Anki, the robotics company that has raised over $200 million in venture capital, is laying off its entire staff and the startup is shuttering, Recode has learned.
In a teary all-hands meeting on Monday morning, CEO Boris Sofman told his staff they would be terminated on Wednesday and that close to 200 employees would be paid a week of severance, according to people familiar with the matter. Sofman had told employees a few days earlier that the company was scrambling to find more money after a new round of financing fell through at the last minute, imperiling the company’s future.
The startup is frequently called “cute” for the little robots it produces like Cozmo, but it has raised serious money from investors like Index Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, whose co-founder, Marc Andreessen, at one point sat on the company’s board.
Anki said last fall that it “approached” $100 million in revenue in 2017 and expected to exceed that figure in 2018. So this isn’t some small lemonade stand closing down.
Leadership had previously told employees that it was fielding acquisition interest from companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Comcast.
The company said in a statement to Recode that it was left “without significant funding to support a hardware and software business and bridge to our long-term product roadmap.”
“Despite our past successes, we pursued every financial avenue to fund our future product development and expand on our platforms,” a company 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, founded by roboticists from Carnegie Mellon University, was a big deal in the robotics world at one point — its first product, Anki Drive, was prominently featured onstage in a demo at an Apple event in 2013. But its buzz has cooled considerably in recent years as some investors grew skittish about hardware plays and others struggled to wrap their heads around what could reductively be considered just a toy business.
It’s a tough time for the consumer robotics sector, with other companies like Jibo having had to shut down recently.
Despite being a popular choice at places like Toys R Us for its AI race cars, the company in recent years has tried to pivot from toys to becoming a more developed robotics company based on artificial intelligence. It’s unclear what will happen to the company’s assets going forward.
“For us, it was never meant to be a toy company, or even an entertainment company. It’s a robotics and AI company,” Sofman said on an episode of Recode Decode in 2017.