Wearable tech firm Trellie is winding down operations after some engineering and fundraising mishaps wiped out its cash reserves.
Founded in 2012 by Claude Aldridge and Jason Reid, Trellie created a wireless charm that attached to the outside of a woman’s handbag to notify her of an incoming call via flashing LED lights.
The product took off, appearing in magazines and receiving kudos from an array of national tech writers. Trellie also was able to successfully raise about $1.65 million from area angel investors.
But within the charm was what the Trellie team saw as its prospective goldmine. The charm’s proprietary technology — a small wireless “nugget” the size of a dime that connected to users’ phones — could be placed within an array of jewelry. Aldridge and Reid hoped to scale their business by partnering with designers to insert the nugget into rings and bracelets.
Thus the two planned an expansion, which in January hit a calamitous glitch.
“We had a big engineering snafu,” Aldridge said. “We hit a roadblock and we had a really tough time overcoming it. … We got back on track but that essentially burned a significant amount of our capital.”
Adding to their misfortune, Aldridge and Reid hit pause on a funding round after a large jewelry manufacturer grew serious about acquiring Trellie. And after five months, Aldridge said acquisition talks fell apart and other investors had withdrawn interest in the funding round.
Now with most of its coffers empty, Aldridge said Trellie plans to become a holding company to potentially sell its intellectual property in three to five years.
“We just weren’t able to raise the capital that we needed locally and to restart that process was going to take too long,” Aldridge said. “We decided with our shareholders that the best path forward was — instead of dumping more money into this — to take our (intellectual property), the patent we hold and others in process to monetize it down the road either through licensing or through a sale.”
Old college friends, Aldridge and Reid said they’ve yet to determine their next career moves. Right now, both are still mulling what to do after launching their first ventures.
“The ecosystem of innovation and startups is such a unique and great place where everyone is so willing to help, lend resources and make introductions that it’s something that you really have to experience to appreciate. It was nice to see the validation of what you heard.” – Claude Aldridge
But despite the difficulties of moving on from Trellie, Reid said that there are positives from the experience and that he has no regrets.
“I know we’ve become closer friends,” said Reid, former vice president at Saepio Technology. “We were conscious that if it gets to a point that we need to take a step back to figure it out because our friendship is more important. … It was a fun ride. I really enjoyed it the last six months.”
Aldridge added that he felt no regret for perusing a big dream. Along with many lessons, he said that he also learned more about the place he calls home.
“We’re not proud of (the failure) but we’re comfortable in the fact that it was a high-risk business that we got into,” Aldridge said. “We saw a great side of Kansas City. … The ecosystem of innovation and startups is such a unique and great place where everyone is so willing to help, lend resources and make introductions that it’s something that you really have to experience to appreciate. It was nice to see the validation of what you heard.”