Apple CEO Tim Cook opened a new startup hub at the University of Oxford on Wednesday called The Oxford Foundry.
The facility, based out of a Victorian building previously used as an ice factory and a student night club, has been backed with a $US1 million donation from LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.
It will aim to support entrepreneurial students as they look to set up and grow their own companies.
The Oxford Foundry — a part of the university’s Saïd Business School — will be open to all students, as well as Oxford alumni. There will be an exclusive startup accelerator programme where students with the best ideas will be housed and given mentorship.
Speaking at the launch, Louise Richards, vice chancellor of the University of Oxford, said The Oxford Foundry is “going to build on the entrepreneurial skills of 23,000 students across the university.”
Cook told students about his own university experience, before passing on a few words of wisdom.
“By the time I was in Duke [University] I had begun to think what is my purpose in life,” he said. “I was struggling with a lot of things personally and professionally at that time. It began to dawn on me then that the purpose of life wasn’t to love your job but to serve humanity. The outcome of that would mean that you’ll love your job.
“I began to switch companies and jobs and sort of be on this search and then one day out of the blue Steve [Jobs] has come back to Apple and essentially fired everybody that was working for him at that time and began to recruit. It was only after I joined Apple that my values and my work began to align.”
Not every startup succeeds and Cook gave some advice on what to do when things aren’t working out.
“Look in the mirror and watch the person breath,” he said. It didn’t kill you. You’re not dead. So it’s not the biggest thing in the world. I do that several times a day when things aren’t going well.”
He went on to tell students at the launch of The Oxford Foundry how important it is to become a leader. “I think it’s very important that everyone has leadership skills,” he said.
“Some people get tripped up on that leadership is a static thing or that the manager is the leader. We don’t run Apple like that.”
The launch of The Oxford Foundry comes just weeks after startup investor Tom Hulme, a partner at Alphabet-owned GV (formerly Google Ventures), told Business Insider that Cambridge University has the edge on Oxford when it comes to technology startups. Oxford fired back, saying this was not the case.
“One of the interesting challenges of Oxford is, if you look at their base of academic research, it is world class,” said Hulme. “And I don’t think that’s ever translated into a throughput of startups.”
Cambridge has produced a number of sizeable technology companies including Autonomy, Cambridge Silicon Radio, and ARM. By comparison, Oxford has had fewer successes of the same magnitude.