Last week, news broke that Whirlpool and Innit’s partnership to build connected kitchen products has come to an end.
While the news came as a surprise to some, the fact that Whirlpool made a big smart kitchen splash at CES this year without any mention of Innit had us wondering last January about the status of the relationship.
Based on conversations over the past two months, this is what we have learned:
Because Innit’s relationship with Whirlpool was initially exclusive, this essentially left the smart kitchen startup on the sidelines for much of 2016 as other smart kitchen OS players such as Drop were free to talk to any number of major appliance brands. For a platform startup like Innit, there are only so many big consumer-focused kitchen brands to target, so as Drop announced deals with Bosch and GE/Haier, this put pressure on the company to essentially pursue other relationships outside of Whirlpool.
The loss of world’s biggest appliance maker from their client list no doubt hurts, but now the company is free to pursue other brands. They also have plans to amplify their own brand this year by connecting directly with consumers, the first step in which was the company’s recent acquisition of ShopWell, a personalized nutrition and food shopping app that has been downloaded over 2.5 million times. The acquisition also extends the company’s reach into the grocery and food retail market and will allow them to integrate ShopWell’s packaged food data into their own kitchen offering. Innit also has plans to create their own consumer-facing branded app that will work with a variety of connected products.
For Whirlpool’s part, their relationship with Innit was viewed as part and parcel of a more exploratory phase of the market. With 2017 rolling around and the company viewing the market for connected kitchen products as more viable, it decided to more actively develop and expand their own connected product technology. As one source told me, “if a startup can do with a few million dollars, why can’t the world’s biggest kitchen brand do it?”
Bottom line, this news is an indication of just how fast-moving and competitive the platform battle for the connected kitchen has become. With Innit back in the dating pool, Drop locking up two big partners and others like SideChef pursuing big kitchen brands, the market for independent third party platforms likely will only get more competitive throughout 2017. One big unknown is how Whirlpool’s decision to largely focus on developing their own platform for Whirlpool branded products might influence other large kitchen brands who have yet to really develop connected kitchen strategies. It also is a sign that we might see some of the same fragmentation that plagued the smart home in recent years, a market which suffered as many big players pursued their own non-interoperable platform efforts.
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