Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

One of Anki's robots. Photo courtesy Anki

Building robots is hard, but building a robotics company seems nearly impossible.

The latest in a spate of robotics companies to fold is Anki, the 9-year-old company that built cute robot companions and AI-powered toy race cars. It had raised more than $200 million in venture capital from top Silicon Valley firms and said last year it was nearing $100 million in revenue.

Things were looking good for Anki back in 2013 when it launched its first product, a nearly $200 toy race car and video game, onstage at an Apple keynote — an enormous platform.

  • After the racers, its next wave of products were friendly companion bots: little bulldozer-looking things with expressive eyes that make cute noises.
  • But this week, after losing out on what Anki spokesperson Peter Nguyen called a "significant financial deal at a late stage," the company is laying off its entire workforce, Nguyen said in a statement.
  • The news was first reported by Recode.

This trajectory is familiar to robotics companies — especially those making social robots. In the past year, several firms that made them, like Jibo and Mayfield Robotics, closed their doors.

At a robotics summit hosted by TechCrunch earlier this month, several speakers discussed why building a robotics company is so hard.

  • "The hardest problem starting out is finding the right problem to solve and making sure that people want you to solve it," said Melonee Wise, CEO of Fetch Robotics.
  • "Groups that do warehouse automation have often been successful because the market is there," said Manish Kothari, president of SRI Ventures, which invests in robotics companies.
  • "We know people pick apples; we know how much they charge for picking apples," Kothari said. "It's a daunting technical challenge" — but someone will probably want an apple-picking bot if you can create it and beat the cost of human pickers.

There's not yet a clear signal that people want robots in their homes.

  • For now, smart speakers like Amazon Echo are the closest thing to must-have home hardware — and they're still a far cry from any sort of robot.
  • The biggest market for bots at home is still for vacuums like Roomba, which have been around for nearly two decades.

Go deeper: Why is so hard to build profitable robot companies? (IEEE Spectrum)

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
34 mins ago - Economy & Business

How GameStop exposed the market

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Retail traders have found a cheat code for the stock market, and barring some major action from regulatory authorities or a massive turn in their favored companies, they're going to keep using it to score "tendies" and turn Wall Street on its head.

What's happening: The share prices of companies like GameStop are rocketing higher, based largely on the social media organizing of a 3-million strong group of Redditors who are eagerly piling into companies that big hedge funds are short selling, or betting will fall in price.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

Who benefits from Biden's move to reopen ACA enrollment

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Nearly 15 million Americans who are currently uninsured are eligible for coverage on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, and more than half of them would qualify for subsidies, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation brief.

Why it matters: President Biden is expected to announce today that he'll be reopening the marketplaces for a special enrollment period from Feb. 15 to May 15, but getting a significant number of people to sign up for coverage will likely require targeted outreach.

2 hours ago - Technology

Big Tech bolts politics

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Big Tech fed politics. Then it bled politics. Now it wants to be dead to politics. 

Why it matters: The social platforms that profited massively on politics and free speech suddenly want a way out — or at least a way to hide until the heat cools. 

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!