It’s becoming a sadly familiar story: A startup raises a ton of money to fund the development of a promising new product only to crash and burn, leaving its backers in the lurch. Fortunately for the backers of the Sense smart-home camera/hub, that’s not exactly what happened here. While the Sense will never see the light of day—at least not in the form envisioned at the start of the campaign—everyone who put up money for its development should be getting their cash back.
Silk Labs founder (and former Mozilla CTO) Andreas Gal announced in a blog post this morning that its Sense security camera and smart-home hub, intended to be a proof-of-concept for its Silk Internet of Things platform, had garnered enough interest from third-party manufacturers that the startup could skip that whole step and “focus on the large-scale commercial opportunities that we have ahead of us.”
As almost never happens in the development of a new tech product, “…everything happened much faster than we ever hoped for,” Gal said. Silk Labs had already raised $2.5 million in seed capital before it launched it successful crowd-funding campaign (nearly $165,000 against a goal of $100,000). In this morning’s blog post, Gal said Individuals who participated in the Sense Kickstarter campaign will get full refunds.
While the Sense hardware will never be built, Gal says the Silk platform will now be open-source, “so that others can develop Silk experiences the way we described it in our Kickstarter campaign.” The company is also porting Silk to off-the-shelf smartphones, so that developers and enthusiasts can start experimenting with the platform. “Builds and the source code of the Silk platform are available immediately, not at the end of 2016,” Gal wrote in his post. When Gal described the Sense to me back in February, he said the device would be based on a smartphone chipset.
Why this matters: It’s always unfortunate when a promising product doesn’t find its way to the market, but the disappointment this time is leavened by the fact that the people who believed in it enough to put up their own cash to fund its development will not only get their money back, they’ll also have the opportunity to build something meaningful from the source code. Not everyone has the skills to work with source code, of course, but that’s better than getting vaporware.