Mission aborted: Electric motorcycle startup files for bankruptcy, was Apple's EV to blame?

Mission Motors electric motorcycle
Promo image Mission Motors

Mission Motors, which was founded in San Francisco in 2007 to make high-performance electric motorcycles, showed a lot of promise. But unfortunately, the company wasn't quite able to get to escape velocity... and recently crashed. The company was sometimes compared to Tesla Motors over the years, but unfortunately there's a much smaller market for fast electric motorcycles than there is for fast electric cars, so they faced an uphill battle.

The company had split itself into two companies in 2013; one that would focus on electric drivetrains and software, and another, called Mission Motorcycles, which would focus on selling the electric motorcycles that had been developed. They are now both out of business, and the CEO Mark Seeger has also filed for bankruptcy on October 15, 2015.

Mission Motors electric motorcycleMission Motors/Promo image

Apple is partly blamed for the company's demise. Their not-so-secret efforts at building an electric car mean that they are recruiting talent far and wide. They've been hiring Tesla employees, while Tesla has been hiring Apple employees... And they've also pillaged the Mission Motors team over the years:

But former Chief Executive Derek Kaufman thinks the company could have carried on if it had not lost key employees, undermining efforts to raise funding.

"Mission had a great group of engineers, specifically electric drive expertise," Kaufman said. "Apple knew that - they wanted it, and they went and got it." [...] Apple never tried to acquire Mission Motors, Kaufman said. But the engineering team, specializing in hardware and software for electric drive systems, including algorithms for battery charging and cooling, offered Apple a range of expertise to draw from.

At least two Mission employees joined Apple in 2012, according to LinkedIn profiles. Over the past year, people with knowledge of Mission estimate about a half dozen engineers moved to Apple.

Other employees also joined companies such as Tesla and Harley-Davidson, but Apple grabbed the largest share, they added. (source)

This is similar to how battery maker A123 Systems clashed with Apple over talent poaching, and ultimately settled with the company.

This is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem: Did Mission Motors fail because Apple lured its engineers away, or did the engineers feel they needed to go elsewhere because they felt Mission was in trouble? In any case, this is a sad development, and I wish the best to all the former Mission Motors employees. I'm sure that wherever they end up, they'll help create great electric vehicles.

For nostalgia's sake, here's a Mission Motors electric motorcycle featured on Jay Leno's Garage:

Reuters reports that: "Infield Capital, the largest investor which now controls the company, is in talks with parties which may be interested in acquiring the remaining Mission Motors assets, including designs for components and software, a patent portfolio, and a battery lab, said Bill Perry, a venture adviser at the firm."

Via Reuters, GCR, InsideEVs

Tags: Electric Vehicles

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