dinatè December 3, 2018

Earlier this year, we reported that TrackR, a startup that makes a small Bluetooth device that you attach to items like keys to locate them when lost, would be rebranding as Adero and pivoting the business amid an increasingly commoditized market for its basic hardware product.

Now, that is just what is happening.

Today, Adero is officially making its debut, with a product that builds and expands on the TrackR, by providing a system to organise multiple groups of items — not just so that you can find them when they’ve been misplaced, but also so that you can be proactively alerted when you have forgotten something behind in a grouped set of items when on the move.

A starter kit — containing three smart tags, three smaller item “taglets,” a tag charger, lanyards, cases and key rings — is going on sale today for $119.99. A “deluxe” case with five tags and nine taglets will be coming soon, costing $199.99. The Adero is compatible with Android 5.1 and higher, and will be soon adding iOS 11, too.

To be clear, while Adero is discontinuing the TrackR, the company has confirmed that it will continue to support those that are in the market (for the time being).

If you think that the Adero sounds like a glorified version of what it is replacing, the company says that, in addition to offering a way of grouping items that you are tracking (“smart containers”), and chirping at you when you leave something behind, it has other features that make it more useful.

These include creating time-based reminders to collect your items; a rechargeable smart tag battery; and water resistance.

The move is a significant, and necessary, leap that the startup had to take.

In a market full of competition, even the largest of the bunch, Tile, has worked on refocusing its own remit under a new CEO, taking strategic investment from Comcast to develop products with the broadband giant as it tries to tap into more connected home opportunities and the promises of IoT (before other tech players like Amazon, Google and Apple once again eat up what could have been an obvious carrier opportunity, as they have done in other areas).

For its part, Adero had been struggling to find the right margins and business model for TrackR, and attempts to expand the original product — such as a Beacon device called the Atlas — also met dead ends (after a debut at CES, the Atlas never made it to market).

Weathering layoffs and natural disaster, the low point of sorts may have been when the company quietly raised $10 million in July, at a $40 million valuation, according to PitchBook.

It was a clear downround: TrackR was valued at $150 million when it raised $50 million as recently as August 2017. Investors were not disclosed in the most recent funding, but previous backers of the company, in addition to Amazon, include Foundry Group, NTT and Revolution.

“Foundry and Revolution were hoping that they would put this money in and I could fix and scale things, similar to how I’d scaled Sonos and so on. But within six weeks, it became evident that we didn’t need to scale but figure out what the future was and where this is going,” said Nathan Kelly, who was promoted to CEO from COO in December 2017, in an interview ahead of today.

Kelly’s resume includes years at Sonos, Tesla and Facebook’s Building 8, so he has had a spectrum of experiences of what it means to build and sell hardware. To his credit, he talked to me frankly, even after we scooped their launch.

“We realised that in the 10 years that TrackR had been out there, there wasn’t anything new,” he said. It was a call that maybe only a non-founder could make (neither Christian Smith nor Chris Herbert, the two founders, are with the company anymore). “There wasn’t enough innovation going on. We had to figure out what is next, not just rinsing and repeating in a spec war when the original idea was not that interesting to begin with.”

Going forward, he says there is another, bigger funding round in the works — likely dependent on how this effort will go, I’m guessing — and there are plans to add more intelligence into the product.

“Adero will soon be smart enough to know what you are leaving behind [when you need it]. It will say you are leaving without your wallet in the morning,” or perhaps your passport before a trip abroad.

Kelly added the company wasn’t able to get that rolled out in time for this launch — which it hoped to have out in time for holiday shopping — but an early version of the predictive feature should be out “within a few weeks.” He also noted that the company filed a number of large patents in the last year to this end.

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