Reposted from Yahoo Finance.
Business Insider, By Jillian D’Onfro
Quirky, the New York City startup with the goal of “making invention accessible,” is close to closing a new round of funding, even as more employees leave.
CEO Ben Kaufman told Business Insider in April that he planned on raising more money, and that close is “just days away,” Fortune’s Dan Primack and Stacey Higginbotham report.
The funding comes at a crucial time for the company, which has had an incredibly tumultuous year.
Now, Business Insider has learned, Quirky’s chief technology officer, Steven Heintz, has left the company to work at Bay Area-based Flextronics Invention Lab, and Quirky appears to have shut down the San Francisco office where he was based.
We also heard from a former employee that Quirky’s “Internet of Things” subsidiary Wink was almost sold, but the would-be buyer backed out after a major malfunction of Wink’s products in April.
(Quirky did not initially respond to a call and multiple emails for this story. We’ll update if we hear back.)
When Kaufman founded Quirky in 2009, it allowed ordinary people to become inventors by submitting ideas that Quirky would turn into real products and sell at stores like Target, Staples, and Bed Bath & Beyond. As the company grew, it started accepting more complex product ideas, which not only cost more to manufacture, but often sold far fewer units than its simpler, cheaper items.
For example, the company spent nearly $400,000 developing a Bluetooth speaker that only sold 28 units.
Meanwhile, the company created a subsidiary “Internet of Things” business called Wink, which it launched after striking a deal with General Electric in 2013. The partnership gave Wink access to old GE patents and it was an impressive vote of confidence from a major company in a young startup.
But Wink’s first product launches in 2014 were far from smooth. Disappointment is rife in forum posts about various software products and Gizmodo ran an extremely harsh review of the Wink system earlier this year.
In September 2014, Quirky hired a new CFO who took a toll of the company’s financials and went into “fix-it mode.”
“We got a CFO in here who knew what the hell he was doing, and he told us a harsher reality than anyone else would tell us,” Kaufman previously told Business Insider.
By February, Quirky decided to hire bankers to help it either sell Wink or raise new outside investment.
“There’s a point where it doesn’t make sense for one unprofitable startup to keep funding another unprofitable startup,” Kaufman told Fortune.
As that process got started, Quirky decided to scale back in a few ways.
It had a round of layoffs (which, compounded with cuts in November and December, amounted to more 20% of the company), decided to stop making so many products, and shut down its ecommerce site. A new initiative, called Powered By Quirky, would align the startup with major brands like Mattell and headphone maker Harman and help those corporations figure out new products to launch. Quirky itself would only manufacture products in three categories: “connected home,” “electronics,” and “appliances.”
All told, it had an overall burn of $150 million on net-losses of $120 million. But the process of selling or raising money for Wink was “moving along,” Kaufman told Fortune, until disaster struck.
In April, the company had to do an expensive nationwide recall of its Wink products because of a “completely preventable” security error. A former Quirky employee tells us that a company that had previously been interested in an acquisition pulled out after the malfunction. Kaufman told Fortune that inventory backlogs for Wink products are still not fully resolved.
In May, Quirky’s chief technology officer, Steven Heintz, left the company to work at Bay Area-based Flextronics Invention Lab. In early June, sources told Business Insider that Quirky had laid off between 20 and 30 more employees.
Several former Quirky employees tell Business Insider that the remaining people in Quirky’s San Francisco office either followed Heintz to Flextronics, started working at Wink, or lost their jobs. Kaufman declined to comment at the time of that report, but three former employees say that the office also sold all of its machine equipment, like 3D printers and a plastic injection molding machine, to Flextronics.
Selling off that machinery would make sense, because Kaufman tells Fortune that Quirky will stop making any of its own products at all. It’s looking for Powered By Quirky partners for the “electronics” category it had decided to stick with in February.
Complete article here: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/fresh-funding-more-departures-quirky-121324438.html