March 2012 and there was a buzz of excitement as local company came up with a really good idea to push the Internet of Things forward. Later that year I got my NinjaBlock and was impressed with what it was and with its potential. Fast forward again to this week, and now the company has announced it’s closing up shop.
NinjaBlock was a nifty idea: Make the IoT accessible to all by removing the complexity. One device that could act as a hub and a simple, cloud-based programming interface. It was a great little device, I still use mine today.
But it didn’t take long until the company started shifting direction. Instead of focusing on the device, they would provide the cloud environment for any device. Harder to see how the money would work, and where the committed community would go to, but I could see the rationale behind the thinking. NinjaBlock version 2 came out, this time with added shiny and that clearly made the company think again. Leaving aside both the hobbyist appeal of the first generation and the hardware-less appeal of the cloud idea, they would produce a truly shiny device that would be the IoT killer device.
NinjaSphere was a lovely bit of industrial design and raised a substantial sum through Kickstarter and direct orders, this in addition to investment backing for the company itself. But time started going by and no NinjaSphere was arriving on doorsteps. And meanwhile every delayed day that passed was eating through funds. And now one of Australia’s big start-up success stories has become another failure statistic. Already the usual stages of mourning are being worked through by the community; from support for the individuals, to vague hopes of angel investors saving everything, to vitriol being hurled by those who will not get what they paid for, to tenuous threats of legal action.
The sad thing for me is that I’ve always through the original idea had huge potential and as the Ninja Blocks team got stars in their eyes and left their roots behind they were sacrificing an opportunity. Who knows if I was right; but it’s certainly sad to see Ninja Blocks go so far wrong.