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Remembering the startups we lost in 2021 – FiratNews

Remembering the startups we lost in 2021 – TechCrunch

After we penned the intro for this piece final yr, little did we all know that — in some ways — we’d nonetheless be deep in it by the point 2021’s characteristic rolled round. Amid one other vacation season marred by a brand new variant, seemingly the extra issues change — properly, you get the image.

Surprisingly, nevertheless, regardless of the truth that we’re nonetheless very a lot within the throes of a world pandemic, 2021 hasn’t been punctuated by as many high-profile losses within the startup world because the yr prior.

Maybe the primary yr of the pandemic was merely the ultimate straw for thus many firms that had been already treading water — or possibly an inflow of capital sources has stored heads above water. Some firms efficiently pivoted and others had been born as a direct results of a world without end modified due to COVID-19.

2021 additionally largely lacked the type of blockbuster crashes we noticed final yr, courtesy of names like Quibi and Important. However even in a non-pandemic yr, holding a startup afloat remains to be an enormously tough job, and never everybody managed to make it to the New Yr unscathed.

Ample Robotics (2016-2021)

Whole raised: $12 million

Abundant Robotics at TG Global 03 1

Picture Credit: Ample

It is a main sputtering in what has been an in any other case exceptional yr for robotic startups. In a sure sense, Ample was forward of the curve on agtech robotics, which may usually be extra curse than blessing. Barely two years after rolling out its first business deployments, the apple-picking robotics agency quietly closed up store. Through the years, the corporate managed to boost $12 million, together with a $10 million Sequence A led by GV (Google Ventures) again in 2017.

Farmers are taking an extended, arduous take a look at robotics and automation to assist ease the pressure of continued labor shortages. Firms like John Deere are investing lots in homegrown options and acquisitions. It appears very a lot inside the realm of chance that we’ll see extra widescale choosing robots deployed earlier than later, however the primary query for the time being is from whom?

In October, it was reported that Waverly Labs had acquired Ample’s IP, that means that its know-how should still dwell on in some kind.

Chanje (2015-2021)


Picture Credit: Chanje

In November 2018, FiratNews reported that FedEx was working with a comparatively new and unknown startup because it ramped up its efforts to impress its fleet of supply vans. The corporate introduced plans so as to add 1,000 electrical supply automobiles from Chanje Vitality, a California-based and China-backed startup based in 2015. In subsequent years, Chanje got here to be identified for its follow of importing electrical supply vans from China and promoting them to firms like FedEx, Ryder and even Amazon. FedEx and different clients had been left within the lurch when the electrical car firm reportedly “quietly folded” someday this yr, The Verge reported on December 15. CEO Bryan Hansel (described by some workers as each “charismatic” and “narcissistic,” had partnered with a Chinese language firm that went bankrupt. Hansel reportedly labored arduous to persuade traders to purchase items of that firm in order that Chanje may maintain working, however to no avail. In line with The Verge, he fired the final of Chanje’s workers the Friday earlier than Memorial Day weekend. 

Chanje reportedly nonetheless owes “many” of its former workers months of again pay and promised bonuses, with no less than 4 having filed go well with towards the startup. Ryder additionally sued the corporate for greater than $3 million after Chanje didn’t ship a lot of the vans it promised to the fleet firm. In the meantime, FedEx by no means acquired the 1,000 electrical vans it anticipated from Chanje from that 2018 deal. That led to the supply big being compelled to desert a challenge to construct out charging infrastructure at FedEx depots throughout California. Whereas FedEx can be suing the corporate in an effort to get again among the tens of millions of {dollars} it had spent on that charging infrastructure, its prospects are bleak.

Darkish Sky (2012-2021)

dark sky ios

Picture Credit: Darkish Sky

In March of 2020, Apple acquired the Darkish Sky climate app, which was common for its hyperlocal focus. Clearly the tech big was excited by its options, a lot of which it integrated into the iPhone climate app. From the get go, Apple had made clear that the Android app would shutter that July. The destiny of the iOS app and API service, nevertheless, remained fuzzy. (The API service allowed different builders to faucet Darkish Sky’s database of “climate forecasts and historic climate information.”) 

By June of 2021, the iOS app and API service formally had expiration dates, with co-founder Adam Grossman writing: “Assist for the Darkish Sky API service for current clients will proceed till the top of 2022. The iOS app and Darkish Sky web site will even be obtainable till the top of 2022.” Whereas this was not an specific shutdown announcement, it was definitely implied.

Katerra (2015-2021)

Whole raised: $2 billion


Picture Credit: Katerra

There was a time that Katerra was thought-about the darling of the development tech world. Some argue it made prefab development extra mainstream — and funky. Because it grew, Katerra ambitiously wished to personal the tech stack round a development challenge, whether or not it’s workplace buildings or flats. However by the top of 2020, indicators of great issues emerged. The startup was mentioned to be on the verge of submitting for Chapter 11 chapter when Japanese funding conglomerate SoftBank swooped in with a $200 million bailout. But it surely was too little, too late. Katerra’s vertically built-in method couldn’t sustain with rising labor and development prices and the corporate was battling delays and price overruns on some tasks, whereas the COVID-19 pandemic delayed others. Irregularities that the corporate found in accounting practices additionally added to complications, based on The Wall Road Journal. 

So it was not an enormous shock when on June 1, 2021, Kattera was reported to be formally shutting down (The Info broke the information) after burning by greater than $2 billion in funding. Based in 2015, Katerra had at one level been valued at $4 billion and employed greater than 8,000 folks. When it shuttered, it was believed to have had round 2,400 workers. The failure marked the second high-profile SoftBank-backed proptech that struggled lately (WeWork was the primary). Whereas there have been considerations that Katerra’s implosion would possibly have an effect on religion within the development tech trade as a complete, the yr nonetheless noticed quite a few massive fundings within the area.

Loon (2015-2021)

A Loon balloon launching in Winnemucca Nevada

Picture Credit: Alphabet

Alphabet’s Loon flew excessive over the course of its nine-year run, solely to return crashing again all the way down to earth earlier this yr. Two-plus years after spinning off the X graduate, the corporate grounded the challenge aimed toward bringing web connectivity to underserved areas by way of balloon. Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth famous in a weblog submit that the challenge merely wasn’t capable of obtain profitability.

“Whereas we’ve discovered quite a few keen companions alongside the way in which, we haven’t discovered a technique to get the prices low sufficient to construct a long-term, sustainable enterprise,” he wrote. “Creating radical new know-how is inherently dangerous, however that doesn’t make breaking this information any simpler.”

Loon mentioned its applied sciences would proceed to dwell on, having already been adopted by outfits like Undertaking Taara, one other Alphabet X moonshot aimed toward delivering high-speed web by mild transmission. In September, Alphabet handed a further 200 patents alongside to SoftBank, which plans to execute on them as a part of its Excessive Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) enterprise. Fellow high-flying moonshot Wing, however, continues to achieve steam.

Houseparty (2015-2021)

meeting apps ios

Picture Credit: FiratNews

Earlier than Houseparty sunsetted, it soared. Within the early innings of the pandemic, the social video chat app claimed that it was touchdown 50 million new signups a month, as people sought digital connection amid quarantine. Quick-forward to at this time, and it appears that evidently Houseparty’s pandemic bump didn’t assist the corporate keep related. In September, Epic Video games introduced that it was shutting down Houseparty in October, somewhat over two years because it first acquired the corporate for a reported $35 million.

There are a number of potential causes as to why the once-booming app was shut down, from the rise of Clubhouse to the inevitable fatigue from Zoom. In a thread asserting the shutdown, Houseparty CEO and co-founder Sima Sistani hinted it was merely a technique shift.

“The metaverse imaginative and prescient and merchandise we’re engaged on at [EpicGames] are additionally about shared experiences, however in a extra wealthy kind than 2D video — one which’s higher positioned to form the subsequent era of the web,” Sistani wrote.

Houseparty will dwell on because the core of Fortnite’s voice chat and inside bigger tasks within the Epic Video games metaverse.

Pearl Automation (2014-2021)

pear rearvision6

Pearl Automation, an automotive accent startup, shuttered only a yr after launching out of stealth mode. Based by former Apple engineers, Pearl debuted with a wi-fi rear-view digicam and already started delivery out its merchandise, which price $499.99.

“As soon as linked, the RearVision app in panorama will present you a full-screen view of what the cameras within the license plate holder is seeing, with a 175-degree viewing angle,” reporter Darrell Etherington wrote in a 2016 evaluate of the product. “You’ll be able to toggle between the total fish-eye expertise, or a warp-corrected view that fills the show corner-to-corner with the area behind your automobile. It’s also possible to pivot the view up or all the way down to get a greater take a look at extra of the sky, or extra of the bottom as wanted.”

Whereas Etherington favored the economic design and minimal software program of the product, he famous that it’s a premium system which wanted upgrades: “It’s nonetheless for a particular subset of customers — those that worth high quality and craftsmanship and are keen to pay for it, however who additionally don’t have a contemporary car with its personal backup digicam, and don’t plan on getting one anytime quickly.” This yr, it looks as if that subset wasn’t sufficient to maintain the corporate going.

Per Axios, the shutdown was a results of disappointing product gross sales and a excessive burn price, even supposing Pearl Automation had raised $50 million in enterprise capital funding. Buyers included Accel, Venrock, Shasta Ventures and Wellcome Belief, based on Crunchbase.

Honorable Mentions

Fry’s Electronics

A closed Fry's Electronics store

DALLAS, Feb. 26, 2021 — A closed Fry’s Electronics retailer is seen in Plano, Texas, america, Feb. 25, 2021. U.S. electronics retailer chain Fry’s Electronics is completely closing all of its shops, the corporate introduced Wednesday. The corporate mentioned in an announcement on its web site that it “made the tough choice to close down its operations and shut its enterprise completely” due to altering client buying habits and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Fry’s Electronics had 31 shops throughout 9 U.S. states. (Xinhua/Dan Tian by way of Getty Pictures)

Mea culpa. This one’s not a startup, however it could nonetheless really feel bizarre to do an inventory with out it. The Februrary closure of the Bay Space-based electronics chain left an enormous Egyptian (or, maybe, Mayan) pyramid-shaped gap within the hearts of many who grew up wandering its aisles. For me, it was the Fremont retailer, whose 1893 World’s Honest theme didn’t make for a very thrilling exterior, however the indoor Tesla coil did the trick.

In an Amazon-ruled world devoid of Circuit Cities, the place RadioShack is a shadow of its former self, it’s frankly superb that this unusual, lovely beast held on for so long as it may. At its peak, Fry’s boasted 34 big shops throughout 9 states. However finally, COVID-19 was the ultimate nail within the already troubling atmosphere of brick and mortars. It’s a testomony to only how huge these huge field shops had been that their former properties are coping with zoning complications of their wake.

LG Telephones


Picture Credit: Joan Cros/NurPhoto / Getty Pictures (Picture has been modified)

Not like different pandemic-fueled losses over these previous two years, the demise of LG’s cellular division was a very long time coming. The South Korean electronics big merely couldn’t sustain in a market dominated by Samsung, Apple and, more and more, producers in China. In April, LG introduced its exit from telephones with a purpose to spend extra time with TVs and different sensible residence merchandise.

Visionrare (2021-2021?)

NFT car on fire

Picture Credit: Bryce Durbin / FiratNews

And so uncommon its imaginative and prescient actually was. When founders Jacob Claerhout and Boris Gordts launched Visionrare, they mixed two traits: the gamification of investing and the surging curiosity round NFTs. The top end result was a platform wherein customers may bid for NFT shares of various startups, stacking up a pretend portfolio that they might then compete towards others with. It even acquired some Y Combinator startups on board.

Crypto angle apart, Visionrare’s pitch was attention-grabbing. The pretend inventory market may get non-accredited traders a observe file in betting on startups, and someday “function a sign for VCs on the lookout for their subsequent hires.”

In case you assume it sounds buzzy, some entrepreneurs and traders had a distinct phrase: unlawful. Some questioned whether or not the platform was authorized or if it was an funding safety, pushback that ended up inflicting the co-founders to close down the paid market because of underestimating “the authorized complexities” with promoting novelty NFT shares in actual startups.

Crypto marketplaces aren’t controversial, however Visionrare’s method to the burgeoning sector rang alarm bells. And that doesn’t occur as usually as you’d assume. Nonetheless, the founders promised to relaunch the corporate quickly. Their LinkedIn’s present that they’re persevering with to work collectively, and are “constructing one thing new.”

Nuzzel (2012-2021)

Almost a decade in the past, Friendster’s Jonathan Abrams launched Nuzzel, a social information studying service that highlights headlines which might be being learn and shared by associates in your community. The straightforward but savvy startup quickly attracted a loyal person base, particularly for Twitter customers who wished a extra personalised timeline. In line with Crunchbase, Nuzzel had raised $5.1 million from traders, together with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

In 2019, Nuzzel was acquired by Scroll, which wished to deliver aggregation and curation to its subscription service. Whereas nobody from Nuzzel’s unique staff joined Scroll in a full-time capability, the app continued to operate as is — till this yr, after all. Twitter scooped up Scroll in Might and concurrently shut down Nuzzel. In a weblog submit that has since been eliminated, Nuzzel’s staff defined that the product wanted to be rebuilt with a purpose to scale with Twitter.

“To these of you who love Nuzzel and are dissatisfied that we are able to’t preserve Nuzzel as-is within the interim, I’m as dissatisfied as you,” Scroll CEO Tony Haile mentioned within the now-deleted submit. “We explored any variety of Hail Marys to make that occur and simply couldn’t get there. Seeking to the long run, Nuzzel’s performance has at all times felt prefer it ought to be part of Twitter and I’m excited to assist make it so.”

Months later, some excellent news: Whereas Nuzzel as we all know it has ceased to exist, Twitter introduced again one of many app’s most-loved options, High Tales, within the debut of its premium subscription service Twitter Blue.

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