Apple-marketed robotics firm Anki goes into shutdown mode

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Anki -- a robotics company once heavily promoted by Apple -- is shutting down on Wednesday, forcing nearly 200 people out of work.

Anki Vector


Anki CEO Boris Sofman informed staff of the impending shutdown in a meeting on Monday, reports Recode. Sources familiar with the matter said employees will be paid a week of severance.

The maker of Overdrive, Cosmo and Vector robots was reportedly in dire straits after a recent financing deal fell through in the eleventh hour, the report said. Details of the funding round were not made available, but the agreement was apparently imperative to the company's future. Sources said Sofman informed employees of the lost funding only days prior to Monday's announcement, suggesting the deal was critical to keep Anki afloat.

"Despite our past successes, we pursued every financial avenue to fund our future product development and expand on our platforms," an Anki spokesperson said. "A significant financial deal at a late stage fell through with a strategic investor and we were not able to reach an agreement. We're doing our best to take care of every single employee and their families, and our management team continues to explore all options available."

Anki said it had approached $100 million in revenue during 2017, and expected to top that in 2018. The company had been fueled by over $200 million in venture capital funding, including from Andreessen Horowitz, whose co-founder Marc Andreessen briefly held a position on Anki's board. Top Anki executives reportedly claimed takeover interest from giants like Amazon, Comcast and Microsoft, but an acquisition failed to materialize.

The attention around Anki otherwise stems from its founders -- roboticists from Carnegie Mellon -- and a 2013 stage demo at an Apple press event. There, the company showed off Anki Drive, an AI-equipped remote control car racing game.

Its product line never really evolved beyond phone- and tablet-connected toys, however, even as it tried to become a full-fledged robotics business. Multiple consumer robotics companies have shut down in recent times as well, likely triggering investor skepticism.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 20
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,354member
    Not enough utility for the money.   Disposable income just isn't that large yet for enough people. 
    dysamoria
  • Reply 2 of 20
    gutengelgutengel Posts: 363member
    This is sad, tech hardware it the toughest industry ever. Eero was in the verge of collapse if it wasn't for Amazon acquire them, reported by the Verge.
  • Reply 3 of 20
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,354member
    gutengel said:
    This is sad, tech hardware it the toughest industry ever. Eero was in the verge of collapse if it wasn't for Amazon acquire them, reported by the Verge.
    What I find is that people are being "serviced" to death.   Typically i'm ruling into people that are paying on average 150 dollars a month for Internet and Cable/Dish.   Then your family cell plan adding another C-Note or more.   The expectation is for hardware to come with the service for free in many cases.  It's hard for Eero to compete when people are getting CPE from their. broadband provider that is "good enough" 

    Times are turbulent right now and being a hardware vendor is very tough.   Even the services are moving quickly.  YouTube TV has gone 35 bucks a month to over 50.   ATT is saying that can't make money unless DirecTV Now is 50 a month.  

    Netflix is now 16 dollars a month for 4K streaming.   I've got my Cox hardware in a box right now on my way to cut Cable.   I'm finding it easier to just wait for deals on TV shows and buy them on iTunes.  I just bought Stargate Atlantis all seasons for 19.99.   
    dysamoriapscooter63
  • Reply 4 of 20
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 943member
    I have an original Cozmo - hopefully the app keeps working.

    The programming tools are a lot of fun.

    It's surprisingly sophisticated for the price, and no subscription.
    chasmtmay
  • Reply 5 of 20
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,573member
    A shame. Some promising technology there, but a lot of those folks will probably land on their feet at other tech companies like Alphabet and Apple (I hope).
  • Reply 6 of 20
    So he gives his employees two days notice of being laid off and only one week of pay.  What did he do with the $100+ million he made in revenue in 2017 and claimed more in 2018?  The employees got burned and this guy walks away.  I remember the toy car race during the keynote in 2013, but never heard of the company doing anything after that.
    chemenginStrangeDays
  • Reply 7 of 20
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,250member
    Marketing novelties is a tough business. At this early stage of robotics it takes a tremendous amount of IP to make a neat, but fundamentally unneeded toy.
    Take smart speakers for example - these only exist because they're part of a larger strategy by companies with significant financial resources and a lot of existing AI technology for quick deployment.
  • Reply 8 of 20
    I remember watching that on-stage demo and feeling it was just kind of out of place / a solution in search of a problem.
  • Reply 9 of 20
    A real bummer, especially with the recent release of Vector. That said, it failed to impress.
  • Reply 10 of 20
    A shame, but not completely unexpected.

    In Australia, Anki Overdrive took way too long to get over here and when it finally did we got the "Fast & Furious" licenced pack which I know I was never interested in.

    In essence it was a beefed up slot-car set targeting the tech generation. That is going to be a pretty small market, I can count on one hand the number of colleagues I spoke to about it who were interested in it. And, not a single one of us actually did buy it.

    I think they really needed a couple of things. 

    1. A selection of cars and a base frame kit to allow slot-car enthusiasts to buy into the concept (it did have a number of advantages over the more expensive digital slot car systems but car model range was not it)
    2. A cheap entry path to allow parents to consider the set as a suitable racing car set. This might even mean providing a controller outside of the App for kids without phones / iPods.

    Sure, they would never have been able to complete with the $22 cheap sets available. But, targeted right I would have expected them to grab a good slice of the $200+ level sets and into the even more expensive digital sets targeting the slot-car enthusiasts.
    leeeh2
  • Reply 11 of 20
    I bought my son Anki Drive back a few years ago. It was a hot toy back then and also expensive. Later the hype just died and Toys R Us started slashing prices on those toys. After Toys R Us is gone, I think it just hurt this toy business even more.
    edited April 2019
  • Reply 12 of 20
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    chasm said:
    A shame. Some promising technology there, but a lot of those folks will probably land on their feet at other tech companies like Alphabet and Apple (I hope).
    Would be a nice move for Apple to hire this team of people and start working on some Apple robot concepts. Apple will get into personal robots at some point, I’m almost certain.
    genovelle
  • Reply 13 of 20
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,166member
    I didn't buy it because it didn't come with an API to program it. They said they would release an API later, but I never heard if they did. So I'm still looking around for various robotic parts (hands, servos, fingers, etc.) that I can program myself. There's too much slow inaccurate junk out there right now.
  • Reply 14 of 20
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,166member
    Apple will get into personal robots at some point, I’m almost certain.
    A self driving car IS a personal robot. But I'm sure it won't come with an API.
  • Reply 15 of 20
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    Robotics still seems like a gimmicky thing when it comes to consumer products.

    Besides toys and novelty robots, is there any kind of robot that doesn't cost a fortune and that is actually useful?

    And I'm not just talking about the company described in the OP, I don't know much about them, I'm talking about all robotics in general.

    In my opinion, robotics for consumer use is still something that is quite a few years away.

    Will we ever see something like Rosie from the Jetsons in our lifetimes, and will it actually be in our homes?
  • Reply 16 of 20
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    So he gives his employees two days notice of being laid off and only one week of pay.  What did he do with the $100+ million he made in revenue in 2017 and claimed more in 2018?  The employees got burned and this guy walks away.  I remember the toy car race during the keynote in 2013, but never heard of the company doing anything after that.
    You did see that part of the article where it said venture capitalist investment was $200 million, right? Venture capitalists want their money and profit. Their interests are prioritized over company health, employees, and product value. The head of such companies usually also prioritize themselves over the employees too. It’s not ethical, but they have the “freedom” to do all of this, and laissez-faire capitalism proponents will tell us that ethics are irrelevant.
  • Reply 17 of 20
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    Apple will get into personal robots at some point, I’m almost certain.
    A self driving car IS a personal robot. But I'm sure it won't come with an API.
    I’m talking about assistants for the disabled or robots to walk or take care of pets while the owner is away, or specialized robots capable of washing dishes or cleaning up around the house. It’s only a matter of time, really.
  • Reply 18 of 20
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    apple ][ said:
    Robotics still seems like a gimmicky thing when it comes to consumer products.

    Besides toys and novelty robots, is there any kind of robot that doesn't cost a fortune and that is actually useful?

    And I'm not just talking about the company described in the OP, I don't know much about them, I'm talking about all robotics in general.

    In my opinion, robotics for consumer use is still something that is quite a few years away.

    Will we ever see something like Rosie from the Jetsons in our lifetimes, and will it actually be in our homes?
    It’ll certainly start to happen within 10 years. Computing power is always getting cheaper and more capable.
  • Reply 19 of 20
    horvatichorvatic Posts: 144member
    Very sad to see this happen. I have a Cosmo and a Vector. I think the company should see it they can work something out. Feel sorry for the employees too. One week severance is horrible.
  • Reply 20 of 20
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    horvatic said:
    Very sad to see this happen. I have a Cosmo and a Vector. I think the company should see it they can work something out. Feel sorry for the employees too. One week severance is horrible.
    All of their products are/were very expensive toys. They probably should’ve moved quickly into more practical applications with their products. Maybe more intelligent quadrocopters or robo-vacuums?
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