Will.i.am Winks at smart home investment; drops $38 million

Wink, the smart home hub sold for $15 million a year ago to Flextronics (now known as Flex), is moving onto its third owner, i.am+, the hardware startup fronted by musician Will.i.am.

Flex disclosed the sale in its quarterly earnings report, published on Thursday, declaring that the buyer had paid $38.7 million and committed $20 million towards future manufacturing.

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Wink alerted customers to the deal, revealing i.am+ as the buyer.

Wink originally started in as a subsidiary of Quirky, a hardware accelerator that filed for bankruptcy in 2015. Flex acquired Wink, seen at the time as the ideal move, as the company had already been manufacturing Wink’s smart home hardware.

Two years has changed that view, although neither Wink or Flex have provided reasons why the sale happened. Flex did not say in its financial statement whether Wink’s business was profitable, and we have heard nothing so far from i.am+.

i.am+ has debuted two products, Dial, a smartwatch that can take phone calls and is only available in the U.K. and Buttons, a set of wireless Bluetooth headphones. At the time of writing all versions of the Dial are sold out on Three, the only carrier selling the device, which either means high sales or (more likely) the carrier has not refreshed the stock due to low demand.

Wink does provide i.am+ with a new hardware market and Dial’s personal assistant could be embedded into future products. That said, it is a tough market to crack, with Amazon, Google, and now Apple all selling smart home hubs, alongside well maintained software and thousands of developers eagerly creating new services for those platforms.

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