Courtesy of HP
Hewlett and Packard. Jobs and Wozniak.
These are some of the household names that hatched revolutionary companies in the unlikeliest of places, the California garage. Its humdrum qualities, from cheap rent to open space, are exactly what made it the perfect spot to launch companies — and become the symbol of a very specific kind of American innovation.
And if the garage equals innovation, the birthplace of HP on Addison Avenue in Palo Alto, California is a big reason why. It was there, during the Great Depression, at the end of a short driveway on a shady suburban street, that two friends literally tinkered their way into history.
As onetime Apple evangelist and fulltime pundit Guy Kawasaki says in “Origins,” a documentary about the history of HP: “HP was the inspiration for the entire Valley. No question.”
When William Hewlett and David Packard teamed up in 1938, the two college buddies didn’t have a business plan. What they had were some business notions, radio-engineering expertise and…a garage. Out of that space, they created a startup that set the mold for Silicon Valley’s seemingly infinite supply of tech adventurers.
“The HP garage endures because it’s the birthplace of entrepreneurialism,” says Michael S. Malone, a former HP employee and author of “Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World’s Greatest Company.” “Bill and Dave started a company before they knew what they were going to sell. That garage is where they worked until they figured it out.”
That scrappy nature of “the garage,” and the power of possibility that it offers, still resonates.
“A garage sends a significant signal to people,” says Bill Aulet, managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, which mimicked the openness of the garage when it remodeled its space in 2016 — down to installing a working garage door that opens into the center’s popular meeting room. “We acknowledge the people who got things done with very few resources, who were willing to be different, who were the pirates.”