Wink Has Sold 300k Home Automation Hubs, But Biz is Dying; Whither the DIY … – CEPro

Wink, the IoT spinoff of GE-backed Quirky, is almost out of cash because you can’t sell $50 home automation hubs and make money.

In just one year since it began shipping product at Home Depot and, Wink has sold about 300,000 units, many of which were given away for 99 cents during Wink’s early days at Home Depot.

In an interview with Fortune, Quirky CEO Ben Kaufman says he thinks Wink could sell $25 million in product this year; however, since Quirky has already blown through more than $170 million, and has enough reserves to last only a few more months, we may never know Wink’s potential.

Kaufman tells Fortune that Quirky/Wink has about $12 million in cash but a huge amount of debt. He doesn’t believe creditors want to force a default though.

Quirky must raise at least $15 million to keep both entities alive, or else sell the businesses, according to another Fortune interview.

If it sells, Wink most likely will go the way of Revolv, which was promptly killed when Google “bought” the company for its engineering talent.

Who would buy it, anyway? Users tend to rank the product as so-so when compared to Samsung’s kind-of-comparable SmartThings. And the market is looking at Wink’s once-high-profile classmates Staples Connect and Lowe’s Iris and not seeing dollar signs … or products on shelves.

Wink’s launch partner Home Depot, as well as Staples and Lowe’s, have shrunk the shelf space once dedicated to home automation. The big kiosks and interactive displays planned for so many stores either have not materialized or have been scaled back to little more than a row of boxes on a couple of shelves.

Today I visit the new flagship home automation shops at Sears and Target in the San Francisco area. A full report on these initiatives next week …

As I have maintained all along: multipurpose DIY home automation hubs may do well in homes with smart-home enthusiasts, but they are not (yet) ready for the non-techy masses.

On a side note, here’s a very big lesson for those seeking big-box distribution: The more stores you sign, the more products you have to make and ship. Being in some 50,000 stores, Kaufman says, required the company to produce tens of thousands of units for every new product, even those that would eventually flop.

That is a very expensive proposition.

Video: Quirky CEO Ben Kaufmann on the problems with Wink home automation.
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