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Wink is sold, but is staying in Schenectady

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Wink is sold, but is staying in Schenectady

Quirky spinoff Wink has officially been sold to Singapore-based Flextronics International, and Wink
Wink is sold, but is staying in Schenectady
Wink founder and Chief Technology Officer Nathan Smith talks about the lighting system now in place at Schenectady City Hall earlier this year.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Quirky spinoff Wink has officially been sold to Singapore-based Flextronics International, and Wink founder Nathan Smith says the plan is to keep the company in Schenectady.

Wink was purchased for $15 million by manufacturer Flextronics after Quirky filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September. Smith, who serves as chief technology officer at Wink, said the business would stay and grow in downtown Schenectady.

“The sale of Wink to Flextronics is a really great thing for the company overall,” Smith said on Wednesday. “We will use their resources and partnerships and that will help us expand. We’re very committed to Schenectady and we’re actually growing.”

Wink recently added about 15 employees in Schenectady, bringing the total number to 65, Smith said. Wink is located in Quirky’s 20,000-square-foot office space at Center City on State Street.

Smith said Wink’s Schenectady office serves as a customer service location to assist Wink’s platform users via email, phone and social media.

As part of the sale, Wink would operate independently with its own management team under the umbrella of Flextronics, Smith said. Wink was founded by Smith in 2013 and has 25 employees in New York City and five in San Francisco.

Wink offers an application that people can download to control their home’s systems including lighting, power and security. Smith said Wink has 1 million connected devices nationwide and in Canada.

Smith said the company does not disclose its revenue.

“Wink is a platform for connecting all of your smart devices,” he said. “We try to take smart devices and make them even smarter. We were frustrated by the fact you have to take out your phone and switch between different apps to work all of the devices in your house. We wanted to streamline the experience.”

Smith said Flextronics is similar to Wink in that they both help other companies enhance their product’s experience. Flextronics is an international supply chain solutions company that provides design, distribution and manufacturing services.

Wink works with many manufacturers to support their products on Wink’s platform, like General Electric, Smith said. Wink is in no way connected to Quirky, he said.

“We will spend a lot of time with Flextronics in the beginning before doing a ton of expansion,” he said. “It’s unwise to all of a sudden try to grow as fast as possible. We want to try to avoid some of the problems we saw with Quirky’s strategy.”

Over the summer, Quirky CEO Ben Kaufman said Quirky was out of money while on stage at a tech conference in Aspen, Colorado. He later said he had $12 million in cash and planned to save both Quirky and Wink through a new round of financing.

The following month Quirky announced in a blog post that Kaufman was out as CEO.

In August, Quirky said it would lay off 109 employees from its corporate headquarters in New York City to focus time and resources on Wink. Both the Hong Kong and San Francisco offices have since closed.

The Schenectady office was downsized from a high of 150 employees earlier this year to about 72, a Wink spokesman said at the time. Quirky pledged to create 180 jobs when it opened its office here in May 2014.

The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority gave Quirky $300,000 toward the renovation and construction costs associated with building out the vacant space in Center City.

“We do not work for or with Quirky anymore,” Smith said. “Quirky is a totally separate entity. All of the Wink apps are now owned by Flextronics.”

Smith said Wink plans to take down the prominent Quirky sign at the top of the Center City building in the near future.

Wink installed its technology in Schenectady City Hall in October to help cut down on energy usage. Smith said the company is looking to expand its reach citywide.

Wink, in partnership with Wise Labs, installed new LED lights on the first floor of City Hall and in Room 110. Wink also put a WiFi hub in Room 110 and an Amazon voice command device called Alexa.

“We have been spending time with the city looking at some of the areas we are hoping to deploy some new products,” Smith said. “Obviously it’s a big project and it’s not something that will happen overnight, but we’re still in active discussions with the mayor and his staff.”

Mayor Gary McCarthy said he is excited about Wink’s future in Schenectady and is looking to expand the city’s partnership with Wink.

He said he is planning to make several announcements in the next few weeks that complement the city's partnership with Wink.

“I think this will benefit Schenectady in the long-term,” he said. “We’re going to have their support function and they are hiring. They are looking to do some product development and marketing here in the city. I look forward to working with them to create an atmosphere and environment to expand and grow.”

The city’s technology partnership also includes Cisco. The company installed six new streetlights on Jay Street that have LED lights, security cameras and WiFi. The plan is to install 36 streetlights on Union Street between Broadway and Lafayette Street.

“It’s going to happen,” McCarthy said. “The foundations are in and the equipment is there. We’re talking with vendors to use some of that technology that will be somewhat unique in urban areas.”

Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.

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