12 March 2020


Business Insider

They built and designed some of Apple’s hottest devices, and now these two former Apple execs are building a startup for people who want a healthier relationship with technology.

By Megan Hernbroth

Much like Dr. Frankenstein, two former Apple employees are coming to terms with the unintended consequences of their creations. But in a uniquely Silicon Valley twist, the designers are—naturally—starting a company to rein it in.

Bethany Bongiorno and Imran Chaudhri founded Humane, a hardware and software startup currently operating in stealth, after leaving their roles at Apple in late 2016 and early 2017, respectively. Together, they have over three decades of experience at the tech giant and have been involved in just about every major device and software launch to date.

"We found that our desire and passion for computing and technology didn't just end at the work we did at Apple. It went a lot further than that," Chaudhri told Business Insider. "We wanted to think about what the world really needed and could use given the state of humanity and the idea of the modern connected human we have all turned into, mainly as a result of the work we did almost 15 years ago now."

They founded Humane in 2019 after meeting with advisors, technical experts, and average users throughout Silicon Valley. In July, the startup raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from Kindred Ventures, Valia Ventures, and Marc Benioff, which has gone unreported until now. The startup is still operating in stealth, but Bongiorno and Chaudhri told Business Insider that there will be substantial software and hardware components to what will eventually become its flagship product.

"We saw where the money was going and what others were building and thought we could build something better," Bongiorno said. "We really felt we had an idea that was bigger and better than what was out there."

On Thursday, the company announced that another Apple alum, Rubén Caballero, is joining the 18-person team as a technical advisor with the engineering team. Caballero, who was formerly vice president of wireless technology and engineering at the tech giant, is coming on board may provide a peek into the young startup's long-term ambitions.

"When Bethany and Imran told me what they are building at Humane, I knew that I had to be a part of it," Caballero told Business Insider via email. "Their vision for Humane is ambitious and challenges the traditional expectations and assumptions we have come to accept as a society when using technology. They are building the future, which is exactly the type of work that excites me. I'm honored to be a part of this world-class team."

Part of the "live and learn" ethos that Bongiorno and Chaudhri have built into that team is another lesson they took from Apple: values come first even if that's at the expense of rapid growth. Hiring for any early-stage startup is a challenge, they said, but even more so when the team is building deeply technical products from scratch. New hires like Caballero must fit and "advocate for" the company's values, Bongiorno told Business Insider.

"You do have to make sure every hire is given the same care and thought," Bongiorno said. "That may mean you grow more slowly than people expect or would like. Usually it's external pressure to move more quickly than you should. But if it means slowing down hiring, that's what we will do because we are in this for the long game."

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