Many people were wondering what former Fox News host Glenn Beck was doing at a tech conference in San Francisco. A few attendees asked him that question before he went on stage Wednesday at Launch Festival 2015.
Conference host Jason Calacanis told Beck that he was there because he had an outsider's perspective on Silicon Valley, and Calacanis wanted to know what it was.
"What excites me about the group of people here and in Silicon Valley, this is a group of people that still believe that tomorrow can be better," Beck said.
Whether or not audience members thought this sounded like pandering, Beck eventually won over a good number of them, drawing a few long rounds of applause as he discussed entrepreneurship, technology and global policy with Calacanis.
Beck, who is known for his past feverish tirades on Fox -- he memorably questioned whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency had set up concentration camps and if President Obama was transforming the country into a socialist nation -- appeared much more measured than he did in the many video clips that Daily Show viewers remember watching in the late 2000s.
Today Beck himself is an entrepreneur. After leaving Fox, he founded The Blaze, an Internet news and opinion channel, in 2011. The website has an average of more than 25 million unique visitors per month.
Calacanis asked Beck if he regretted being part of today's polarizing mass media world. Beck answered, yes, but he avoided elaborating much on his past.
"This is what's growing and this is what's so exciting about entrepreneurs that now can connect -- you don't need the media," Beck said. He then explained why he's so fond of the companies coming out of Silicon Valley.
"Look it's freedom. Get this stuff out of our way. I trust my neighbor. Generally speaking, I trust corporations much more than I trust the government," he said. "The smaller the company, the more I trust because you're my neighbor, I know you."
Those companies can have the ability to affect progress much more so than government, according to Beck. He related a story about Walt Disney's ability to mobilize Americans around space exploration in the 1950s.
"He believed that man could go to space and to the moon. Nobody believed that at the time," Beck explained. "So he got [animator] Ward Kimball together with ... a guy who was leading that technology and said: Tell the story."
Their television episode called "Man in Space" aired in 1955. It described the history of rockets and the implications of space travel.
"The story goes that [President Dwight] Eisenhower called Walt and said, 'Walt you son of a bitch you did it. I've been trying to convince The Pentagon that we could go to space. You did something more important. You just convinced the American people,'" Beck said.
Beck called on the today's innovative minds to narrate their own version of the future.
"Once you convince the American people we can do something, we can do it. We have that opportunity again right now," he said.