Anki, the San Francisco-based robotics company that specialized in making smartphone-controlled toys, is shutting down this week, reports Recode. The sudden news, delivered to staff today by CEO Boris Sofman, means the company’s staff of nearly 200 people will lose their jobs by Wednesday, with only one week of severance. Anki raised more than $200 million in venture capital funding to date.
According to Recode, Anki ran out of money and could no longer “support a hardware and software business” that would enable it to achieve its “long-term product roadmap.” Last August, Anki said it had sold 1.5 million robot units to date, which appears to have included both its toy cars and personal robots. That wasn’t enough to keep the business going.
“Despite our past successes, we pursued every financial avenue to fund our future product development and expand on our platforms,” a company spokesperson tells Recode. “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 arrived on the scene in 2013 with a smartphone-controlled toy race car set called Anki Drive, which received a rare spotlight onstage at an Apple developer conference that year before becoming a retail partner of the iPhone maker. The company, founded by Carnegie Mellon roboticists, likened its toy cars to artificial intelligence-controlled robots, as they followed paths of their own and could be programmed to drive themselves, according to various presets and controls in the mobile app. Over the years, it added trucks, an Anki Drive revamp it called Anki Overdrive, and a partnership with Hot Wheels.
The company’s more recent flagship product was more firmly in the robotics department. It was called Cozmo, and it was a Pixar-style toy robot with anthropomorphic features that you could control, play games with, and even program yourself. Anki followed up Cozmo with Vector, a more advanced version of the robot that it hoped it could use to target older customers, not just kids. Neither product, it appears, was enough to keep Anki afloat, despite saying last summer it had sold hundreds of thousands of Cozmo units.