Smart Home Robotics Startup Adds Ex-Apple Car, Operations Execs

Bumblebee Spaces’s home furnishings attached to ceiling with robots.Source: Bumblebee

Two former top Apple Inc. executives have joined Bumblebee Spaces Inc., a smart-home startup that meshes home furnishings with robotics.

The San Francisco-based company has appointed Steve Zadesky as a board member and hired Nick Forlenza as a strategic adviser, said Chief Executive Officer Sankarshan Murthy, a co-founder. Bumblebee Spaces, started in 2017, uses robotic actuators to store beds, storage boxes and desks in the ceiling of a room to create more space.

Zadesky worked at Apple for more than 20 years and oversaw the engineering of several iPod and iPhone models. Around 2014, he was put in charge of a then-secret project to build a self-driving car. He stepped away from an active role at Apple in 2016. The iPhone maker has since shifted its car efforts to building an underlying autonomous system that it could eventually use for a future car. At Bumblebee Spaces, Zadesky will advise on product development and marketing strategy, Murthy said.

Forlenza recently retired from Apple, Bloomberg News reported earlier this year. He was a vice president of manufacturing design, leading a team of supply chain and operations experts responsible for production processes and manufacturing equipment. He will advise Bumblebee Spaces on operations strategy.

The two high-profile hires join Rico Zorkendorfer, a former member of Jony Ive’s Apple industrial design team who began work last year as the startup’s lead design adviser.

Murthy says he’s trying to recreate much of Apple’s product development process by bringing on former executives who helped lead those areas at the Cupertino, California-based technology giant. “The soul of Apple has been three groups, product design, industrial design, and manufacturing design, all working in unison to build the best products possible, and at Bumblebee, we’re proud to have that core group of leaders building the teams,” he said.

Bloomberg Beta, the venture capital arm of Bloomberg LP, is an investor in the startup, along with Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures, Valor Ventures, and Norwest Venture Partners.

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