Tim Cook kneels on a bench in Madison Square Park. “It’s absolutely amazing,” he said in a slow draw in Alabama, eyes upward with a smile. This is one of Cook’s favorite expressions. He used it four times in our 15-minute conversation, largely to describe the success of the app market and the ability of developers to build a global business out of coffee shops.
The latter is the reason for our meeting. It’s an Apple CEO’s first trip to New York in two years — he started his day at the Apple Store in SoHo, before seeing the iPhone photo gallery at the International Center of Photography on the Lower East Side — but by 11:30 a.m. we’ve met Naomi Hirabayashi and Mrs Lady, former colleagues who They turned to the founders of the mental health app Shine, which Apple believes is the best that its devices can facilitate.
Shine MO is simple: to offer comprehensive, guided meditations and daily advice. “When we looked at the way wellness is marketed or talked about on a mainstream level, it didn’t resonate,” says Hirabayashi. “I felt like it was some kind of luxury item that was sold to a certain person, a certain body type, and a certain income that could be spent.” Shine now has 4 million users in over 189 countries, while the corporate add-on, Shine at Work, is used by companies like Smile Direct Club to facilitate mentally healthy workplaces.
This isn’t the first Apple signal to reinforce this particular endeavor. In 2019, Shine was selected to participate in the first Apple Entrepreneur Camp, a two-week program in which founders from underrepresented communities are given exclusive access to Apple engineers, strategists and business leaders. “It could have taken years for those lessons to be learned from test and failure,” Liddy says. “So incorporating that into a really brief program was a huge motivational moment.”
Since then, the app’s growth has been upward. “We’ve seen our best growth so far from both the pandemic and then the racial justice uprising, and we haven’t changed much,” Lidy says, although the meeting with Cook marked a milestone of its own. “Our office was in the Flatiron District, which is why we will meet there,” Hirabayashi explains the day before their meeting. “This area holds a lot of special meaning to us because it is where we came up with the concept of Shine and opened our first Shine office.”
Cook wraps up with Hirabayashi and my lady by the time I arrive. It was an emotional meeting for the founders. “If someone had told us when we started working there that it would happen five years later, they would have stunned us,” Liddy says.
In the conversation that followed, I asked Cook about particularly relevant mental health apps in 2021, the way leaders can balance employee mental health and provide rigorous feedback, and why not even Steve Jobs can predict the size of the apps market.
Why is it so important to you to highlight the work that Shine does now?
Well, they won [Apple’s Best of the App Store] In 2020. And there probably hasn’t been a year that would make it more important – with the pandemic and the death of George Floyd, these things are coming together and intersecting in a way no one expected.
I think mental health is a crisis. Which has been stigmatized a lot. People have been suffering in silence and isolation for a long time. [Shine] You’ve done such a great job, bringing the community together and bringing together a number of different things that you’re going to make [change] Methodological in nature rather than a slogan. So I am very impressed with what they do and how they got started.
Shine’s founders, Naomi and his wife, tell me they find it important to talk about their mental health as leaders at work. Is this something you’ve been doing before?
yes I do. I always talk about what takes me away from the stress of the day. And for me, meditation is a walk. It’s being in nature and feeling insignificant in the world, and a lot of problems tend to look a little smaller. And I speak about it freely. I think it’s important. [Pauses] You know, I don’t have an S on my chest and a cloak on my back. I suffer from the lowest levels of the epidemic like everyone else. I know I’m lucky in many ways, but none of us are so privileged that mental health is not a major factor in life.
When I started working in magazines, this era was still a lot like The devil wears a hoodie. did you see the movie?
We are now quite far from that kind of management, but in your own business I wonder how you can reconcile being a leader and giving feedback with employee mental health. For example, when people get upset if you’re trying to give difficult feedback. Is this something you’ve struggled with before?
I think we all struggle with it because you want to be honest and upfront. But I think there is a way to do it constructively, as opposed to doing it destructively. And I do my best to always be constructive.
Yes, it is a sorcery.
Yes it is. But it is important. If you are ashamed to do this because you are afraid of him, it is also not good at all because you are not helping anyone. It’s all about being the best version of ourselves, and when you look at it that way, you tend to let go of your defense.
It’s interesting that you draw attention to an app like Shine, when the conversation about technology is so fraught, especially with recent reports on how Facebook and Instagram are affecting young people. Is this something that weighs you down?
I have always believed that technology should serve humanity and not the other way around. And I’ve always been worried about people using technology a lot. And so, we came up with Screen Time to try and give people a real read of how much time they really spend on their devices because overall it’s a lot more than they say.
But that’s just one element. It’s also what you do [on them]. I often worried about endless scrolling, surrounding yourself with negativity etc. So to go up with a company like Shine and have people check it out – that’s a great use of our technology because it serves humanity. Their whole company is built on this. This is how we view the world. We want people to do things using their devices, like gallery photography that we enjoyed together, or connect with family and friends with FaceTime. Endless, mindless scrolling.
Have you ever gotten into a downward spiral where you were using a device in such a way that you later thought “Oh, actually, that’s not cool”?
likely. Like many people, I found that when we published Screen Time, my appreciation for what I was doing was different from reality, and it caused me to change. I hope everyone goes through this process.
In a different direction, I was looking back when the App Store was first launched in 2008 and Steve Jobs predicted its success. The market has now largely exceeded its expectations. What do you think of her success that made it so hard to predict?
[Smiles] I think we all live in a little box of what things are right now. Apple does a great job of not doing this with the products, but in terms of appreciation, it is [more difficult]. At the time, our hunch was that everyone eventually wanted a smartphone, but we didn’t imagine how quickly that would happen. Because I remember we talked about “Should Apple make a feature phone?” If you remember them. But we felt, “No, no, no — the future is the smartphone, so let’s put our energies out there.”
But no one – none of us – would have guessed that there would be 1.8 million apps in the Store, that there would be more than two million people in the United States alone working on apps, and that commerce across the Store’s ecosystem last year was just over $170 billion. in the United States. The App Store ecosystem around the world saw 643 billion worth of bills and sales in 2020. These were all things beyond imagination at the time. Think about it – it’s an economic miracle. This is why [apps like Shine] It could have a global business. I mean, they started a global business out of a coffee shop.
Naomi and his wife were also part of the Apple Entrepreneur Camp. Can you tell me a little bit about how and why Apple supports the developer community?
There are approximately 30 million registered developers worldwide. This is amazing, and what we’ve tried to do is make it easier by providing a lot of developer tools where people don’t have to do the hard work, but can focus on their passion. You don’t have to worry about coming up with developer tools and all that kind of stuff. We are trying to level the playing field, so that anyone with a great idea can start a global business.
Finally, apart from Shine, what are your favorite apps?
[Smiles] I like a lot of them. Not sure how to choose between them.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.