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In a statement via email, Anki’s head of communications told us:
It is with a heavy heart to announce that Anki will be letting go of our employees, effective Wednesday. We’ve shipped millions of units of product and left customers happy all over the world while building some of the most incredible technologies pointed toward a future with diverse AI and robotics driven applications. But without significant funding to support a hardware and software business and bridge to our long-term product roadmap, it is simply not feasible at this time. Despite our past successes, we pursued every financial avenue to fund our future product development and expand on our platforms. 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 was perhaps the most well-funded startups in the connected toys space. Over time, according to Crunchbase data, Anki had raised a total of at least $182 million from investors such as Two Sigma Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Index Ventures, among others. Founded in 2010 by three Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute graduates, Anki was considered to be a “darling” in the field. Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen in a 2013 blog post called Anki the “best robotics startup” he’d ever seen. Andreessen once sat on the company’s board, according to SEC filings from the time. A company spokesperson told Crunchbase News last September that its 2017 revenue “approached $100 [million]” and revenue was expected to exceed that in 2018.
In 2016, I (Mary Ann) had interviewed the company for another publication and Sofman had told me: “We started Anki with the goal of harnessing robotics and AI to bring to life consumer products with unprecedented level of intellect and interactive capabilities.”
But its closure is not entirely a surprise.
In September 2018, we covered a likely financial shakeup at the company, surfaced in a pair of SEC filings. The first document detailed an equity transaction targeting $27.24 million in “Series 1 Preferred” stock. Crunchbase News had seen the Series 1 label before when we broke the story that Andreessen-backed tee shirt design marketplace Teespring re-capitalized, wiping out tens of millions of dollars worth of common stockholder equity in the process. The last round raised by Anki prior to the Series 1 deal was a Series D. Based on prior experience covering distressed Andreessen Horowitz portfolio companies, there’s strong reason to believe that Anki’s investors re-capitalized the company in 2018.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias