I was surprised yesterday when I saw that respected news service Reuters was pushing a story about how Apple was the reason Mission Motors closed its doors.
That very premise couldn’t be farther from the truth, and is readily apparent to anyone who has followed the San Franciscan startup at even a casual distance for the past few years.
On its face, the story’s logic is akin to the idea that the Carpathia, the first ship to arrive at the wreckage of Titanic, should be accused of poaching the ill-fated ocean liner’s passengers, but digging deeper into the story shows how toothless our media has become, and its willingness to parrot stories that will grab headlines.
The premise of the of the assertions made by the Reuters article’s headline rests on statements made by one of Mission Motors’s former-CEOs, Derek Kaufman, who like our comedic parody of the Captain of the Titanic, blamed the iceberg for his misfortunes.
You see according to the mind of Kaufman, Apple poached away some of Mission Motors’s top engineers, which in-turn caused investors to shy away from funding the startup further.
This narrative of course ignores the Lord of the Flies back story that was going on at Mission Motors at the time of his tenure, which was right around the same time that the startup started to see its talent leave for greener pastures.
This statement was then naively latched upon by Reuters, for reasons I have trouble understanding, though it is obvious that the article’s spinning of the story benefits Kaufman greatly, as it moves the demise of Mission Motors away from Kaufman’s lap, and into the hands of the big evil multi-national company.
Let me cough into my hand right now, to cover up the “bullshit” I plan on yelling out loud.
I met the Mission Motors team right after it changed its name from Hum Cycles, and I was also there in time to see that Mission’s first product, the Mission One, which was a bit too out there for general consumption.
Like the Reuters story states, it was a great machine that woefully was not ready for public consumption, but what the Reuters story does not add is that the bike was never near ready for the marketplace, as it had massive battery pack life issues.
Around this same time, Mission Motors had what can only be described as an internal power struggle, as the company followed the investor money away from making electric motorcycles, towards producing electric drive train components for vehicle manufacturers. At this time, the last of the founding team left the startup, and a new generation leadership and talent took control of the company.
Bringing a motorcycle to market might be one of the most difficult tasks a startup can face, but being an OEM drive train supplier isn’t too far off either.
With few, if any, real clients to speak of, and a massive team of engineers to pay, Mission Motors began its long decline. Somewhere along that decline Mission Motors divested its motorcycle project from the company, allowing Mission Motorcycles to be formed as a separate, but parallel, company.
The problem with Mission Motorcycles is that CEO Mark Seeger, who in my opinion is probably the biggest shyster I have ever encountered in this business, likely doomed any hopes of the Mission R/RS ever coming to market, and unfortunately also means many of the company’s early reservation won’t see their deposits ever again.
There was talk at one point of Mission Motors and Mission Motorcycles recombining as one company, but that proved to be more smoke and mirrors from Seeger that didn’t come to fruition, and by this point in time Seeger was embroiled in legal trouble of his own with ex-Mission Motorcycle employees.
Eventually the dust settled around both companies, as they closed their doors, and entered Silicon Valley’s deadpool.
While Mission Motorcycles was likely doomed from its start, Mission Motors was more the victim of its own internal struggles, lack of focus in its business operations, and generally poor leadership through difficult and turbulent waters.
Mission Motors went through four CEOs in the six years I have followed them – that in itself should speak of the troubles found at the company.
Two radical business plans later, fruitless client deals with Honda, Mugen, and Harley-Davidson, and a payroll it could never sustain…it doesn’t take an MBA to decipher what really killed Mission Motors. Here’s hint, it doesn’t rhyme with Apple.
So instead of this alternate universe reality where Apple poached talent from Mission Motors, thus causing Mission’s ultimate closure, let’s instead call things the way they are: Mission Motors collapsed in on itself like a dying star, and the supremely talented people who worked there had little trouble finding jobs at the hottest companies in Silicon Valley afterwards.
I should give credit where credit is due, of course. At least the author in the Reuters story was able to distinguish and separate Mission Motors from Mission Motorcycles as the two distinct companies that they are…the same cannot be said of the “professionals” in the tech and motorcycle space.
As of this writing Engadget, 9TO5 Mac, Jalopnik, AutoBlog, and a bevy of motorcycle industry publications are still posting stories that freely intermix together the names and facts of Mission Motors and Mission Motorcycles, confusing the narratives that follow both of these distinct companies. Le sigh.