Which emerging technology excites Tim Cook the most?

October 16, 2017 15:35
Apple CEO Tim Cook says investors who are keen to know about a startup's exit strategy are in it for s quick killing and should be avoided. Photo: Bloomberg

If you are an entrepreneur and you have a VC (venture capital) company steering you toward a quick exit to a tech giant like Apple or Google, “you should get up and walk out of the room”, Apple Inc. chief executive Tim Cook said.

Cook was speaking to an audience of students and would-be entrepreneurs at the opening of the Foundry startup hub in Oxford, England, on Oct. 11. In the conversation on stage, Cook discussed his personal background, work philosophy and sources of inspiration.

He also touched on his early years at Apple and his relationship with co-founder Steve Jobs.

During the Q&A session, Cook was asked how entrepreneurs should handle investors who ask them about an exit strategy. Cook said that it would be the entrepreneurs’ cue to get up and leave, adding that he would do it if he were in that situation.

“You should not be attracted to that kind of money,” he said, “because those people are not for growing your company and helping you -- they are for a quick buck and it’s not worth it.”

Another tip for would-be entrepreneurs: Recruit friends who are not like you. “Find people that are different from you, where the common thread is they want to change the world and they want to change the world by creating the product or service that you also want. If you can find that collection of people… that is the kernel of a successful company.”

One thing learned from Steve Jobs

He was also asked about his approach to balancing product design and customer satisfaction. “If you set up a focus group, most people will tell you small changes to the existing thing... If you want to go from the Sony Walkman to the iPod, someone is not likely to come up with the iPod.

“But the thing that you have to do is, your focus group is yourself — you should make products that you want to use. And not just want to use but you love,”  Cook said.

In addition Cook emphasized the importance of “staying close to your customers and listening to them and being very accessible to them”, as well having the ability to make a quick decision to kill off a product if it appears to be failing.

“I think it’s important to be able to do that -- something that you were so passionate about -- and this was another thing that Steve [Jobs] taught me actually… you’ve got to be willing to look yourself in the mirror and say I was wrong, it’s not right.”

Most exciting emerging technology

Responding to a question by an audience member about the most exciting emerging technologies -- blockchain, AI, Hyperloop and quantum computing -- Cook pointed to AR (augmented reality). “I’m incredibly excited about AR”, Cook said.

“Because I can see uses for it everywhere. I can see uses for it in education, in consumer, in entertainment, in sports. I can see it in every business that I know anything about. I see it is wide, it’s horizontal in nature.”

“I also like the fact that it doesn’t isolate. I don’t like our products being used a lot. I like our products amplifying us. And I think AR can help amplify the human connection. I’ve never been a fan of VR [virtual reality] like that because I think it does the opposite. There are clearly some cool nichey kind of things for VR. But it’s not profound in my view. AR is profound.”

Cook said Apple is making a big bet on a supportive framework in its latest mobile operating system, but he added that “[AR] will take some time. It doesn’t happen overnight but this is big and it’s good for humanity.”

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EJ Insight writer