Kitchen appliance giant Breville announced today that it has acquired ChefSteps, maker of the Joule connected sous vide wand. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
From the press release:
Breville’s acquisition of ChefSteps will enhance the long-term R&D capacity that brought the Joule product to market, allowing for continued and sustained focus on innovation, while increasing global commercial scale to further maximize the value of the ChefSteps content platform and portfolio of fast-growing connected Joule products. It also forms a natural consumer-focused extension to Breville’s existing commercial sous vide range of products following its acquisition of the PolyScience Culinary division in 2014.
The privately funded ChefSteps started out as an online culinary community and recipe site and went on to become an early pioneer in the sous vide space through the company’s well regarded (and well designed) Joule.
In April, ChefSteps laid off a significant number of its staff. At that time Spoon Founder Mike Wolf wrote:
There are still not many details beyond what’s been reported, so it’s hard to tell exactly what happened and why ChefSteps was forced to downsize. I can only speculate that sales of the Joule (or their related Joule Ready sauce business) wasn’t substantial enough to fund the ongoing business and that they had exhausted funding provided by early backer Gabe Newell.
Newell, a billionaire who made his money in the video game business as the founder of Valve, had given the company a low-interest loan early on. While Young had described Newell’s support as giving the company the financial flexibility to push in new directions (such as with the Joule), it looks like Newell’s generosity has its limits. It’s unclear if ChefSteps had sought funding from other outside sources (or is still seeking funding).
Less than a week after that ChefSteps shut down its premium content offerings and shuttered its relatively nascent sauce-selling business. At that time, ChefSteps CEO, Chris Young posted to Facebook:
As you’ve heard, there have been some changes at ChefSteps in the past week. Our funding situation unexpectedly changed (emphasis mine) and we’ve had to make the incredibly difficult decision to let a significant fraction of our amazing team go. This truly sucks.
Following these closings, Mike Wolf followed up with another story, writing:
While it was always assumed ChefSteps was in a good financial place because of the backing of billionaire Gabe Newell, it’s apparent now that wasn’t necessarily the case. Most interestingly, it looks like the sudden change in the health of the company’s balance sheet was not anticipated, making me wonder if either Newell called in the loan or had changed his position somehow and didn’t want to extend more credit to the company. There’s also the possibility ChefSteps had been seeking other financing and had something fall through at the last minute.
ChefSteps will be integrated into the Breville Group business and will continue to operate out of its Seattle office.
The acquisition by Breville is good news for Joule fans everywhere, but given the tight times the company was in and the fact that terms were not disclosed, it probably wasn’t the exit the company was hoping for when they started.
We will continue to follow this story as it develops.