Technology

Nest chief Tony Fadell attacked by Dropcam's founder

Tony Fadell Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tony Fadell is accused of acting like a tyrant

The chief of Nest - the internet-connected home tech specialist - has been attacked in a blog by the founder of Dropcam, the video camera start-up it acquired less than two years ago.

Greg Duffy accused Tony Fadell of "insulting" Dropcam employees who had joined Nest as part of the takeover.

He also suggested Mr Fadell had "fetishised" some of the worst traits of Apple's Steve Jobs.

Neither Nest nor its owner Alphabet - Google's parent - have responded.

But in an interview published by the Information news site last week, Mr Fadell was quoted as saying: "A lot of [Dropcam's] employees were not as good as we hoped. It was a very small team and unfortunately it wasn't a very experienced team."

The article said Nest later clarified that this only referred to Dropcam employees who had left the business following the merger.

Mr Duffy is among their number.

One expert called the affair "embarrassing".

"American corporates are usually surprisingly discreet and manage to keep grief hidden behind their walls," commented Matthew Gwyther, editor of Management Today.

"You've obviously got an enormous personality ego clash between the two men.

"But I bet this kind of thing is far more common than we normally hear."

Image copyright Nest
Image caption Dropcam was refashioned into the Nest Cam, which streams video and sound to a paired app

Lost workers

Mr Duffy said he posted his thoughts to Medium's site to "set the record straight".

"The 50 Dropcam employees who resigned did so because they felt their ability to build great products being totally crushed," he said.

"All of us have worked at big companies before, where it is harder to move fast. But this is something different, as evidenced by the continued lack of output from the currently 1,200-person team and its virtually unlimited budget.

"According to LinkedIn, total attrition to date at Nest amounts to nearly 500 people, which suggests that we were not alone in our frustrations."

He also challenged Mr Fadell to publish Nest's accounts to reveal how well its internet cameras were faring compared to its smart thermostats and net-connected smoke alarms.

And he attacked Mr Fadell's management style.

Image copyright Nest
Image caption Nest continues to add features to its existing products but has not launched a new category since the Nest Cam last June

"The current leadership of Nest... seems to be fetishising only the most superfluous and negative traits of their mentors. For the sake of the customers and for the talented employees that remain there, I hope they find a way through these struggles."

This appears to be a reference to Mr Fadell's time working alongside Apple's late chief executive Steve Jobs. The two - along with others - developed first the iPod and then the iPhone.

"I've built a lot of my success off finding these truly gifted people and not settling for B and C players, but really going for the A players," Mr Jobs said in an interview.

Apple's co-founder famously added that settling for B players risked creating a "bozo explosion... that kind of company never ever succeeds".

'Tyrant bureaucrat'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionTony Fadell talks to the BBC's Leo Kelion about Google Glass, driverless cars and other ambitions

According to the Information, Mr Fadell and Mr Duffy repeatedly clashed in the brief time they worked together.

Mr Fadell recalls telling Mr Duffy he had not "earned" the right to report directly to him.

In turn, Mr Duffy says he told Nest's co-founder that he was running the division like "a tyrant bureaucrat".

It is also reported that Mr Duffy tried and failed to convince Alphabet's chief executive Larry Page to sack Mr Fadell and let him take charge.

Mr Duffy says he now thinks it was a "mistake" to have sold his firm to Nest for $555m (£385m).

Image copyright Nest
Image caption The Nest Cam allows its owners to keep any eye on their home when they are out

"Larry Page is said to be a friend of Fadell, but he would do very well to stay completely out of it," remarked Mr Gwyther.

"It looks terrible to appear to be taking sides against people in your organisation.

"But the wider affair is a reflection of the incredibly high expectations that there are of these tech companies - that you think stuff will happen very quickly and work pretty fast.

"But it's a reminder that it's not always straightforward, and there can be stumbles along the way when trying to create new products."

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