Did Apple's Poaching Kill An Electric Motorcycle Startup?

Illustration for article titled Did Apple's Poaching Kill An Electric Motorcycle Startup?

A recent Reuters article suggests that it was Apple’s poaching of electric motorcycle manufacturer Mission Motors’ engineering team that did the now-bankrupt company in. I’m not sure if things are quite as clear as that, but it is true that Apple got some electric drive engineers, and Mission Motors is now gone.

Apple has been coyly doing and planning something with electric cars for some time, and part of that doing and planning involves getting engineers who understand electric drive systems. And sometimes that “getting” means “poaching” these engineers from other companies, at least two of which came from Mission Motors.

Mission Motors, which filed for bankruptcy back in August, did develop a remarkably good electric motorcycle (at least according to our pal Wes), but they also had a lot of difficulty developing a viable business plan, getting investors, and had never actually gotten to the point of making money.


The engineering team at Mission certainly seemed to be desirable, capable, and well-suited to Apple’s still-not-admitted electric car development desires. Mission engineers had periodically branched out from electric motorcycle design to more general electric drivetrain design, developing electric drivetrains for low-volume and exciting shops like Mugen and McLaren.

So, was it Apple’s stealing away of Mission’s engineering team members that caused the company to fail, like Reuters suggests? The article does mention one investor that withdrew right after two engineers jumped ship to Apple, after all.

I’m going to say no. Maybe even “what? fuck no.” In fact, as one unnamed source inside Mission told us, the idea that Apple’s poaching is what killed the company is:

“All bullshit, but I’m going to use that angle when I’m taking interviews.”

So, yeah. Things aren’t so simple. I’m sure Apple’s poaching was a factor but, let’s face it, Mission was never exactly a stable firm to begin with. Even if they had managed to get the Mission RS electric motorcycle to market, despite its great performance and cutting-edge tech, it’s still a $60,000 bike that has an operable range a fraction of a gas bike, and still takes hours to charge. At this stage of battery technology and infrastructure, this would be a niche product at best for the near-term.


So, sure, Apple’s zombie-like hunger for brains didn’t help Mission, but I’m not so sure I can totally agree with Reuter’s claim that

Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) aggressive recruitment of auto experts as it explores building a car has left a promising, if financially troubled, electric motorcycle startup in the dust.


The truth is any startup is a gamble, and something like this even more so. Electric motorcycles will come, Apple or not, but it just wasn’t Mission’s time yet.

Contact the author at jason@jalopnik.com.

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I know “poaching” is the term used for this kind of situation, but leaving one job for another because the other company offered you more sounds like a pretty great plan from a personal point of view. Its not like they were carried away against their wills in spotless white vans or anything. Bummer for the guys left behind, but I don’t think its fair to blame apple for needing talented engineers and then offering employment.