7 things former Apple employees went on to create

iPods, iPads, iPhones and Macs… Apple’s team of engineers, designers and all-round tech geniuses have created some amazing, genre-defining products in their time.

But while we all might recognize names such as Steve Jobs, Tim Cook and Jony Ive, they’re not the only ones responsible for these creations. The wider Apple team might be less celebrated, but they deserve no less credit for their roles in the design, development and execution of these must-own gadgets.

And their creative bubble doesn’t pop as soon as people leave the confines of Apple's Cupertino campus either. Former Apple employees of all levels have gone on to found huge companies and create world-changing products after receiving their ‘Sorry you’re leaving’ cards.

From Pandora to Path and Inkling to Pearl Auto, former Apple employees have been involved in the founding of many major tech startups. Among the talent pool that is the Apple team, the following are the success stories that those looking to try something new all aspire to.

1. Android – Andy Rubin

Android may be the main rival to Apple’s iOS mobile platform, but its roots lie in the work of former Apple employee Andy Rubin. A manufacturing engineer for the Cupertino company between 1989 and 1992 (although we're not sure what he was engineering), it was over a decade after his Apple exit that Rubin co-founded Android.

Rubin joined Google’s ranks in 2005 when the search giant bought out his software startup, heading up Android’s journey from new software to the world’s biggest mobile operating system until 2014.

And while Android might be his biggest success, that’s not all Rubin’s done. He’s since founded venture fund and startup incubator Playground Global, and recently teased his return to the smartphone space with the Essential Phone.

2. Nest – Tony Fadell

The father of the iPod, Tony Fadell had a profound effect on an entire generation of music fans and the future of all portable electronics when he helped refine and release the first version of Apple's iconic music player. He was instrumental in developing the iPod line over the next several years, and his world-changing work wasn’t done when he left Apple in 2008.

Just two years later he launched Nest, the smart home company best known for its connected Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect smoke alarms.

Fadell ended up selling the company to Google in January 2014 for a cool $3.2 billion (roughly £2.5 billion/AU$4.35 billion) and remained at the helm of Nest before looking after the Google Glass department. He eventually left Google in June 2016.

3. EA – Trip Hawkins

Highlighting Apple’s standing as a producer of key talent, Trip Hawkins left his role as the company’s Director of Strategy and Marketing in 1982 to found what would go on to be one of the world’s biggest game developers and publishers, Electronic Arts.

Looking at EA's line-up today, with the FIFA, Madden, Battlefield and Star Wars franchises amongst its roster of AAA gaming releases, it’s hard to fathom a games industry without Hawkins’ company.

And EA’s impact isn't limited to its own games. It’s a company that changed the entire industry, with Hawkins personally credited as the man who took the games sector from simple, individual creations to epic titles painstakingly pieced together by teams of developers.

4. Flipboard – Evan Doll

A software engineer who roamed the Cupertino corridors between 2003 and 2009, Evan Doll left Apple to co-found the news and social network aggregation service Flipboard.

As the world of online news exploded Doll helped bring order to the chaos, with Flipboard allowing users to select what type of content they want to see, and from which publications.

He didn’t stray too far from the Apple fold, though, with the elegantly-designed service quickly becoming a favorite following its 2010 release as an iPad app. It took a further two years for Doll to bring Flipboard to Android, with the service not being made Windows-friendly until 2014.

Going back to his roots, Doll has since returned to Apple, rejoining the company as its director of health software engineering in July 2016.

5. LinkedIn – Reid Hoffman

LinkedIn might not be the social network you spend most of your time on, but the business-focused social portal has done enough to transform this prolific tech entrepreneur into arguably Apple’s most successful former employee, with billions in the bank.

Having worked on Apple’s ultimately unsuccessful online service system eWorld between 1994 and 1996, Hoffman founded LinkedIn in 2002, but not before being on the board of directors during the founding of PayPal.

Acting as the platform’s founding CEO, he grew LinkedIn to more than 400 million active users and a $26.2 billion (roughly £20.2 billion/AU$35.5 billion) acquisition by Microsoft, a company whose board he is now a member of.

6. Obi Worldphone – John Sculley

Smartphone manufacturer Obi might not be the biggest company going, but it’s one with plenty of potential. 

Founded by John Sculley, the former Apple CEO and the man who ousted the company’s maverick co-founder, Steve Jobs, Obi is a budget smartphone maker that’s making phones like the Obi MV1, which pairs solid specs with a wallet-friendly price tag.

While efforts to push into markets like the US and the UK haven't been hugely successful, emerging markets have been Obi’s stomping ground of choice for recent phones.

Sculley has also roped in a number of former Apple employees to help, with the company’s past Director of Industrial Design, Robert Brunner, hired to craft the affordable phones, both inside and out, pairing a unique chassis design with a bespoke software skin.

This is probably the most 'wait and see' of all the companies on this list, and it'll be interesting to see whether the former president of Pepsi and CEO of Apple can make a decent phone.

7. Hotmail – Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith

Sabeer Bhatia might have only worked at Apple for a year, but as his first place of employment following graduation it was a hugely formative year.

It was one that set the hardware engineer on a path that would see him go on to launch one of the biggest email clients of the internet age, Hotmail.

Bhatia, along with fellow Apple alum Jack Smith, founded the free-to-use Hotmail in 1996, and headed up the service until it was acquired by Microsoft a little under two years later.

At its peak, Hotmail had more than 400 million users – not bad for a time before smartphones were an ever-present, and email was the main means of global communication.

  • There's still a lot of great talent at Apple, and it's crafting the iPhone 8.