Jibo Inc. has made layoffs a little over a month after the Boston-based startup launched its eponymous $899 social robot.
The company told BostInno on Friday that an unspecified amount of employees were laid off this week to focus on building more capabilities for Jibo — which has received praise from reviewers for its level of interactivity while getting panned for its lack of functionality.
Backed by more than $70 million in venture capital, the company launched Jibo in late October following nearly two years of delays after it raised $3.6 million in a 2014 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. Early access units started shipping to Indiegogo backers in September.
“Now that we’re post-launch, it was important for us to adjust our focus, and dedicate our resources to bringing Jibo more and more capabilities, which is our top priority,” Jibo Head of Media Becca Westelman said in an email. “We have an ambitious list of capabilities that we want to bring to our customers. We believe that we have the resources we need to keep propelling Jibo further, and to deliver the experience Jibo’s families expect.”
Since the social robot’s launch in late October, Jibo has received praise for being“adorable” and “a pretty deft conversationalist,” but reviewers have also panned the product for its limited functionality, with The Boston Globe’s Scott Kirsner saying that Jibo only offers “one-tenth the functionality” of voice assistant devices like the $90 Amazon Echo.
In an interview with BostInno in October, Jibo CEO Steve Chambers likened the current state of Jibo to the early days of Apple’s iPhone, which didn’t have the App Store until about a year after the smartphone’s original launch in 2007.
“It’s as if now we have the iPhone operating system,” he had said. “Now we’re in a phase where we’re building apps on the iPhone.”
Nancy Dussault-Smith, Jibo’s vice president of marketing, told The Boston Globe in late November that more than 100 developers are creating software for the social robot and that more functionality will be introduced at a trade show in January.
Jibo is already starting to introduce new features. On Wednesday, the company announced a partnership with iHeartRadio, a music streaming service that will power the Jibo Music feature, which launches next week as a free software update.
“For Jibo to succeed, it is going to need to attract hundreds of outside software developers to help expand the device’s capabilities — something that tech giants like Amazon, Apple, and Google have shown they can do but that will be a high hurdle for a tiny startup in Boston,” Kirsner wrote in his Boston Globe review.