It was around this time last year that Amazon went on a hiring binge at its screen tech sub Liquavista, Lab126 in Calif, and Lab126's new office in Boston, and now it seems that Amazon is going through a shakeout.
Fast Company is reporting that a number of senior managers have departed Lab126/Amazon in the past few months:
In recent months, a string of departures and managerial changes has hit Amazon’s Lab126, the company’s Silicon Valley-based R&D group that has developed its most high-profile consumer products, including the Fire Phone, the Siri-like Echo device, and the Kindle hardware. According to multiple sources familiar with the reshuffling at Lab126, the changes were long overdue, a response to an organizational structure that some contend had grown "bloated" if not "inexplicable," as one former high-level employee describes it.
The internal changes began a number of months ago, following the departure of Malachy Moynihan, Lab126’s VP of digital products and the leader of its Fire TV and Echo projects, who left to pursue an outside opportunity. Multiple sources indicate Ian Freed, Amazon’s VP of devices who essentially oversaw the marketing of the Fire Phone, is now taking a sabbatical from the company following disappointing sales of the device and responsibility changes with Amazon vice presidents Greg Hart and Peter Larsen; it's unclear what his future role at Amazon will be. During this time frame, Lab126 president Gregg Zehr, with support from Bezos and devices SVP David Limp, initiated a re-org of the company’s hardware unit, which preceded a realignment of the software teams in Seattle last month.
I know it could be a stretch to try to connect the hiring last year to the reorganization this year, but in the past year Amazon has launched the Fire TV, the Fire Phone, Echo (virtual assistant), and the Dash (handheld shopping tool).
It would make a lot of sense for Amazon to have staffed up to get the products out the door, and then after the rush is over reconsider how they could better organize the hardware division so it was more efficient and effective.
Or as Fast Company put it:
Each time the group started work in a new product category, it would hire a product leader, who would in turn hire a team for that project. The programs were basically run likestartups. That process may have worked in the early days, when Lab126 was small and growing organically, but as Lab126 scaled, sources say the various programs became more siloed, a challenge for Amazon as it tries to create a hardware ecosystem as seamlessly integrated as Apple’s and Google’s.
The odd-even year timing is probably strictly a coincidence, just like the fact that this reorganization following the Fire Phone flop was a coincidence.