After one year and one smartphone, Essential is looking for buyers.
That's according to a report from Bloomberg, which claims that the start-up founded by Android creator Andy Rubin is up for sales following lukewarm sales of its PH-1 handset and allegations of inappropriate behaviour from the boss.
Citing the always reliable 'people familiar with the matter', the report claims that the company has sought advice on a potential sale and there is already interest from at least one party.
The Palo Alto-based vendor had a successful start, securing $300 million in funding from several investors including Amazon and Tencent. It was valued at between $900 million and $1 billion about a year ago. There was also plenty of hype around the father of the Android's first foray into hardware, but poor sales led the company to shelve its second phone indefinitely.
The USP of the PH-1 was its modular design, with add-ons such as a 360 degree camera and a charging point being sold in addition to the phone. It was also arguably the first phone to sport the now ubiquitous front-facing camera notch. Unfortunately for Essential, the device saw negative reviews that panned its screen and camera quality. Those reviews were indicative of the phone's market performance, with the device only selling about 150,000 units to date.
The discussions going on at the moment are surrounding the sale of the entire company, including its portfolio of products and patents – which includes an upcoming Essential Home smart home device (the company's equivalent to the Amazon Echo Spot) – along with Essential's engineering team of ex-Apple and Google employees.
It is unclear at this point what will happen with the once promising company. In the space of its first year, Essential has lost dozens of hardware and software engineers in addition to key execs. The original vice president of marketing Brian Wallace left a few weeks after the company was founded and head of hardware engineering Joe Tate followed suit earlier this year.