Two high-level employees at Nest have departed the company this week, The Verge has learned. Sources say that Nest's vice president of technology Yoky Matsuoka, as well as Greg Duffy who co-founded Dropcam, are no longer with the company. Matsuoka was previously the head of innovation at Google, as well as a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. She's leaving to join Twitter. Duffy joined Nest when Dropcam was acquired for $555 million last June.
Nest did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The want for a better robotic hand
Matsuoka's rise has been particularly remarkable. She came to the US from Tokyo pursuing a professional tennis career before injuries sidelined her. A love for robotics led to her working on a project to create a better robotic hand, as well as a "tennis buddy" that would volley shots back in a way that was proportionate to a player's skill level (which sadly did not come to fruition). She joined on as founding member of Google X (Google's highly secretive lab) in 2011, eventually joining Nest to lead its technology team, which creates the inner workings of the company's thermostat and smoke detector. Her new position at Twitter will be the company's vice president of technology and analytics. Her first two follows on the service were Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo and its VP of engineering Alex Roetter.
As for Duffy, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, he co-founded Dropcam after selling his email search company Xobni to Yahoo. Dropcam went from using off-the-shelf cameras to custom-made hardware and lens optics to capture video for its cloud recording service, eventually moving to a swanky office in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood.
I grew up at Dropcam, and I'm going to miss it dearly. But there are exciting things on the horizon. If you'd like, stay tuned!— gduffy (@gduffy) January 31, 2015
Since the acquisition last year, there have been suggestions of a culture clash emerging between Dropcam employees and Nest. According to a report in Strictly VC back in November, Nest's "meeting culture" had zapped creativity out of Dropcam, leaving many longtime employees concerned. And anonymous sources from inside the company tell TechCrunch that the two major departures this week have come as a surprise and are painful to accept as both Duffy and Matsuoka were very popular. In addition, it's said that there's some turmoil inside the company as employees have been told to work Saturdays until the spring in order to ship a new camera product, codenamed Quartz. Internal emails from co-founders Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers also show that a major reorganization is occurring inside the company following the departures this week.
There have also been larger questions about what would happen to the company's hardware roadmap once it was a part of Nest and Google, something that remains unanswered. However, this week Dropcam promised to dole out free cameras to longtime users with outdated hardware, suggesting the company's cloud recording service still has plenty of life left in it.
Update January 30th, 11:59PM: Added Duffy's tweet, and note about Matsuoka's recent Twitter adoption (via Engadget).
Update January 31st, 9:48AM: Added information from internal emails sent to TechCrunch.
Update February 2nd, 10:17PM: Matsuoka has announced (on Twitter) that her new role is Twitter's vice president of technology and analytics, which thankfully does not rule out the possibility of the company making robotic hands. This post has been updated with that information.