Looks like the relationship between Quirky and GE is going well, and the two are ready to take it to the next level. As Quirky closes a $79 million series D round, GE is playing a large role, taking a minority equity stake with a $30 million strategic investment. Furthermore, the two companies announced Wednesday they were expanding their partnership to build connected devices and opening up their connected platform Wink to external developers.
“Every year, we’ve sort of leveled up the sophistication of products,” Ben Kaufman, founder and CEO, told Fast Company. “What started with cord-management stuff has moved into high-voltage power and is now moving to connected stuff.”
Just last week, the two companies introduced a line of four connected products, including a smart power strip that people can turn on and off remotely and a connected egg container that sends users text messages when they’re low on eggs. “We specifically went toward giftables because we wanted to make things that were fun to talk about and because we were going into the holiday season,” Kaufman said.
But as the two companies move forward, that won’t necessarily be the case. Kaufman said the plan is to introduce a dozen smart devices in the next year as part of this extended partnership. Possible gadgets include a connected sprinkler system, garage door opener, and coffee maker. In addition to promoting Wink products, GE will also develop its own countertop appliances for the connected home platform. Even with the emphasis on Wink, Kaufman said Quirky remains committed to the invention of non-smart devices, and the two businesses will have their own separate teams and resources.
At Fast Company‘s Innovation Uncensored conference last week, GE Chief Marketing Officer Beth Comstock said working with smaller companies helps GE innovate at a faster pace. “Even in our best day–and we think we’re moving fast–it’s not startup speed,” she said, adding GE invests more than $100 million a year in startups. But there’s always worry about a smaller company getting crushed. “We’re aware of the fact that you can love [a startup] so much you can smother it,” she cautioned.