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Amazon Web Services appears to be developing a major move into the workplace collaboration market, based on the slowly-emerging details of a legal battle over the applicability of a non-compete agreement.
Former AWS executive Gene Farrell is being blocked by the company from joining Smartsheet, GeekWire reports, after a King County Superior Court Commissioner sided with AWS and granted a temporary restraining order. The hearing was closed, but it was centered on products, and the suit hints at a possible upcoming expansion of AWS’ workplace tools, according to GeekWire.
Farrell said in a motion that the non-compete agreement does not apply, because the AWS project in question has not reached the market, and he was not working directly on it.
Adam Bosworth, a vice president at AWS with product development experience including Google Health, met with Farrell to discuss the project roughly a month after Bosworth joined the company. The sides seem to disagree about the import of that discussion, however, and Farrell called the project “very preliminary.”
Farrell’s manager, Charlie Bell, insisted that Farrell speak with AWS CEO Andy Jassy before finalizing his decision to leave, according to court filings. Farrell alleges that he spoke with Jassy, who expressed concerns about Smartsheet being a competitor, and that Farrell followed up with an email. Jassy then told Farrell he would enforce the non-compete clause.
“I reiterated that Smartsheet was not competitive with anything that I had worked on,” Farrell said in a declaration, via GeekWire. “I also asked why Amazon would attempt to enforce the non-compete in this instance, when it chose not to enforce a non-compete against an Amazon employee who left to be CEO of a competitor company after that employee had approved and priced Amazon’s directly competing product. Mr. Jassy said only that he makes these decisions on a case-by-case basis and again threatened to enforce the non-compete if I did not stay at Amazon.”
GeekWire speculates plausibly that the employee referred to is Adam Selipsky, now of Tableau Software.
Bosworth was forced by Microsoft to step away from Crossgain, which he had co-founded, along with over 20 co-workers, in a non-compete dispute in 2001.
The temporary order against Farrell expires when the next scheduled hearing is held on Friday.