Former Amazon executive uses Bezos’ mock press release trick at his smart home company

Charlie Kindel, senior vice president of products and services at Control4.

Control4

As an executive at Amazon[1] who built the Alexa Smart Home group, Charlie Kindel became very familiar with the company’s use of so-called future press releases[2]. Employees who are planning new projects write fake news releases as if they were promoting the finished product to the world in order to focus early on what will excite customers.

Kindel left Amazon last year and took a top role at Control4[3], a company that’s developing software and hardware to control the connected home. For his new gig, he brought along the Amazon press release tactic and other strategies.

“It’s been really rewarding to see how eager people in my teams are to try these things and experiment with them,” said Kindel, who spent 21 years at Microsoft[4] before his five-year stint at Amazon, in an interview with CNBC. “It’s fun for me to take what I’ve learned at Amazon and apply that.”

Amazon is a polarizing company. It’s been an innovation machine, moving well beyond its core of e-commerce to become a force in cloud computing, voice-controlled personal assistants and even entertainment on its way to joining the ranks of the world’s most valuable companies.

But Amazon and CEO Jeff Bezos[5] have faced criticism for creating a hard-charging culture, which was exposed in a 2015 New York Times investigation[6]. In the story, one former employee described a “pattern of burn and churn.”

Kindel says he burned out at Amazon.

“The pace of the past five years has finally gotten to me and I simply need to catch my breath,” he wrote in a document[7] that was distributed to his team.

As director of the Alexa Smart Home, Kindel led a team whose work made it possible for people to control a variety of smart devices through voice command. Earlier he worked on sports, traffic and weather features for Alexa, and he helped launch the Alexa Skills Kit for third-party developers.

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