quick words as I take him through the process, and as we get to the Marketplace, he notes how understandable everything is on the platform!

We even captured the moment he launched his first cluster:

Final thoughts

It was a true pleasure to share the stage with the “Woz”. He’s an incredibly warm and humble person and is an inspiration to many people around the world. It was certainly the highlight of my career to spend an hour on stage with him, listening to the fantastic stories on how Apple was shaped in its early days.

Watch the full keynote here