A little over a decade ago, Evan Doll was quoting one of his heroes, Apple founder Steve Jobs, in his graduation speech from Healdsburg High School.
Now, Doll has helped devise one of the most heralded tech products of the past year -- with Jobs himself paying a visit to his office to see what he and his colleagues were working on.
To get there, Doll quit a dream job at Apple designing iPhones and co-founded a Palo Alto startup in 2009 with no clear product and an uncertain future.
The result: Flipboard, a smash-hit application released in July that uses the elegance of Apple's iPad and the explosive popularity of social networking to create a personalized news magazine.
Time magazine named it one of its top five tech inventions of 2010.
Flipboard is a free application designed for the iPad that scours people's social networks such as Twitter and Facebook to discover news articles, photo updates, and videos that friends have shared or recommended online.
The application then takes that content -- be it newly uploaded family photos from a sibling or a news article re-tweeted by a co-worker -- and compiles it into a stylish digital magazine.
Imagine if every Vanity Fair issue were laid out uniquely for each reader, but instead of Hollywood actors spread across the page it had photos of a niece's recent prom party or an article from the local paper about the boss's Rotary Club fundraiser. That is Flipboard -- news with a personal touch.
And yes, it might also display photos of movie stars and swimsuit models, or news about a recent national tragedy or tough economic news. But the content is always tailored to the individual, depending on what a person's social network is buzzing about.
Wired magazine called it "a godsend for readers." Apple crowned Flipboard as its coveted App of the Year.
Some media publishers are equally enthusiastic, partnering with the company to change the way they deliver information to readers.
Doll, 29, who co-founded the company with Silicon Valley veteran Mike McCue, 43, found himself at the center of a tech craze after Flipboard launched in July.
Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher invested in the company. Famed tech investor John Doerr dropped by Flipboard's Palo Alto office one day with coffee for the bedraggled team. Even rap icon MC Hammer popped in to say hi after he spoke at nearby Stanford.
"It was totally surreal," Doll said last week, sipping tea at a Palo Alto coffee shop that doubles as a conference room for the rapidly growing company. "I'm still not exactly sure how to process it."
Long hours. Hard work. Commitment.
Despite the down economy, the staple ingredients of pursuing the American Dream still paid off for Doll.
"We pretty much worked nonstop between March and July," Doll said.
Flipboard is Doll's first startup.
After graduating from Stanford in 2003 with a degree in computer science, Doll landed a job as an engineer at Apple, where he helped design the original iPhone. Those were good times for Doll. Working at Apple was his dream job. It was something he had aspired to since the early 1990s, when in middle school he started attending meetings of the North Coast Mac Users Group in Santa Rosa.