STK Life, also a manufacturer of budget phones, announced a licensing deal that would see after-sales support and sales of Wileyfox’s smartphones continue. Wileyfox would continue under its own name, but it’s clear that the two brands will now function together, and we expect that STK’s repertoire of budget phones will see improvements from this agreement.
“Today’s mobile industry is highly saturated, and consolidation is essential to reinvigorate growth and balance,” Jay Pau, CEO of STK, said in a related statement. “By bringing the Wileyfox brand under the STK umbrella, we are able to significantly improve the supply chain for both brands, add new sales channels, and offer a broader portfolio of affordable and mid-tier smartphones to the consumer.”
The original news of bankruptcy came via a post on the /r/Wileyfox subreddit, with Wileyfox-Jack breaking the news that his job had been lost as a result of restructuring, and lamenting that he would no longer be able to offer official support to the community.
“Wileyfox Europe Limited is in Administration. Andrew Andronikou and Andrew Hosking are appointed joint administrators and act jointly and severally without personal liability,” Jack said. With some emotion evident, he also added “Today is a sad day not just because I lost my job but because I believed in the Wileyfox brand :(“. It’s clear from Jack’s post that the thirty-strong Wileyfox team (as they were) had a strong bond. According to The Register, as many as twenty staff members lost their jobs from the initial reaction.
Wileyfox was one of the earliest startups to take advantage of the Android fork Cyanogen, after the rogue Android build split off from Google in 2015. After Cyanogen shut down in late 2016, Wileyfox switched over to Android, and began to offer significant price cuts in exchange for lock-screen ads on new phones.
Wileyfox’s money troubles weren’t wholly based on a lack of sales. While Wileyfox never spoke officially about its funding, details from the insolvency process have revealed that significant amounts of Wileyfox’s backing was tied into the Russian bank Promsvyazbank, which was bailed out by the Russian government in December to the tune of $3.4 billion. However, as pointed out by Techcrunch, Wileyfox recorded a 1.5 million British pound (roughly $2 million) loss in April 2017, so all was not rosy even before the collapse.
Update: We’ve updated this story with the news that STK Life has saved Wileyfox.