Tim Cook featured at StartupFest this morning, in an interview with Neelie Kroes discussing Apple’s influence in startups and entrepreneurship culture. Cook covered many topics including the role of entrepreneurs and the App Stor, the startup climate in Europe, economic optimism, technology in education, Apple Watch and more. We’ve included some snippets of the talk below …

In the interview, Tim Cook says Apple gives entrepreneurs the ability to sell their app instantly worldwide through the App Store. Apple provides technical and marketing assistance to clear the path so the developer can focus on their product. Most young companies should be principally focused on the product; Apple tries to help ease the frictions to fuel more entrepreneurs to do exactly that. Apple is bringing an app development center in Naples to kickstart the app economy in places it hasn’t yet been.

Cook commented on the impact of Europe on startups too; he said Europe has great rules of law to help institutions stabilize their businesses with strong foundations of certainty in the legal system. He also doesn’t see a problem raising capital and VC funding in Europe. Cook also asserted that investing in people comes first, quoting the proverb: ‘If you want to prosper for a year, plant gain. If you want to prosper for ten years, plant tress. If you want to prosper for a hundred years, invest in people.’

In regards to education, Cook said that coding should be a required component of school curriculmn. Cook voiced his wish to make coding a requirement at the fourth or fifth grade, leading to more diversity in tech and more people interested in the field. Cook said that coding has an intersection with many skills, such as medical or environmental engineering. It is not a thing done just by certain people — it is absorbing everything. Cook said that ‘we are doing our kids a disservice if we are not introducing them’ to the field in that way. At higher education, he believes that there should be tighter links between private business and venture capital to provide pipelines for young companies who often hire straight from universities.

Cook specifically targeted healthcare as a point of disruption for apps to tackle big problems even today, whether to simplify administration or to drive improvements to provisioned care. For enterprise, although a lot of companies have deployed iPhones and smartphones to their employees, few use sophisticated apps to help their business. An iPhone can be used for much more than just email and web browsing. He said we are still ‘in the early innings’ of the app economy.

For the economy, Tim said there is a vibrance in Europe he hasn’t felt for a while and is encouraged for Apple’s products and the wider economy in the region. Kroes brought up the age-old debate about Apple’s “closed” platforms. Cook responded by saying that an App Store will 2 million apps is not that closed. The App Store approval process provides curation of quality, which leads to user confidence in buying and downloading more apps. He also reiterated his strong views about privacy, arguing that it is Apple’s job to implement strong privacy and encryption for its products as customers depend on Apple to protect themselves. Cook made an analogy to a parcel delivery, saying Apple is more like the Fedex carrier … delivering a sealed message.

As usual, Cook evasively dodged specific questions about Apple’s future company strategy and product portfolio. However, he said to look at things that right now don’t drive revenue pinpointing healthcare and health research with frameworks like ResearchKit and CareKit. Cook also specifically mentioned the entertainment business, suggesting there’s a lot left to do with TV and Apple would like to be a catalyst in entertainment.

For Apple Watch, Cook said that one day you will look back and will wonder how people lived without Watch. According to Cook, the holy grail with Watch is being able to monitor more and more about you and what is going in your body. He admitted the vision is not possible with today’s technology but it will be in the coming years. A device that knew that much about you would extend life, Cook implored.

The conversation ended with a message to businesses. Cook said it’s crucial not to get full of yourself, not to smoke your own exhaust. He said as companies grow, they worry about making new products because it might kill off the old product, so they begin to compromise. ‘Don’t worry about cannibalizing yourself’. Moreover, Cook said that companies can get full of themselves. He said ‘they worry more about their cufflinks or if their office is nice but building great products is really key’.

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