Business / Corporate

Laundry-phobics' dreams crushed as Tokyo-based developer of Laundroid robot files for bankruptcy

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

When Seven Dreamers Laboratories Inc. unveiled its prototype laundry-folding robot in 2015, it generated a buzz, with people saying they couldn’t wait to buy one if it ever went to market.

But the AI-based tidying device dubbed Laundroid is apparently coming to an end before its commercial debut, as the Tokyo-based developer filed for bankruptcy Tuesday with the Tokyo District Court, citing insufficient funds to continue operations.

A spokesperson for Seven Dreamers, a contest-winning startup that had received over ¥10 billion in funding, said development of robot is over for now.

According to Teikoku Databank Ltd., a credit research company, Seven Dreamers Laboratories had accumulated ¥2.2 billion in debt as it struggled to ship the robot and invested heavily in research and development.

After postponing its initial sales goal in fiscal 2017, it had to push back its goal for fiscal 2018, too.

“We were unable to secure funds necessary for the development,” the spokesman said, adding it was difficult to improve the robot to a satisfactory level.

The startup had planned to sell Laundroid for ¥1.85 million.

Seven Dreamers had said that, because people have to spend so much time folding laundry in their lifetimes, it wanted to set them free from that chore with Laundroid, which looked like a big closet but was apparently packed with robotics and image recognition technologies that would allow it to fold clothes.

The concept of the laundry-folding robot has attracted much attention and interest from investors in Japan and abroad. The startup was partnering with Panasonic Corp. and Daiwa House Industries Co.

Seven Dreamers Laboratories, which was founded in 2014, won the Japan round of the 2018 Startup World Cup, an international competition for startups, to advance to the final.