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Apple refugees dish on how iPhone development culture echoes into Pearl Automation

A collection of Apple engineers who have departed the company over the years formed Pearl Automation, and are keeping the best of Apple's corporate ethos, and dishing about the worst.

Formed by three senior Apple engineers in 2014, Pearl Automation has released a well-regarded back-up camera app and associated hardware, with other safety products in the pipeline. Still in start-up despite the release, the company has taken some aspects of Apple management that work, and tossed the rest.

Cranking out iPhone after iPhone

The Apple philosophy likely comes from the work history of its employees. Pearl has 50 ex-Apple employees, from a total pool of 80.

"They were vibrating," co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Brian Sander said to The New York Times., regarding the Apple departees. "It was time for them to do something different."

Taking from Apple, the company breaks large tasks into smaller tasks, and assigns those tasks to small teams. Rather than leadership by committee, prevalent in modern Silicon Valley startups, Pearl has adopted what Apple calls the "directly responsible individual" for the sub-task.

Accountability, rather than diffuse responsibility

"At Apple, there are a few people in the company that decide what needs to be done, and everyone else is executing," said Pearl Director of Hardware Rishabh Bhargava. "Rarely do you get the chance to be the people that decide the problems that need to be solved."

The company has migrated Apple's design ethos to Pearl as well. Pearl tried 19 variations of the rear-view camera embedded in a license plate frame, before settling on two models.

Culture of secrecy

One of the departees is Brian Latimer. Latimer was tapped to set up a system to track and ultimately destroy prototypes of forthcoming projects, after the reveal of the iPhone 4 after an employee loss.

"It's very liberating to know what's going on," said Latimer, who left Apple in May to join Pearl prior to the launch of the Pearl RearVision. "Everyone is contributing here, so everyone has a need to know."

Latimer said he was bound at Apple by not having access to the information he was tasked to secure. He was further hampered by a restriction on talking about his job with other employees.

From the top, down

"We met at Apple in the iPod group in 2005. I moved on to manage iPhone development. In 2013 we left Apple. We mapped out what we wanted to do." Bryson Gardner, the Pearl CEO, told AppleInsider in an exclusive interview in June. "At Apple we liked Apple's ability to take core technologies and deliver them to consumers, and that's what we're doing now."

Pearl's $499 RearVision that shipped in October is a system is built around dual high-definition cameras in a license-plate frame powered by solar energy. A plug-in car adapter goes into a car's on-board diagnostic port.

Once paired with the Pearl App, which can work with both iOS or Android, the cameras wirelessly stream images to the phone mounted on the dashboard. No additional screen is required.

Pearl has declined to disclose sales figures, but did note that they released the product too late to make it to stores in time for the holiday. The company has over $50 million in venture capital, but Gardner says that more money will be needed in 2017.