When Tony Fadell stepped back from Nest in June, he gave a simple explanation: “I’m a guy who’s at the beginning of things. I don’t like to do maintenance mode. It’s not what gets me out of bed.”
Given Nest's rocky track record since being acquired by Google, it's hard not interpret those comments in a somewhat negative way. Since becoming a part of Google (and then Alphabet), Nest hasn't lived up to its reputation as a company revolutionizing ordinary devices in the home. Sales of its smart thermostats have not hit expectations, it has experienced long product delays, and its acquisition of Dropcam turned into a public relations mess.
So is Nest in maintenance mode? Not necessarily. It finally released its outdoor camera this month. And it continues to create new partnerships in the solar and utility market, where it can build on the success of its learning thermostat. But Nest is undeniably a little bruised from the bad press it's received lately.
Despite the public criticism of his management style, Tony Fadell sounds like a man excited about the future -- and very proud of his work at both Apple and Nest.
Last week, Randy Komisar of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers sat down with Fadell for the Ventured podcast. Fadell talked in great detail about what he learned from Steve Jobs while at Apple, what it takes to design a truly unique consumer product, how to find the right group of people to launch a venture or lead a team, and how he got the idea for Nest.
"We were doing AI before anyone was talking about it," said Fadell, referring to the learning thermostat. "There's only a few companies in the U.S. who really understand this stuff."
Fadell wrapped up the conversation by indirectly addressing some of the criticism about Nest: "If it feels to easy, if the money's coming in too easy, if the product's coming out too easily, you're not trying hard enough or you're not paying attention. You gotta always be right on the edge."
The interview is worth a listen.