SNUPI Technologies, the Seattle startup led by entrepreneur Jeremy Jaech and University of Washington computer science professor Shwetak Patel, laid off a significant portion of its staff today after it was unable to raise additional venture funding. The company also said that it would de-emphasize its WallyHome sensor device, a $299 product designed to detect water leaks and moisture in homes.
“Although WallyHome has improved and matured over its past year of sales, it isn’t generating enough cash to pay for our current staff,” said Jaech in an email to GeekWire. “We will continue to sell the inventory we have on order from our manufacturer, and plan to keep the WallyHome service operating, but at the present time we do not plan to continue to evolve the web services or mobile apps, or spend money on marketing activities.”
Jaech said the future is uncertain for the WallyHome device, noting that once the current supply runs out, the company “may or may not build more hardware depending on future events we cannot predict today.” The company said it now plans to focus on the radio technology behind the WallyHome, rather than the device itself.
As a result of the shift in business, Jaech said that the software and marketing teams have either been “furloughed” or laid off. Eight people were laid off, while six were furloughed, leaving eight total employees at the company.
Jaech said sales did not support the staff, and that they were unable to raise cash to keep the employees on board. He noted that it costs a lot of money to build consumer electronics devices and build a consumer brand.
“Sometimes you get lucky and a product sells itself. Usually not. We never believed we would make it to profitability by selling one product at a time over the internet, but felt it was a necessary step to prove the product worked and that people would buy it. To efficiently market WallyHome requires partners with broad reach and brand awareness, and although we were starting to make progress there we ran short on money before we could get enough partners in place. I think if we had enough money to continue along our current path for the rest of 2015 we might have broken out.”
Founded in 2012, SNUPI raised $7.5 million in venture funding last year from Madrona Venture Group, WRF Capital and others. The company’s name is an acronym for Sensor Network Utilizing Powerline Infrastructure.
Jaech is well known in entrepreneurial circles, having previously co-founded Aldus (sold to Adobe) and Visio (sold to Microsoft). In addition to his duties at the UW, Patel previously co-founded Zensi, which was acquired by Belkin in 2010.
Jaech said they are retaining the majority of the hardware and firmware teams, as well as the customer service team. He said the ability to “ship and support our product isn’t changing, and we will continue to evolve the SNUPI radio technology.”
Jaech declined to comment on possible plans to sell the company, noting that they may try to find new investors in order to recapitalize at a lower burn rate.
“The important thing is to survive to fight another day,” he said.