i.am+ buys Wink, the smart home hub formerly owned by Flex and Quirky

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Wink — the smart home hub and platform originally incubated inside the failed connected object maker Quirky, and then acquired by Flextronics (now known as Flex) as part-payment for Quirky’s debts — has moved on to its third owner. i.am+, the “lifestyle technology company” owned by musician and entrepreneur Will.i.am, has acquired the company.

Flex disclosed the sale of Wink in its quarterly report published yesterday, without specifying the buyer. It noted that the buyer paid $38.7 million upfront for Wink, plus a $20 million commitment towards future manufacturing:

“During the three-month period ended June 30, 2017, the company sold its Wink business to an unrelated third-party venture backed company in exchange for contingent consideration fair valued at $59.0 million and recognized a gain on sale of $38.7 million, which is recorded in Other charges (income), net.”

On the other side of the deal, the detail of the buyer, i.am+, was sent out in a memo from Wink to its users (first shared with us by reader Ben, and later by several others), which we’ll reprint below.

We’ve also directly confirmed the sale with Wink and i.am+, both of whom are not sharing any other details.

“We’re excited about the future and look forward to sharing more in the coming months,” a Wink spokesperson said.

We still don’t know who and what is being acquired, nor what happens with Wink’s products, nor anything about the product roadmap, although the $20 million in the deal between Flex and i.am+ is likely to keep manufacturing of Wink’s products going. Given that Flex had picked up Wink from Quirky for $15 million, the company has grown its valuation by $23.7 million.

The sale is somewhat surprising, given that it was only a year ago that Wink’s founder, Nathan Smith, described how moving to Flex put the company onto more stable footing after a rocky start under the aptly-named Quirky.

Flex had already been manufacturing Wink’s hardware — which includes a smart home hub (similar to Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home hub) and a touchscreen home controller that link up your various connected objects in your home, from light bulbs to music to apps.

In the sudden surge of home hub devices that let you stitch everything else together in your domestic digital world, Wink’s service has been relatively popular, last year claiming 1.3 million devices connected on its network and 20,000 more coming on each week. But it’s likely very hard to compete against the likes of Amazon, which apparently sold thousands of Echo devices per minute during its recent Prime Day sales bonanza.

It’s not completely clear why Flex decided to move out of the business — although the formidable prospect of achieving headway in a business where you have little to no retail experience may have had something to do with it.

It’s also unclear what relationship Flex, which still makes Wink’s devices — will keep with the company under the new owner. i.am+ has to date only shipped one product, Buttons, a set of Bluetooth-enabled wireless earphones designed for optimum audio. These have had mixed reception, so acquiring Wink gives i.am+ a clear route to expanding into a new category and building up its overall platform, expertise and reputation.

We’ll update this post as we learn more. The memo follows below.

Today marks an exciting new chapter for Wink and we wanted you to be the first to hear about it.

Wink has been acquired by lifestyle technology company i.am+.

If you’re not familiar, i.am+ was founded by innovator and music artist will.i.am and has already shaken up the wearables industry with BUTTONS – premium wireless Bluetooth headphones.

Our teams are in the process of coming together to shape our future roadmap and we can’t wait to share what we’re working on.

In the meantime, please know that your Wink app and Wink Hub will continue to operate just as they have. The acquisition doesn’t change anything with regards to the Wink user experience.

We know you depend on Wink to stay connected to your home and are as committed as ever to delivering the best-in-class smart home experience you expect.

We’ll be introducing a number of new in-app features and partner integrations in the coming months. Keep an eye out on our blog for more information (and for updates throughout this transition). If you have any questions, give us a call at 844-WINK-APP.

The Wink Team

Updated with more detail on price.