While I, like many, love the idea of Quirky, the analyst in me always thought it's an extremely expensive business they must be running. After all, hardware creation and manufacturing is hard, let alone trying to develop an entirely new platform in the smart home space in Wink where they're fighting with the likes of Google and Apple.
So when I saw in this piece in Fortune that said the company is considering changing "its relationship" with Wink, it made me think they would probably would take a buyer or at least a strategic partner who can fund the entity going forward.
The money quote comes from CEO Ben Kaufman:
“There’s a point where it doesn’t make sense for one unprofitable startup to keep funding another unprofitable startup."
The reality is that the Wink hub recall may have been a backbreaker when it comes to Wink as a standalone (but closely held) entity for Quirky, as they may be finding out now how the connected home is often a graveyard of broken dreams for so many companies. It's expensive, missteps can be deadly, and creating consumer demand for a new platform in a new space is immensely difficult and can take years.
If Quirky were to sell off Wink, who would buy it? The challenge is many of the bigger companies who are likely candidates have already made their bets, with Samsung buying SmartThings, Google buying Nest/Revolv, and Apple creating its own platform with HomeKit. Microsoft might be an interesting candidate, as would other large consumer-facing hardware makers like Sony or LG.
The problem is these companies have all been battling in the connected home for a long time and have some significant battle scars, and I'm not sure with Wink's early problems and tepid early reviews that they'll be willing to take a chance.
Lastly, I expect we're going to see an shakeout among some of the early-early smart home platform players, and this might be one of the first chapters. Stay tuned.
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