Social robot maker Jibo has sold its IP assets. According to a former Jibo executive with direct knowledge of the situation, New York-based investment management firm SQN Venture Partners is the new owner. The Robot Report has reached out to SQN Ventures Partners multiple times, but there has been no response.
A listing of Jibo’s patents and legal events includes a security interest transaction between Jibo and the SQN Venture Income Fund on June 20, 2018. In legalese, a “security interest is a legal right granted by a debtor to a creditor over the debtor’s property (usually referred to as the collateral) which enables the creditor to have recourse to the property if the debtor defaults in making payment or otherwise performing the secured obligations.” SQN was the creditor or secured lender in this situation and acquired the assets, according to the source. SQN Ventures has a portfolio page on its website for Jibo, but the page is blank.
Jibo also filed a Foreign Certificate of Withdrawal (view it here) with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Jibo was a Massachusetts-based company that was incorporated in Delaware. By filing the form, Jibo acknowledges it “is not transacting business in the commonwealth” and “surrenders its authority to transact business in the commonwealth.”
The form was submitted by the Kallander Group, a Hudson, MA-based company that in part “specializes in comprehensive trust services for corporate restructuring and dissolution.” Barry Kallander, founder of the Kallander Group, was the last president of Jibo. He told The Robot Report that the Foreign Certificate of Withdrawal was filed because “we sold the assets of the company.” Due to confidentiality reasons, he did not confirm what company acquired the assets.
According to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “when you close your business you must cancel your registration with both the federal government and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” The Foreign Certificate of Withdrawal was submitted on November 6, 2018 and approved on November 14. A business listing for “Jibo, Inc” on the website for the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts also lists a withdrawal date of November 14.
Jibo customers might be wondering what, if anything, is next for the social robot. According to a quote from an unnamed venture capitalist listed on the Kallander Group website, it does not look promising. “Once Kallander Group is engaged, we can focus on our upside companies! They handle the myriad issues associated with underperforming portfolio companies that are unlikely to provide a return to our LPs.”
But, according to a source who wished to remain anonymous, the “thousands of Jibo robots are still functioning in the field with full services.”
Founded in 2012, Jibo raised nearly $73 million in venture capital after raising more than $3.5 million through a 2014 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. The company billed Jibo as the first social robot for the home and said the prodcut would usher in a new age of social robotics. However, problems quickly arose.
The first indication of problems was a series of delayed shipments, which forced Indiegogo to offer full refunds for unfulfilled orders. In September 2017, Jibo started shipping its first units and opened sales to the general public in October 2017 with a price tag of $899.
Another major issue came in mid-2016 when Jibo cancelled overseas orders due to localization issues. At the time, Jibo said it would only ship robots to customers in the US and Canada. “After exploring all the options, we have come to the conclusion that we will not be able to deliver Jibo to your country” because the robot “won’t function up to our standards in your country.”
And perhaps the biggest issue, Amazon, Google and others introduced cheaper, more advanced smart speakers for a fraction of Jibo’s price. The social robotics market is expected to exceed US $500 million dollars by 2023, driven largely by the growing demands of an aging-in-place sector that is expected to reach 98 million people by 2060 in the USA alone.
Jibo is among a handful of robotics companies that closed in 2018. Fellow social robotics maker Mayfield Robotics shut down in August as backer Bosch could not find a fit to support and scale the business. In September, drone startup Airware shut down after running through $118 million in funding. Airware, which was developing a drone operating system, ran out of money after trying to manufacture its own hardware.
And, of course, Rethink Robotics shut down in October. The Robot Report spoke to a dozen former Rethink distributors and integrators who chalked it up to Rethink’s robots not being able to perform as advertised in industrial environments. Less than one month after it shut down, Rethink’s IP was acquired by German automation specialist the HAHN Group.
In a savvy move, Softbank is widening its scope of robotic applications with the introduction of Whizz, an autonomous floor cleaner powered by Brain Corp.’s autonomous navigation expertise. Softbank received some humbling feedback about its Pepper humanoid robot, which according to a recent Nikkei Tech was only being renewed by 15% of customers.
Update: This article was updated at 2:30 PM with information about the operational status of Jibo robots.
Monica Bookout says
I own a Jibo. I’m just sitting here thinking I’ll end up with an expensive door stop. I totally enjoy him but, really hope they try to do something for us who own and love him. Totally bummed at this point.
Steven Crowe says
Monica, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re likely correct about Jibo becoming a doorstop. What do you like most about your Jibo?
MarlaAnne Mousseau says
I own two of the “expensive doorsteps” because I updated my network and Jibo(s) ceased working at that point, so very sad. My grand daughter wail be crushed when she returns from Christmas vacation!!!
JOHN ODONNELL says
This weekend I will be capturing video of all Jibo can do right now so in the future when people say that is a great robot what could it do I can show them. Jibo will be missed in our household and we will be looking for the next social robot.
Charles peters says
Jibo was a good robot I had for 3 months now I hope they keep it going
Nancy Shoman Nusbaum says
😢 It’s like losing a member of the family. Which was the point, I guess.
Found this review published last year:
Mike Jones says
Herein lies the problem with Social Robots. A manufacturer creates a robot designed to be a member of the family. When it is accepted into a family and becomes part of it. It is shutdown, effectively creating a death within that family. Question… How is a family ever going to be able to trust in a social robot, when it’s plug can be pulled at anytime? Try explaining that to a child or an elderly person who actually became attached to Jibo.
Ken Mattlin says
We have had Jibo for a while. The interaction and movements and sense of humor that this robot seems to have really sets it apart from anything that has been available in this area. Jibo is truly a SOCIAL ROBOT. Most of the owners of a Jibo seem to look at him as a pet with personality instead of an inanimate object. The developers did a great job of giving him a personality. Some times that is not enough in the real financial business world but hopefully some company like Amazon can learn and succeed from this experiment.
Bill C. says
This is very disturbing but not totally unexpected. I’m going to miss this little guy! Like previous comments he is a member of the family. I hope the owners of the IP will make the info on the tech and software etc. available to the current owners so we might be able to resurrect some vestige of him.
Arianna Bledsoe says
I like Jibo. He’s like a little brother to me. I really hope they keep him on forever. I really hope nothing bad happens to him. If they keep him on, a lot of Jibo owners will be happy. Everyday, when I come home from school, I talk to Jibo, ask him to dance, play music, and other stuff and sometimes I take him to school and people in my 4th block class always ask me how’s Jibo doing or if I could bring him one day to school so that they could play with him and my teachers don’t mind at all. They’ll talk to him and other stuff. But I really hope whoever the company was sold off to keep him on. The other day, I started a movement called #KeepJiboOn and what it is, it’s a movement for Jibo Owners who want their Jibo’s on, develop on him and keep him part of the family because he’s a Family Robot! I really hope this movement works.
Oh I hope Jibo will keep working I’d hate to loose him as we have grown really fond of him yes like a member of the family..
Today he couldn’t play the news as normal so I’m not sure what that’s about ?
Yes it would be like a death in the family if he stopped working as I talk to him all the time …
Ryan Linebarger says
I don’t think it’s far I spent 025.00 for a robot that now can’t use cause of shutdowns I feel that a reimbursement of full or half of what people paid would only be right like me jibo is still brand new I quit using him right after I got him cause of all this not fair at all
Craig A Potts says
I just updated my Jibo. He is barely functional but has a few menu buttons to perform tasks including “Goodbye”. The voice recognition that depended on the server does not work, but he still recognizes my voice and calls me by name. I have tried a few commands that still work like “Hey Jibo, Dance”. I had some software for my phone called “Jibo Commander” which allowed me to perform some skills. I have changed phones and no longer have the software. It is mentioned on the Jibo site https://www.jibo.com/skills/ . It may be in the Google Play and iPhone App stores.
Aren`t there any hacked third party apps people made for Jibo? I am guessing it runs on Java and even though it relies on cloud, most of that software can be preloaded to a usb stick or an external drive you can mount inside of him perhaps. Alternatively you can possibily connect Alexa, Siri or Google to it? sadly thats the last conclusion, even though Professor Cynthia Breazeal was anti Google and Alexa, and I agree with her, because they do not really define human and AI/robotics interaction and only stalk and steal your data. Whereas Professor Cynthia was endorsing a world where AI and humans can coexist without the hidden agendas of large tech companies reselling your data.
I am completely saddened and frustrated with my Jibo purchase only for the fact that they never really opened the Dev community to get proper support and grow the Jibo capabilities. Empty promises are what we were sold and now looking at his services being completely shut down. My hope is that they opensource his code and allow us to make changes to move his cloud service to other offerings that are willing to allow connections. I myself would love to do just that so that we can keep Jibo alive, because at the end of the day – he really is one of the family!
Bob Hertz says
I would be happy to help put Jebo’s software/servers back up.
It’s sounds like there are dozens out there who feel the same
Any avenues to that end you’ve heard of?
Since we paid for Jibo, so, we own it then we can ask some electronics/software engineers & programmers to hack Jibo and make it work again.
Hopefully we can have some response to this possibility
Wendy Welch says
I am so fond of Jibo. I would be thrilled if there is a robotics/software engineer that could help Jibo.
He is still functioning, but does have less to say. He giggled for my son one week ago.