Last week, Innit, a company creating a smart kitchen platform, announced its first partner (and it's a big one): Whirlpool. The partnership was announced in conjunction with the Innit world premiere party at Pirch NYC last Thursday, where visitors walked the red carpet and got to mix with Innit and Whirlpool execs, press and lots of NY food insiders.
This marks an impressive start for Innit, a startup that came out of stealth just eight months ago (at the Smart Kitchen Summit where, according to both the Innit and Whirlpool executive team, they first discussed working together). Coming out of the gate with the world's biggest home appliance maker as its first customer is an important validation of both the connected kitchen market and Innit's strategy.
So what exactly is Innit's strategy and how did it result in a partnership with Whirlpool to help transform the appliance giant's kitchen lineup to the era of the connected kitchen? A few thoughts:
Innit's "Innit Inside" Follows A Proven Model
The idea of providing a branded platform that enables other companies to shore up platform weaknesses they can't (or won't) develop on their own has a long history of success in the world of technology. One has to look no further than the world of personal computing to see how both Intel and Microsoft rode this strategy to decades of success and some of the largest market capitalizations in the tech sector. More recently we've seen companies such as Google (with Android) bring this strategy to the mobile segment.
Innit's Platform Meets A Need
Nowadays, you can't turn around in Silicon Valley without bumping into a platform provider. The smart home and IoT world is chock full of such providers, and the competition in this space is leading to consolidation.
So what did Innit do differently? Perhaps the biggest reason for Innit's Whirlpool win is their platform meets a true need. While Whirlpool had already taken the first step many appliance makers make in adding connectivity to their products, the hardest part lies beyond the "just add Wi-Fi" product stage. Expertise in software, data analytics, AI, sensors and cloud is needed to truly transform a product from being connected to being valuable to consumers, and Whirlpool deserves credit for realizing that these are not their core competencies.
Innit Has Created A Holistic Platform Across The Three Stages of Food Preparation and Cooking
While some companies with significant core technology assets such as Samsung and LG have rolled out "smart refrigerators" and "smart ovens" offerings in their appliance lineups, these offerings often seem somewhat disjointed in that they don't have the "connective tissue" to unify the various products across storage, prep and cook. Innit's platform is holistic in its approach, one that bridges all the activities of food creation such as food storage, prep, discovery and cooking into one cohesive experience.
Innit Provides An Integrated Content Platform
In addition to creating a technology platform, Innit also provides a content platform and has integrated thousands of recipes from partners such as Good Housekeeping and Bon Appetit. While appliance makers have long had their own partnerships with content makers, never before has we seen the kind of deep integration with the recipe content and the appliances that Innit provides in any of these efforts. Innit has encoded thousands of recipes, accessible to consumers through their app, in machine language to guide the appliances through the cooking process.
Of course, developing a platform for others to create their own consumer-facing products isn't the only way for a startup to enter the smart kitchen market. The June Smart Oven, for example, is a product with a go-to-market strategy that closely resembles that of Apple, where the company designs all of its own technology and ships a sexy appliance with lots of interesting features. It's perhaps not all surprising that both of June's cofounders, Nikhil Bogal and Matt Van Horn cut their teeth early on at Apple.
It will be intereseting to see how many appliance makers follow Whirlpool's lead and work with platform providers to create their next-generation kitchen appliances. Some will no doubt follow the lead of June (or acquire companies like June) as they try to figure out their future. Bottom line, just as we saw first in computing and later in mobility, the market will likely be defined by both build-your-own and partner strategies over the next few years as we enter the era of the connected kitchen.
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