California Funding Startups

Softbank Leaves Andy Rubin’s Latest Startup At The Alter

Softbank, The Multi Billion Dollar Telecommunications and Private Equity Giant, Walks Away From Latest Andy Rubin Deal

Andy-Rubin Softbank Leaves Andy Rubin's Latest Startup At The Alter

Android creator Andy Rubin (file photo)

Any die hard Android fan knows the name Andy Rubin. Rubin is a software engineer who early in his career worked at Apple. He also helped launch WebTV. After that he created the Danger company, the earliest soiree in what would later become Android.

Rubin created the Hiptop Sidekick under the Danger brand. Despite Kyocera, Palm, Handspring and Blackberry offering early versions of smartphones, the Sidekick became popular amongst teenagers and twenty-somethings, making it one of the most popular phones from 2002-2009.   Part of the rise to popularity was that all the teen dramas on the CW Network were using the Sidekick. This wasn’t through product placement though it was through sheer popularity.

Rubin and a team then headed to Google to develop the Android platform. They again turned to T-Mobile to release the first Android device the G1. Rubin headed up the Android department at Google form 2005 through 2014 launching several devices and several versions of the Android Operating System.

Since leaving Google Rubin has been working on an accelerator type program called Playground which relies heavily on “moonshots”. Rubin has also been working robots and AI.

Then late last year, patents, trademarks and business filings started pointing to something called “Essential”. Essential Products was registered in California in 2015. A trademark listing in 2016 listed smartphones, tablets, and “computer operating software” for mobile phones. Various reports have suggested that Rubin’s new device company would allow for modular parts similar to Project Ara, something Google scrapped last year.

Apple Insider reports that Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son was all queued up to invest $100 million dollars in Essential Products. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Softbank deal was all but signed when the company walked away. It’s been suggested that they walked away because of increasingly close ties that firm has with Apple. Although things have always seemed good between T-Mobile and Rubin, Softbank’s Sprint, is negotiating a deal to merge with T-Mobile.

Rubin has a proven track record. Softbank’s investment would have been at a $1 billion dollar valuation. There’s no word on whether Essential Products has other investors lined up to fill Softbank’s place.