One of the more interesting tidbits to come out of Tesla’s earnings conference call yesterday was the announcement that Tesla CTO and company co-founder JB Straubel is leaving the company. Straubel will remain involved with Tesla in an advisory committee, which is essentially a corporate-esque way of saying that he’s gone.
“I want to thank JB for his fundamental role in creating and building Tesla,” Musk said at one point during the conference call. “If we hadn’t had lunch in 2003, Tesla wouldn’t exist.”
Commenting on his departure, Straubel on the call made a point of emphasizing that he remains optimistic about Tesla’s future prospects. Indeed, it doesn’t appear that Straubel is leaving due to any friction with the company or fundamental disagreement with Musk. Rather, Straubel wants to take a more active role with Redwood Materials, a recycling-oriented start-up that sprang up about two years ago.
“I’m not disappearing,” Straubel said, “and I just wanted to make sure that people understand that this was not some, you know, lack of confidence in the company or the team or anything like that.”
Though far from a household name, Straubel was an instrumental figure behind the scenes in helping get Tesla up and running. During his nearly two decades at Tesla, Straubel helped drive some of the company’s key technological achievements and breakthroughs. Suffice it to say, his departure from the CTO position is a huge loss for Tesla.
With Straubel stepping down, Tesla veteran Drew Baglino will assume the CTO position.
The larger point here is that Tesla seems to have an ongoing problem when it comes to retaining top talent. Over the past few years, for instance, Tesla has famously hired a number of people to head up its Autopilot division. Additionally, the company has lost a long list of senior engineering talent over the past few years.