Electric motorcycle startup shutters after losing top talent to Apple

19 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Apple Inc’s auto ambitions sideswipe electric motorcycle startup.

SAN FRANCISCO (by Julia Love) – Apple Inc’s aggressive recruitment of auto experts as it explores building a car has left a promising, if financially troubled, electric motorcycle startup in the dust.Mission Motors makes sleek electric bikes, which are similar to Tesla’s cars, and the startup was forced to cease operations in May after Apple poached a few of its top engineering talents, says the report citing sources close to Mission. As tech giants vie to define the future of personal transportation, dangling higher salaries and a more secure future, the defections can be devastating for startups, industry insiders said. But the engineering team, specializing in hardware and software for electric drive systems, including algorithms for battery charging and cooling, offered Apple a range of expertise to draw from.

But former Chief Executive Derek Kaufman thinks the company could have carried on if it had not lost key employees, undermining efforts to raise funding. “Mission had a great group of engineers, specifically electric drive expertise,” Kaufman said. “Apple knew that – they wanted it, and they went and got it.” San Francisco-based Mission is not the first to run up against Apple’s auto ambitions. Following Mission’s financial troubles, other employees joined Tesla and Harley-Davidson, the company had previously worked with the later on their electric motorcycle project: LiveWire. Meanwhile, taxi company Uber hired several dozen people from the robotics lab at Carnegie Mellon University to help kick-start its autonomous auto project. That was illustrated earlier this year when ride-hailing app Uber snatched as many as 50 people away from Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics lab, according to media reports, to help it build a self-driving car. Scot Harden, a vice president at electric bike maker Zero Motorcycles, said his company has not suffered any defections to Apple thanks to a stable base of investors.

The hires include Nancy Sun, Mission’s vice president of electrical engineering, Mark Sherwood, director of power train systems engineering, and Eyal Cohen, vice president of software and electrical engineering. The company made headlines as it unveiled its prototype: an angular, modernist racing machine that hit 150 miles (240 km) per hour in tests, a record for electric bikes.

In 2010, the company began focusing on making software and components for electric vehicles for other firms, hoping to generate revenue to support the motorcycle project. A separate company, Mission Motorcycles, was formed in 2013 to sell the bike, but it plans to file for bankruptcy, CEO Mark Seeger wrote in court papers in September. Infield Capital, the largest investor which now controls the company, is in talks with parties which may be interested in acquiring the remaining Mission Motors assets, including designs for components and software, a patent portfolio, and a battery lab, said Bill Perry, a venture adviser at the firm. They include Seth LaForge, an engineer on Google’s self-driving car project, and Jon Wagner, Tesla’s director of battery engineering – an impressive tally for a company that never numbered more than about 50 employees. “The Apples, the Googles and the Teslas really benefited from the education that those engineers were given at Mission,” one industry executive said.

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