Smart lighting pioneer Gooee goes bust

June 25, 2021
Once the leading voice of ‘beyond illumination,’ it could not survive several changes of direction and a dearth of deployments. The pandemic did not help. Nor did the collapse of a Dutch deal.

The old adage about arrows in the back has shot through again, landing squarely between the shoulder blades of smart lighting pioneer Gooee, which has gone bust.

Once the leading voice for turning lights and the lighting network into chip- and sensor-equipped data collection and analysis systems, Gooee filed for administration in London on April 16, according to documents seen by LEDs Magazine on record at Companies House, the UK government’s registrar of limited companies.

Founded in April 2013 as Moistmedia and changing its name to Gooee in May 2014, the enterprising group under the tireless leadership of Neil Salt successfully permeated the idea that the value of luminaires could go well beyond lighting. Indeed, vendors from industry number-one Signify on down are to this day chasing Internet of Things (IoT) lighting, also known as connected lighting, with mixed results.

In Gooee’s case, its innovative ideas did not translate into enough deployments for a sustainable business.

Having started out trying to outfit luminaires to help retailers interact with in-store shoppers and track products on shelves and in warehouses, the company’s marketing and messaging changed several times during its 8 years.

It eventually seemed to de-emphasize lighting, instead positioning itself as a smart building company that could outfit a property with technology for building analytics but not necessarily via the lights. An announcement of its key partnership with London property engineering firm TClarke in February 2020 made no mention of lighting, nor did a deal with Dutch engineering company Croonwolter&dros in June 2019.

The Croonwolter partnership was supposed to lead to the connection of some 5000 commercial office buildings to Gooee cloud analytics services. But according to a Companies House description filed by London business advisors and Gooee administrator FRP, Croonwolter terminated the alliance in March 2020, “leading to significant issues.”

The coronavirus health pandemic, which brought office life to a standstill, could not have helped.

By August 2020, Ran Oren, who had joined Gooee two months earlier as a “director and restructuring officer,” began trying to find a buyer for the company, engaging administrators in the process, according to FRP’s Companies House filing.

“After a protracted period with two interested parties withdrawing the Administrators were unable to identify a purchaser and were therefore instructed to assist with placing the Company into Administration,” FRP states.

Gooee had a longstanding financial relationship with Aurora Lighting, having been co-founded by Aurora founder Andrew Johnson. Companies House notes that Aurora is Gooee’s only secured creditor.

Gooee named Johnson as CEO last year, joining an executive office that at the time included managing director and co-founder Salt, and chief technology officer and co-founder Simon Coombes. Coombes has since left, following the departure of former chief commercial officer Jan Kemeling, and, prior to that, top engineer Jon Couch. Couch eventually rejoined Gooee. Director Mark Comiskey has resigned. Johnson, Salt, and Oren are still listed as active at Gooee while under administration by FRP.

The management team, like the market, has endured tumult for several years now, and headquarters have bounced between St. Petersburg, FL and London.

LEDs spotted major change afoot last September, when we pointed out that Aurora had adopted Gooee’s marketing material. We did not specifically know then that Oren was trying to sell Gooee, but we sensed something was brewing. Gooee would only tell us at the time that matters were “confidential” even though an attempted sale was already underway, according to FRP’s Companies House filing, dated June 8, 2021.

As a further indication of how much Gooee’s mission had changed since its early days, FRP’s Companies House description of the company made only a quick passing reference to lighting.

“The Company operated as a UK-based pre-revenue Prop-tech company with its main focus being a proprietary building operating platform combining data analytics, virtual engineering & Bluetooth networking to optimise maintenance, improve sustainability and increase efficiency in commercial real estate at scale.

“The Company’s open platform collected and analysed data from building systems (e.g. heating, A/C, lighting, security, space, utilisation, air quality, etc.), and displayed these in an intuitive cloud based, ‘single pane view’ with 2-way control.”

The road to IoT lighting continues to be long a one, and one in which lighting companies are both competing against and partnering with IT outfits.

The journey has been challenging for vendors of all sizes. Industry number two Osram, for instance — now ams Osram — has buried its once-ballyhooed Lightelligence initiative somewhere in the recesses of its shrinking Digital group, although there is still some amount of breath left.

As Salt told LEDs back in 2017, “Disruption can take a while.” In the case of Gooee, time ran out.

Editor's note: LEDs will try to bring you more on this story, such as looking at what might happen to Gooee assets.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

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