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Apple poaching electric vehicle engineers contributed to Mission Motorcycles’ bankruptcy says CEO


San Francisco-based Mission Motorcycles, a maker of high-end electric motorcycles, recently filed for bankruptcy amid financial troubles. In the filing, current CEO Mark Seeger said the company is so low on cash that it can’t afford to pay for an attorney for the bankruptcy process, but while recently talking with Reuters, former CEO Derek Kaufman dismissed the company’s lack of money and instead blamed Mission’s demise on Apple’s poaching of top engineers… Rumors are all but confirmed that Apple has been developing its own electric vehicle under Project Titan and Kaufman wouldn’t be the first person deploring Apple’s hiring efforts for the project. Battery maker A123 Systems filed a lawsuit against Apple earlier this year for poaching five of its engineers and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has often commented on the Cupertino company trying to hire automotive engineers from Tesla.

In the case of Mission, Kaufman said Apple hired two key engineers from his team as the company was trying to close a round of funding. After the engineers left for Apple, the investors backed out and consequently more employees left.

According to Reuters, Apple hired Nancy Sun, Mission’s vice president of electrical engineering, Mark Sherwood, director of power train systems engineering, and Eyal Cohen, vice president of software and electrical engineering.

Kaufman said:

“Mission had a great group of engineers, specifically electric drive expertise. Apple knew that – they wanted it, and they went and got it.”

Following Mission’s financial troubles, other employees joined Tesla and Harley-Davidson, the company had previously worked with the later on their electric motorcycle project: LiveWire.

Before stopping their operations, Mission was working on two motorcycles: Mission RS, a racing bike. and Mission R, a street bike (see picture above). The company had developed its own system of battery pack and charging algorithms. They were advertising a range of 150 miles on a single charge.

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  1. You have got to be kidding me. This CEO is blaming Apple for his failure as a CEO and the failure of his company? What a joke. Blame everyone but the one responsible.

    • standardpull - 7 years ago

      Yeah, this guy sounds like a real amature. He should just say it: “Our employees found that working for someone else was better for them. So they left. And now we don’t have any good employees. We wish we could have forced them to stay via indentured servitude, but our lawyers, who we refuse to pay, say that might be illegal. We gave our remaining funds to a Super PAC that will ensure that laws are passed to prevent employees from quitting”.

      • scrapper666 - 7 years ago

        It’s “amateur”.

    • waxbear - 7 years ago

      But it also sounds like the typical failing startup in SF.

  2. o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

    Apple got in trouble for trying to keep their talent so I guess it makes sense to poach all the talent after that. It’s the law, everyone will cry about it (like Musk), but it happens to Apple too. It’s good for employees, bad for companies (until you need someone you don’t have).

  3. varera (@real_varera) - 7 years ago

    Yeah, cause blaming HD is not cool among bikers, lol…

  4. vecter304 - 7 years ago

    So that CEO admits that he couldn’t give anything valuable to let his company’s engineers to stay?
    And I don’t think a company that collapse because some engineers bail out is not a healthy company. Pathetic

    • Catherine Rot - 7 years ago

      Son, you are the pride of America. We need more of you.

    • Per Eriksson (@perewp7) - 7 years ago

      A small company could easily collapse if key personnel leaves.
      It is also very difficult for a small company to compete with salaries against a company with 100 billion dollars on the bank account.

  5. megajustice - 7 years ago

    As a side note, I own a Zero electric motorcycle. It’s amazing. These products are bleeding edge and there is risks to this sector. However, blaming Apple is a unique angle but not a valid one. If the business is so dependent on such key employees, then there are other issues.

  6. applewatch20152015 - 7 years ago

    Money talks…you can’t blame these engineers for looking out for themselves and their families. You can still be committed to a company and believe in what you do for them…but when a giant salary increase comes along, it’s hard to turn away. And if you take that offer to your current employer and ask them to match it (not leverage it against them), then you risk soiling your image with your current employer.

  7. PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

    “In the filing, current CEO Mark Seeger said the company is so low on cash that it can’t afford to pay for an attorney for the bankruptcy process”

    What an idiot; letting it come this far.

    • applewatch20152015 - 7 years ago

      Somebody wasn’t watching the store and probably shit his pants when he looked at their bank account the other day. HA! I hope no customers got caught up in this.

  8. Apple got in trouble for making agreements for non-poaching of employees. Now that poaching people is everywhere like the DOJ likes it, why blame Apple?

  9. Gregory Wright - 7 years ago

    You can’t blame the CEO for expressing his frustration. Its the same complaint you hear from small businesses who get driven out of business when the Walmarts, Lowes, and Home Depots move into a community. These company execs probably have worked all their lives to build something only to be destroyed by deep wallet companies. No one is at fault I guess but its understandable company execs would be frustrated. That’s the way capitalism works, winners and losers. Its all part of the game.

    • standardpull - 7 years ago

      I’ve been in engineering management for a long time. It is easy to keep people even if they get more money from somewhere else: the right project and a good team is a huge deal to engineers. Money is not the only motivator. It’s the whole package.

      But if engineers think that management and/or the project stinks, no money will convince them to stay.

      Blame Apple for having a more appealing work situation for these engineers. Or blame yourself for running a lousy company.

      • Gregory Wright - 7 years ago

        Maybe, but, the article didn’t say the engineers left because they were dissatisfied with Mission Motorcycles or that Apple was a more appealing place to work.

  10. BDKennedy (@BDKennedy) - 7 years ago

    If you have to blame someone else for your failure, then you probably weren’t doing a good job anyway.

  11. rgbfoundry - 7 years ago

    Basing your auto business in San Francisco does nothing to reduce costs.


Avatar for Fred Lambert Fred Lambert

Fred is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at Electrek. He sometimes contributes to 9to5mac and 9to5Google.