As a highly successful, multibillion dollar tech company with a reputation for innovation, it should come as no surprise that Apple has acquired some very talented and motivated employees during its nearly 40-year existence. One of the most talented longtime Apple employees may be Jony Ive, a designer whose work at the company has helped to establish his reputation as one of the most gifted industrial designers working today. Of course, not every exceptional employee that Apple has ever hired has opted to make a lifelong career at the Cupertino-based company.
Since Apple goes out of its way to hire exceptionally gifted and motivated people, it should come as no surprise that many of its employees eventually decide to go off and start their own entrepreneurial ventures. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, one of the latest prominent ex-Apple employees to start a new business is former retail chief Ron Johnson. Johnson helped the iPhone maker establish the Apple Store, a retail business that currently has the highest sales per square foot of any other U.S.-based retail store, according to market research firm eMarketer. Now Johnson is bringing his retail expertise to a new startup called Enjoy, which promises to help online shoppers better understand complex products they are interested in buying.
While it remains to be seen how successful Enjoy will become, it should be noted that ex-Apple employees have an enviable record of success when it comes to new businesses. Here are seven successful startups that have involved former Apple employees.
Co-founded by former Apple engineers Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, Nest Labs is a company that specializes in making connected thermostats and smoke detectors that can be wirelessly managed. According to Nest’s website, Fadell “led the team that created the first 18 generations of the iPod and the first three generations of the iPhone,” while Rogers “was responsible for iPod software development.”
Besides being co-founded by two former Apple employees, Nest Labs has also hired several other Apple alumni, including the Cupertino-based company’s former associate general counsel for intellectual property, Chip Lutton. So just how successful did Nest become? In January 2014, Google announced that it was buying the company for $3.2 billion in cash.
The entrepreneurial spirit at Apple apparently goes all the way to the top, as demonstrated by former Apple CEO John Sculley. Sculley co-founded Obi Mobile, a budget smartphone brand aimed at emerging smartphone markets around the world. In an interview with Gulf Business, Sculley described how his low-cost smartphone business was actually inspired by Apple’s success at the high-end of the market.
“We said how can we take Apple’s brilliance at the premier end of the market and translate it to a market that Apple has no interest to participate in?” Sculley told Gulf Business. “Which is a very different price point, but yet there are a lot of young people who just don’t have the budget to be able to buy a smartphone at a higher price.”
While Sculley believes that Obi Mobile’s budget devices are ideally suited for emerging markets, he noted that his former co-worker Steve Jobs might disagree. “Steve being Steve would say, you can do alot better,” Sculley told Gulf Business. Obi Mobile recently launched five low-cost smartphone models in the Middle East.
Android, the Google-owned rival to Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, began its life as a startup founded by former Apple engineer Andy Rubin. As detailed in The New York Times, Rubin started working for Apple in 1989 after a chance encounter with software engineering manager Bill Caswell. After he left Apple in 1992, Rubin became involved in several different innovative companies before eventually co-founding Android Inc. in 2003. Android was acquired by Google in 2005 and soon became the world’s dominant mobile operating system with an almost 85 percent share of the worldwide smartphone market, according to IDC.
While Rubin is unquestionably one of the most successful former Apple employees, he is also one of the most controversial, at least from Apple’s perspective. Although Rubin worked at Apple before the iPhone era, the Cupertino-based company has claimed in court documents that the former employee derived some inspiration for the Android platform from his time working there, as reported by FOSS Patents.
Trip Hawkins, the founder of video game maker Electronic Arts, was also an employee of Apple during the company’s early years. As described in Forbes’ profile of Hawkins, the video game entrepreneur “deliberately” pursued a job at Apple in 1978, where Steve Jobs taught him how to “think of himself as creative and unstoppable.” In 1982, Hawkins left the Cupertino-based company and founded Electronic Arts with $200,000 of profits from his Apple stock. Today, Electronic Arts has a market capitalization of over $11 billion.
Although Forbes reported that Jobs saw Hawkins’s departure as an “act of betrayal,” the two tech company pioneers had a respectful, albeit sometimes contentious relationship. While Hawkins is no longer involved with the day-to-day operations of Electronic Arts, he has gone on to lead several other startups, including a company called If You Can that makes an app that teaches children social and emotional skills.
Path, the social networking mobile app company, was co-founded by Dave Morin, a former Apple employee. While Morin may be better known for his 3-year stint at Facebook, he also previously worked at Apple from 2004 to 2006, as noted on his LinkedIn profile. While at Apple, Morin held a position in products and marketing.
As a privately held company, it’s unclear what Path’s market value is. However, according to an insider source cited by Pando Daily, Apple considered acquiring Path in order to bolster its social media presence. As noted by Pando Daily, although Path is fairly small by social platform standards, the app has been praised for its innovative design and user interface.
Flipboard is yet another social media app company that was co-founded by a former Apple employee. As noted on his LinkedIn profile page, Evan Doll was a senior iPhone software engineer at Apple before leaving the company in 2009 to launch Flipboard. The app has been widely praised for its design and Apple even selected Flipboard as its “iPad App of the Year” in 2010, as noted on Flipboard’s website.
As described on the company’s website, “Flipboard is your personal magazine, filled with the things you care about. Catch up on the news, discover amazing things from around the world, or stay connected to the people closest to you — all in one place.” The app, which has long been available for Android and iOS users, recently expanded to the Windows Phone platform, as reported by the International Business Times.
Inkling is an interactive e-book publisher and provider of the Inkling Habitat enterprise publishing platform. Company co-founder Matt Macinnis was a longtime employee of Apple, where he started as a marketing manager for education in 2002, according to his LinkedIn profile. Macinnis eventually worked his way up to senior manager of international education markets for Apple before leaving the company in 2009 to start Inkling, right before the launch of the iPad.
The company’s products have been hailed for their beautifully designed content and earlier this year, Fast Company named Inkling on its list of “The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies.” As noted by Fast Company, Inkling now allows major publishers like Pearson and Elsevier to use the Inkling Habitat platform to create their own interactive e-books. “At long last, we’re going to move consumers’ concept of the e-book well beyond the crappy text files you download to your Kindle today,” Macinnis told Fast Company.
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