Fortune just did a big story on gizmo-maker Jawbone, reporting that the company last summer was sued by Flextronics for not paying its bills. We're hearing rumors that Flextronics might not be the only company having trouble collecting from Jawbone, and that Jawbone, which is 16 years old and still losing money, might be in trouble.
In its complaint against Jawbone, Flextronics claimed that according to "statements made by Jawbone representatives, Jawbone's financial condition is perilous and currently insufficient to pay its debts," Fortune reports. ("How Precarious Are Jawbone's Finances?")
Jawbone owed Flextronics $20 million. The two companies worked out a settlement and the lawsuit was dropped.
But since that story ran we've heard that Jawbone owes money to the Outcast Agency, which handles PR for Jawbone, and West, an ad agency in San Francisco.
I wrote multiple times to the people who run those agencies, and received no response. I also wrote to Jawbone, and heard back from a spokesman that the company has a policy of not discussing relationships with suppliers.
That doesn't exactly inspire confidence, but at the same time, it doesn't mean the rumors are true. But someone must know, and if you're one of them, drop us a line at email@example.com.
The back story
The Fortune story about Jawbone's precarious finances is a sidebar to a longer Fortune piece. ("Jawbone: The trials of a 16-year-old Can't-Miss Startup.") According to that story, Jawbone's founder and CEO, Hosain Rahman, and his c0-founder Alexander Asseily still can't turn Jawbone into a sustainable business, even though they've been at it for 16 years.
Jawbone started out making Bluetooth earpieces, then moved into Bluetooth speakers (the Jambox) and now is pivoting toward fitness bands. But Jawbone is losing out to Bose and others in speakers, and to Fitbit in the fitness band market.
Rahman is well-liked in the Valley, and in the early day he attracted blue-chip investors like Ben Horowitz, Vinod Khosla and Roelof Botha. Last year Jawbone raised $250 million from Rizvi Traverse, an investment firm. However, "For reasons neither side will comment on, the full amount of the investment never materialized, forcing Rahman to scramble yet again to raise new funds," Fortune reports.
All told, Jawbone has raised "more than $400 million in debt and equity," Fortune reports. Its last funding round valued the company at $3 billion. That makes Jawbone a "unicorn," in Valley parlance. Is this unicorn in trouble? That's what we're trying to figure out.