Romotive CEO admits it bungled product phase-out, offers refunds to disappointed users
Yesterday I wrote that Stork-formerly-Romotive had disappeared from the Internet. Users were reporting that their Romo robots had suddenly stopped working, leaving a trail of disappointed kids.
The one-time Vegas Tech Fund darling had already relocated and rebranded and was last reported to be working on building drones. Investors declined to comment on the company’s apparent disappearance.
Today I have some good news. Kinda.
I spoke by phone yesterday to CEO Keller Rinaudo. He told me that, yep, Romotive robots are no longer being supported and all their websites are down. But he insists that Stork is still in business and still working hard on its new drones.
According to Rinaudo, the dead Romo robots are the fault of Apple which updated iOS in a way that broke the Romotive software. The company had already stopped supporting the app and had open sourced the code hoping that someone else would continue to work on it. According to sources familiar with the company, the number of users still regularly using their “Romo” robots had dwindled to a vanishingly small number.
So, I asked Rinaudo, you just decided not to tell users that their robots were going to break?
“That’s a good question. It’s not that we intentionally broke robots… iOS changes every month [and] the recent update broke a bunch of things. I didn’t realize it broke the robots. We haven’t figured out how to communicate that [to users] yet.”
I tell Rinaudo that seems like something they should have figured out before a bunch of children woke up to dead robots. He agrees.
“We’ve never had to phase out a product before. A year ago we stopped selling Romo. A couple of months ago we stopped supporting it.”
“We were going to run out of money building Romo,” he admits.”[But] we wouldn’t have survived if it weren’t for the people who supported us… I would love to talk to [disappointed users who have contacted Pando] about refunds.”
That’s good for the people who have contacted Pando, but what about everyone else? Rinaudo says they should email firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll personally ensure things are made right. “If I need to write a check to them personally, I will.”
The bungled update and disappearance from the web is a handy reminder of the problem with pivoting a hardware company. Just because most of the universe thought your previous product was a dud doesn’t mean you can pretend it never happened. In most cases there will be at least a small number of users who paid for a product and expect it to continue to be supported. At the very, very least, they deserve an email explanation of what’s going on.
One remaining puzzle is the 404’ing Stork and Romotive sites. Even if the company has pivoted, surely it wouldn’t take much to swap out a landing page? Again, Rinaudo insists the company is still in business and that they’re simply too busy working on their new product to spend time maintaining a website.
“My goal has been to walk before we talk... We are still working on building a product that works.”