Tony Fadell and the Making of Nest

While I was based in Silicon Valley, I had the fortune of listening to Tony Fadell and the evolution of the Nest thermostat at a tech event. My scribbles are really hard to read so here’s a few things probably only I can read from my oooooold notes:

  • At some point when you’re tackling a BHAG you will hear “we’ve tried it before, give it up.” But as you start to succeed, those voices can switch to “how can we help you?”
  • If you have something newsworthy, people will write it up. If you fail to get it out the door, the headline will be, “Finally they shipped!” For that reason, keeping it under wraps is a good thing.
  • Be sure to understand the details of your business and be aware of the gaps on your team. Don’t be afraid to say that the gaps exist.
  • Don’t spend all your time talking about your ideas. Explain how it will come true. You can’t have just co-founders for your ideas — you need partners. They need to become “our” ideas.
  • Everything you thought you could plan out perfectly will not turn out. So knowing all the details prepares you for how to pivot most efficiently. Being hands-on is a good thing at this stage.
  • Be nimble and don’t forget that “it will be simple” is never true. Have strict adherence to one concept and get it one. “Reinventing unloved products in the home” is where all focus sat for Nest.
  • Quarterly earnings never match up to the 5-year plan so easily. He never wanted to go public and was laserbeam focused on building a strong business with strong margins.
  • Because when you’re worried about the money, you stop worrying about the product. (And I would say, about the people and how they feel <too.)

“The thing that keeps me up at night is the temptation to do more. I knew I shouldn’t and needed to stay focused.”

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