Tony Fadell Profiled as Only Steve Jobs Disciple with Post-Apple Success

Before switching to products made for the home, he made a name for himself in mobile: He is known as the mercurial “godfather” of the iPod, and he led the group that worked on the first three versions of the iPhone. Fortune profiles the ex-Apple executive, the founder of Nest, and now Google employee, Tony Fadell.

Tony Fadell

Fadell joined Apple in 2001 as a consultant, hired to support the new iPod team, but he quickly developed a combative reputation as he fought with Rubinstein, with Scott Forstall, and frequently with Steve Jobs.

Adam Lashinsky points to a legend that Jobs periodically fired Fadell. He, however, says that he repeatedly quit, and recounted at least two resignations.

One time, after key members of his iPod team had been raided for another Apple project, Fadell informed Jobs he was done, and the CEO asked him to stay, telling Fadell he was overreacting. “I said, ‘I’m not overreacting.’ I told him I was out. If you didn’t stand up for yourself, no one else would.”

Lashinsky describes the relationship between Fadell and Jobs as one that fluctuated between the father/son and school principal/naughty student archetypes.

“He thought I asked too many questions,” says Fadell. “I would just keep asking, ‘Well, what about that? What about that?’ And he’d say, ‘Enough already.’ It would frustrate him. But then he’d ask me a ton of questions, and he could frustrate me, and I’d be like, ‘Steve, leave me alone.’”

Ultimately, Fadell retired from Apple in 2008 and launched a startup in home automation two years later, which became Nest. Now, looking back, he wishes that he had been able to show his project, Nest, to Jobs:

If there’s one thing that gnaws at Fadell, it’s that he never got to tell Jobs about Nest. The two had corresponded, with Jobs checking in to express interest in Fadell’s stealthy startup, which, Fadell had told him, had an energy-conservation aspect to it. (A key selling point to the original Nest device is that it saves electricity by knowing when its owners don’t need it.) By the time Fadell was ready to share more in the summer of 2011, however, Jobs had grown gravely ill, and he died several weeks later. “I would have loved to have been able to show it to him, but the timing didn’t work,” he says. Jobs presumably would have been proud of Fadell. And he almost certainly would have asked a lot of questions.

Nest’s successful launch is attributable to the “unusually experienced executives” for a startup: Fadell, co-founder Matt Rogers, and Shige Honjo, senior-level radio-spectrum expert, a former Apple employee. This immediately gave the startup credibility with suppliers.

Fast-forward to today, and Fadell is now part of the Google family, as the search giant inked a deal with the startup for $3.2 billion. Despite being a Google employee now, Fadell runs Nest as an independent company.

The lengthy article is a must-read for any fan interested in Fadell’s time with Apple and much more.

Image source: Wikipedia