It was only recently that Facebook put an end to its ambitious digital assistant product, M, which the social media giant unveiled two years ago as the company’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Google assistant. The Messenger assistant which was offered to close to 10,000 people in the San Francisco area could perform actions like booking restaurant reservations, changing flights, sending gift, etc. Brought into life with an intention of developing artificial intelligence technology that could fully automate M’s task, it failed to do so!
Hence M was shut down on 19th Jan 2018, owing to problems like it couldn’t perform tasks that it was asked to do, didn’t justify the machine learning capabilities that it was supposedly bestowed with and demanded human intervention. According to reports it could never surpass 30 percent automation, and Facebook claimed that it had launched it to learn people’s expectation from an AI assistant, and that they would use it to power other AI projects.
While this came as an easy justification for the company, there are several others that fail to keep up to high rising complexities and challenges such as lack of funding, lack of innovation, failure to produce a scalable product, amongst others, prompting them to call it quits.
AIM list down few such instances from the analytics, data science, AI and IoT world, where tech companies were forced to succumb under various crunches.
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Tech failures that India witnessed
PropheeSee: Shut down in Jan 2017
Founded in November 2014 in Delhi, by Ishaan Sethi, Harshil Gurha and Jitesh Luthra; it was conceived as a marketing analytics SaaS platform that worked with brands to help them take control of their digital data and help them make informed decisions. This startup providing a way to increased capital efficiency for its clients, failed to keep up to the expectations despite having raised their seed round of $516K from Indian Angel Network & Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs India. The reason for their shutdown remains unknown, as the company website stopped working earlier in the year 2017. The news of their shut down was confirmed from Ishann Sethi’s LinkedIn profile. Some of the other investors in the analytics-SaaS startup were Ajay Lavakare, Bikky Khosla and Satveer Thakral.
Kaaryah: Shut down in Dec 2017
Launched in 2014 by Nidhi Agarwal, Karyaah was a data analytics driven fashion brand that provided women’s western wear. Launched with much aplomb, it was funded by the likes of Mohandas Pai and Ratan Tata. After struggling to catch up for funds, Gurugram based startup pulled its shutter in December 2017 due to lack of funds. The founder had said then that the plan was not sudden as they were trying to raise funds for the last 18 months. The company catered to Indian professional women with western outfit, also providing clothes for plus size women with up to 18 dress sizes.
Cuber 26: Shut down in March 2017
Founded by Saurav Kumar, Abhilekh Agarwal and Aakash Jain in 2012, Cube 26 closed its Internet of Things business leading to several job cuts. Despite raising a seed funding of $7.7 million from Tiger Global and Flipkart in October 2015, the firm decided to shut on its first IoT product, a Bluetooth-controlled colour-changing smart bulb, to focus solely on software and services business. The company which sold smart bulb under the brand IOTA, launched a new IoT brand Reos, in August last year, under which it launched a suite of smartphone apps and a new version of the smart bulb, Reos Lite. Giving up on its IoT play, it is currently building a platform between local service providers and smartphone users through their local app.
Finomena: Shut down in July 2017
The reason behind the shut down of this Bengaluru based fintech startup was a failure to raise Series A funding. Founded by IIT-Delhi graduate Abhishek Garg and Stanford graduate Riddhi Mittal in 2015, the team faced high cash burn and the cost of acquisition was high for any plausible buyout. Though there is no official announcement, Finomena users could not login on its app. This fintech startup used data and machine learning to reassess the creditworthiness of borrowers, which were mostly students and young professionals, before disbursing loans to them. It had raised funding from Matrix Partners India, Kaushal Aggarwal, Harshvardhan Chamria and others. There were two buyout offers which apparently didn’t materialise.
Jawbone: Shut down in Feb 2017
Jawbone announced its exit from wearable market in Feb 2017 owning a strategic shift post a slowdown in wearable adoption and the reported exit of its CTO. There were also rising consumer complaints and financial issues worsening the situation. Jawbone was the maker of groundbreaking UP fitness tracker and a market leader in consumer wearable devices, before it announced its exit from the wearable market. They were looking into a shift to health industry.
Coca Cola shut down its analytics center at Pune:
Back in July 2017, one of One of Coca Cola’s biggest analytics and technical innovation centres in India was announced to be closing down. It was a part of company’s restructuring strategy, as it intended to become a leaner organisation. In 2010, the company had set up the Eurasia analytical services with an investment of Rs. 18 crores to support operations in India, South Asia, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Southern Eurasia. Company adopted strategies to restructure the businesses across the globe, and the decision to cease analytics operations at Pune was a move in this direction. This was also looked upon as a move to consolidate Coca Cola’s lab facilities across the globe.
On a concluding note
While there is no one reason that could be attributed to these failures, building wrong product, inability to assemble the right team, lack of funding, dearth of right consulting, inability to calculate and foresee future trends were found to be the major drivers for the companies calling it quits, especially in areas like artificial intelligence and analytics, that demand more time in scaling up compared to other industries.