Romotive/Stork seems to have gone offline. Another Vegas Tech Fund darling bites the dust? [UPDATED]
[Update: CEO Keller Rinaudo told me by phone that the company has stopped supporting the Romotive robots and confirms that both sites are down. However, he says Stork is still in business and working on its new product. Full story coming tomorrow.]
We’ve written before about robot startup Romotive here on Pando.
When I was running NSFWCORP out of Tony Hsieh’s Vegas Downtown Project, Romotive was the undisputed darling of Vegas Tech Fund’s portfolio. We’d often see their cute iPhone robots roaming the halls of the Odgen live-work building where NSFWCORP had its first office. The little buggers looked pretty cool.
Then, back in 2013, Romotive suddenly announced it was leaving Vegas. Employees had been complaining for a while about how — uh — remote they felt in Vegas. And being so far from other tech hubs made hiring top talent unnecessarily difficult. Sources told me at the time that Sequoia demanded the move as a condition of investing in the company’s series A. (To date, the company has raised a total of $12m from a raft of big name investors.)
The departure left the Downtown Project without a standout success story, espeically as more and more of Hsieh’s tech investments went south. The fact that Sequioa was partly responsible must have been particularly bitter-sweet for Hsieh given his old Zappos partner Alfred Lin was the partner responsible for the deal. [Disclosure: Hsieh is an investor in Pando.]
Last year the company announced it was rebranding as Stork, giving up its fun iPhone robots and instead focussing on ”applying advanced robotic technology to global problems.” That seemed to mean drones…
We are currently focused on building a product that can save lives and have an impact on a global scale. We take advantage of the speed and efficiency of aerial vehicles to implement safe and reliable systems for governments, non-profits, and corporations.
Fast forward to today and it seems neither the move nor the rebrand were enough to save Romotive/Stork. As of yesterday, all of the company's various web presences had vanished. According to angry users who have contacted Pando, the Romotive update server is no longer available and attempts to update the robots are causing the devices to become bricked.
At least one tipster says he bought a robot for his five year old who has now been left disappointed by a useless dead robot. The devices were also promoted heavily to schools, and the company raised close to $115,000 on Kickstarter.
We’ve contacted the company and several of its investors for comment. The only person to respond so far is Lin who referred us to CEO Keller Rinaudo for comment. I'll update this story if we hear back from Rinaudo. [See update above.]