Tony Fadell is leaving Nest, the home automation company he founded and sold to Google (now Alphabet). He'll be stepping into an advisor role to Larry Page and Alphabet, but won't be involved in Nest day-to-day. According to a blog post he just put up, the transition has been in progress since "late last year" — but recent reports of turmoil, a disastrous acquisition of Dropcam, and delays at Nest plus Tony's new electric go-kart company Actev Motors have certainly fueled a sense that change would be coming one way or another.
"I don't like to do maintenance mode," Fadell told The New York Times about his departure. "It's not what gets me out of bed."
Nest's new CEO will be Marwan Fawaz, who was previously CTO of cable company Charter and worked at Motorola Home. Tony's statement specifically calls out the fact that he's leaving the company with a two-year roadmap in place, so we'll see if Nest can ship anything new in the near term — after the well-regarded Nest Learning Thermostat arrived six years ago, the Nest Protect smoke detector and the rebranded Nest Cam haven't made a huge dent in the exploding Internet of Things / home automation market.
Google acquired Nest in 2014, and after the search reorganized itself into Alphabet, Nest became one of those divisions, separate from Google. But since then, Nest hasn't had much in the way of good press. Fadell attended the Code Conference earlier this week, but gave no public indication that he would be leaving the company. A spokesperson for Next said that Fadell would be working more with some of the startups that he funds, including Phononic, Actev, Mousera, and Impossible Foods.
Here's Tony's statement:
Last year, I began discussions with members of my team about my next endeavor. After six years of working on Nest, leading it through 4.5 years of double-digit growth and consistently high marks from customers, I leave Nest in the hands of a strong and experienced leadership team, with Marwan at the helm and a well-defined, two-year product roadmap in place. I’m looking forward to my new role as an advisor to Alphabet and Larry, which will give me more time and flexibility to pursue new opportunities to create and disrupt other industries - and to support others who want to do the same - just as we’ve done at Nest.
And here's Larry Page:
Under Tony’s leadership, Nest has catapulted the connected home into the mainstream, secured leadership positions for each of its products, and grown its revenue in excess of 50% year over year since they began shipping products. He’s a true visionary and I look forward to continuing to work with him in his new role as advisor to Alphabet. I’m delighted that Marwan will be the new Nest CEO and am confident in his ability to deepen Nest’s partnerships, expand within enterprise channels, and bring Nest products to even more homes.
In a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg, Fadell vociferously defended his record at Nest, including the products the company shipped and the money it made. He also had this to say about his future:
I don’t know why I feel this way, but between working closely with Bill Campbell, working closely with Steve Jobs and watching a lot of my mentors pass on, unfortunately, I feel like I bear this responsibility now. There’s a few of us who are keepers of that knowledge.
That doesn't amount to specific plans, but it absolutely amounts to a lot of ambition. It seems obvious that Fadell intends to get back into making new products — and probably something more than go-karts.