Doppler Labs, the startup aimed at making a better alternative to Apple’s AirPods has shut down. Sharing the news, founder Noah Kraft said, “I’m sorry to have to write you to tell you that Doppler is going out of business.”
What went wrong with Doppler Labs?
Doppler Labs, founded in 2013, secured $50 million in funding from investors including Live Nation, The Chernin Group, and Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer. In 2015, the company launched the prototype of its Here Active Listening System. At that time, CEO of Doppler Labs, Noah Kraft, said the device had been made to enhance the world around the user.
A year later in 2016, the company launched a better version, now called Here One. This was marketed as the “augmented reality earbuds” allowing users to stream audio via Bluetooth, along with offering sound enhancement tools. The earpiece offered best in class voice quality along with the ability to adjust the voice accordingly.
Though the reviews for the product were overall positive, many felt that it was a bit expensive, battery life was not good and it lacked additional features. Another issue that resulted in negative word-of-mouth for the product was the charging case, which didn’t work perfectly. “We focused so much on size and compactness with Here One that we kind of compromised battery life,” co-founder Fritz Lanman told Wired.
Kraft told Wired that starting the hardware company was a mistake, adding, “It’s not hard to see why.” Even though the smart headphone market was new when Doppler started, soon the market became quite crowded with products like Samsung’s IconX, Google’s Pixel Buds, Apple’s AirPods and more.
“I wouldn’t advise anyone at this stage to start a hardware business,” Kraft told Business Insider.
Tried all they could, but in vain
Doppler Labs is best known for the Here One earbud, which came with a dedicated app allowing users to customize the earbuds in a way that it would do things like cancel out airplane noise but not the person sitting next to you. However, sales of the device, which was being touted as the advanced version of Airpods, was not as expected. According to the company, the $299 device sold just 25,000 pairs since its launch in February. There are fifteen thousand devices still in the warehouse.
CEO Brian Hall and co-founder Noah Kraft had been doing all they could to try to sell the company, sell more units or get funding. The company held preliminary acquisition talks with Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook.
To some, the shutting down of Doppler Labs seems surprising as the executives maintain that the company has been quite stable lately. For most of 2017, both Kraft and Hall spent their time and efforts to study more about the hearing health market, pushing forward the bill allowing hearing aids to sell over the counter, and develop a new app for those suffering from mild to moderate hearing loss. The company was even working on the second version of its main product, called Here Two, according to Wired.
Update: second last para has been updated to replace co-founder Fritz Lanman with co-founder Noah Kraft.