The Rise and Fall of Pleo, a Fairwell Lecture by John Sosoka, Former CTO of Ugobe

Posted on 29/05/2009 by wcox in Industry

Pleo is dead

In case you missed the news, Ugobe, maker of the amazing robotic pet Pleo, has filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy and has auctioned off all of its goods as of May 29th. It's still unclear what will happen to all of the IP, and there's potential that some buyer may resurrect our little robot pal, but that remains to be seen as news of the auction goes live. As a nice recap to Ugboe's rise and fall, John Sosoka, the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) made a presentation to the Standford University EE380 lecture series class, entitled "The Rise and Fall of a Companion Robot: Lessons Learned from Pleo".  You can watch a full video of the lecture here. It's a fascinating talk for anyone that's interested in bringing a robotic product to the mass market. John talks for about 40 minutes and answers questions afterward.  He talks about "what went wrong" with Ugobe, instead of the usual technical discussion, and considering that the lecture was given on the eve of the asset auction for Ugobe, the talk is twinged with sadness. Ugobe was formed in 2004, released its first product in 2007, sold over 100k units worldwide, and was seeking an additional $20 million USD round of funding in the late Summer of 2008. Due to the economic collapse, this didn't happen, and their chances of survival were pretty much eliminated. By April 2009 the company had filed bankruptcy. So, the most obvious reason for Ugobe's failure was a money issue, but John points out that the bigger and more serious problem was that Ugobe never figured out what Pleo really was. Was it a toy? A robotic gadget? A research tool? They never honed in on a marketing message, and consequently weren't able to make the jump from selling 100k units to early adopters to selling 1 million units to the general public. Pleo was more than a toy, and different from a pet and they couldn't come up with a way of describing that. So, even if the $20 million dollar funding had come through, the company still may very well have collapsed. Additionally, rapid growth of the company and a lot of venture funding confused the core goals and caused them to lose focus. Mixed in with John's talk were some fun facts about Pleo. He said the wholesale cost of Pleo was $195, and the cost to manufacture each one was $140 - a pretty good price considering the complexity, processing power, etc. Sosoka estimated that the company spent about $7 million dollars before shipping the first unit. Another interesting tidbit was that 15k of the 100k Pleos were bought in the (relatively small) Itallian market, thanks to the distributor there. Sosoka lamented using the US distributor (which I hear might have been Senario LLC, can anyone confirm?), saying that they regretted this relationship. Again, I recommend watching John's talk if you're interested in the business of robotics. Pleo's can still be purchased from for a steep discount.
LikedLike this to see more

Spread the word

Flag this post

Thanks for helping to keep our community civil!

Notify staff privately
It's Spam
This post is an advertisement, or vandalism. It is not useful or relevant to the current topic.

You flagged this as spam. Undo flag.Flag Post