The Dropcam Team
You may have seen Reed Albergotti’s recent article. In it, Tony Fadell says “a lot of the employees were not as good as we hoped,” and that Dropcam was “a very small team and unfortunately it wasn’t a very experienced team.”
I would almost find such blatant scapegoating amusing if it weren’t so insulting to the team. Given that, I feel compelled to set the record straight.
Just before we were acquired, Dropcam was in the middle of a record year of sales, had a 4.5-star bestselling camera on Amazon, was rolling into large brick-and-mortar retailers with huge merchandising support, had innovative new products imminently launching, still had most of its financing in the bank, and our investors and team actively didn’t want to sell (it was my mistake to sell — but that’s a story for another day). We created positive ROI marketing campaigns, mass-manufactured a sophisticated hardware device, and built a cloud video service that processed more incoming video than YouTube. We pioneered one of the first hardware-service models in our industry with a 40%+ conversion rate paid subscription and better-than-Netflix churn — now a gold standard used by VCs looking for related investments. And we accomplished all of this while remaining a really great place to work.
I can’t publish Dropcam’s revenue, but if you knew what percentage of all of Alphabet’s “other bets” revenue was brought in by the relatively tiny 100-person Dropcam team that Fadell derides, Nest itself would not look good in comparison. So, if Fadell wants to stick by his statement, I challenge him to release full financials (easy prediction: he won’t).
The ~50 Dropcam employees who resigned did so because they felt their ability to build great products being totally crushed. 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 1200-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.
On the surface, Dropcam might have looked like a little gadget company. But we and our customers knew it was more. There are all kinds of moments — crazy, beautiful, and terrible — happening in the world and Dropcam’s ultimate vision was to help customers capture them for posterity. I often received letters from Dropcam customers about the profound impact our products had on their lives, from capturing baby’s first words, to putting burglars behind bars, to documenting disasters, to exonerating victims of police brutality. I haven’t found another company with exactly the same mission, and I don’t want to see that mission die.
There is a lot that I could say about my extreme differences on management style with the current leadership at Nest, who seem to be fetishizing 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.