Hardware startup Skully abruptly closed it doors this week, according to TechCrunch. Reports from earlier in the month stated that the San Francisco hardware startup ousted its founder and CEO Marcus Weller and his brother Mitch, who served as chief of staff, and handed the reins to COO Martin Fitcher.
Skully’s smart motorcycle helmet, the AR-1, promised innovations such as a heads-up display, audio and video navigation, and a 180-degree rear-view camera. Helmet pre-orders raised more than $2.4 million on Indiegogo, making it the most successful wearable tech campaign of all time on the crowdfunding site.
Excitement diminished and skepticism grew as Skully missed its original May 2015 ship date, with thousands of people wondering when, if ever, they’d receive their smart helmet. Unfortunately, the answer is likely never, despite an email from the Skully just weeks ago announcing, “Over 400 AR-1 units will be in customers’ hands by the end of July and all pre-orders will be fulfilled by the end of September.”
It was rumored that Chinese company LeSports was working with the Weller brothers on a possible acquisition deal to save Skully, which was rapidly running out of cash. Marcus Weller told TechCrunch that he and his brother were forced out of the company after investors disagreed with the LeSports deal. “I’m shocked and deeply saddened that they would now shut this company down,” Weller said. “We were raising a Series B to continue raising capital but then we had a buyer.”
Skully closed $11 million in Series A financing in February 2015 led by Walden Riverwood Ventures and Intel Capital.
“We’re disappointed Skully has closed its doors. We’ve been focused on the company’s success for nearly two years and have recently been trying to negotiate a funding round to keep it going,” Intel Capital said in a statement. “We’re certainly sorry for the employees who are losing their jobs, the crowdfunding backers whose investments didn’t work out and the customers who’d pre-purchased product. We continue to be excited by the promise of this kind of wearable technology.”
Although the above statement makes the closing of Skully sound final, it appears that there’s still leadership at the company who haven’t quite given up. “The Skully executive team is working diligently on closing a round of funding so that we can continue to fulfill our pre-orders and delight our customers,” marketing VP Carlos Rodriguez told TechCrunch late Tuesday night.
While those who pre-ordered an AR-1 helmet can find some hope in Rodriguez’s statement, Indiegogo’s terms clearly state that funded projects do not guarantee a successful or satisfactory delivery of product. Keep those fingers and toes crossed.
For anyone who absolutely must have a Skully AR-1, an auction has hit eBay with a Buy It Now price of $2,085. We contacted the seller, who was not an Indiegogo backer but purchased the AR-1 helmet directly from Skully.com.
“I am very disappointed with the closing of Skully,” said the seller. “I have shared, tweeted, and promoted Skully since day one. The thing that bothers me the most is that they have not even released a statement about the closing.”
What makes the situation even sadder is that the seller is satisfied with the product, but is now shaken by the uncertain future of support and updates. “I really like it and it does everything they said it does. The rear view camera is sharp and sound quality is really good,” the seller said. “Since they are shut down, I am concerned with future problems with no software or firmware upgrades or tech support. If something happens to it, I will have a $1500 paper weight!”
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