Perils of Being First: Emberlight Shuts Down Smart Socket Biz

While everyone else was making smart bulbs, Emberlight was making smart sockets that made it big at Target stores. Now everyone’s making smart light fixtures, and the start-up couldn’t survive.


I always thought it made much more sense to use a smart light socket that could accommodate any bulb, rather than smart bulbs themselves. So I had a soft spot for Emberlight, an early purveyor of screw-in Wi-Fi sockets. In 2014 the startup raised $300,000 on Kickstarter, gained additional investors, and made it to the shelves of 270 Target stores.

But now everyone's making smart light fixtures of one type or another, and prices have dropped to incredible lows. Emberlight sockets were available for $49 each on pre-orders back in the crowdfunding days, and came out with a retail price of $60. Today's smart bulbs and sockets can be had for $15. A victim of first-itis, Emberlight couldn't compete, announcing today that it is shutting down.

Here's the company's message:

Dear Emberlight Customers, Friends and Partners,

Thank you for joining is in our journey to build simple smart lighting products. In 2013, we saw that home automation was a confusing and complicated experience, and we set out to create a simple product that was easy to install and use. 

In 2014, we launched the Emberlight Socket on Kickstarter with a humble goal of $50,000. We were blown away when we reached over $300,000 in preorder sales from awesome backers during the 6 week campaign. We were fortunate to raise a seed round from amazing investors to bring the product to market, and those investors and backers stood behind us through thick and thin. We knew that our product vision was mainstream when made it on the shelves of 270 Target stores across the country.

Since our Kickstarter campaign, we have seen at least 4 identical products hit the market, along with hundreds of other smart lighting products. For customers, this is great as it has driven down prices and increased choice. However, it has proven to be a challenging environment for a small startup. The reality is that we need a lot more capital to survive in this market segment against heavy hitters like Philips, GE and others. Unfortunately, we have not been able to raise the required financing to continue our journey.

With that, I’m sad and sorry to say that emberlight is shutting down. We are deeply grateful to the customers, fans, investors and partners that believed in emberlight’s mission and helped us get as far as we did. Because the emberlight Socket is an Internet of Things product, it relies on cloud servers to function. Since the company no longer has the capital to keep the servers running, this unfortunately means that the sockets will no longer work once our existing server credit runs out in 3 to 4 months. We are very sorry about this and wish that this resulted in a different outcome.

Questions that you may have:

Will you continue to sell emberlight Sockets?
We are no longer selling emberlight Sockets. We have also informed retailers that are currently carrying emberlight. 

Will my emberlight Socket continue to work?
Since emberlight is an “Internet of Things” product, the device works through 3rd party servers that are hosted in the cloud which have a monthly fee. We do have some credits remaining with our server provider which should enable your devices to work for 3-4 more months, save any major bugs.

Can I return my emberlight Sockets?
Because the company is dissolving, we cannot process returns. If you purchased your product through a retailer, you will need to contact them directly about their return policy.

Will you continue to offer technical support?
Unfortunately, we no will no longer be able to resolve technical bugs related to the product. We will still keep our support page up as long as the products continue to function.

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson