In late-breaking news last week, I was stunned to find out that iPad accessory maker Brydge had closed up shop, ceasing operations immediately. On its own, this is a sad story because I've held their products in high regard. However, the out-of-nowhere aspect looks to be due to the co-CEOs hiding how bad things really were. Chance Miller at 9to5Mac has more.
One red flag that multiple former employees cited was a notable period during which Brydge did not have a chief financial officer... Instead, Brydge internally promoted someone from their head of finance role to act as CFO.
Multiple former employees said that even the accounting controller knew they shouldn’t be handling tasks assigned to them. At one point, employees said that the accounting controller threatened to leave the company because what [CEOs] Mander-Jones and Smith were asking them to do was simply too much. The two CEOs were able to convince them to stay with a significant raise, having no intention of hiring an actual CFO.
Brydge employees had no idea that Mander-Jones and Smith were masking the true financial state of the company. They trusted their CEOs, who characterized the company as healthy.
According to multiple former Brydge employees, the CEOs touted that the company would do $25 million in revenue in 2021. Their company goal was more than double that the following year.
Mander-Jones and Smith also indicated to employees that Brydge was profitable, the employees said, something that proved to be false as signs of cash flow struggles started to emerge.9to5Mac
Brydge first popped onto my radar as a Kickstarter project I backed in 2013. Back then the idea of turning an iPad into a pseudo-MacBook was quite appealing. When I did get my Brydge keyboard, I loved it. The hinges worked great and it connected both the keyboard and built-in speaker via bluetooth. Combined with the iA Writer app, I wrote the entirety of Chrono Virus on that setup. It was THAT good.
Years later when I upgraded, I bought a newer edition of the Brydge so it would fit correctly with the larger sizes. In that time the company was acquired and instead of being a one-off Kickstarter, they branched out into multiple iPad products. However, playing in Apple's sandbox is dangerous.
At one point in the early conversations between Apple and Brydge, Apple questioned whether Brydge was ultimately the right partner for this project, the people said. In Apple’s eyes, Brydge needed its help too early in the process. It was asking the wrong questions and at the wrong time.
The relationship eventually developed into a back-and-forth system of Brydge doing everything it could with the firmware Apple provided, then seeking help from Apple engineers. When it hit a roadblock, it would reach out to Apple and explain the problem. Apple engineers would investigate and give Brydge engineers suggestions on how to resolve the issues.
Still, Apple kept many of its tools out of reach for Brydge. Apple refused to give Brydge any sort of debugging tools or additional information, sources said. It was a back-and-forth process between the two companies, according to a source at Apple.
Apple being Apple, never let Brydge in on the secret of their partnership with Logitech nor the fact that Apple's Smart Keyboard was in the works. Brydge was basically Sherlocked and left holding the bag. However, they had so many self-inflicted wounds aside from Apple's doings that they'd be sunk anyway. Miller's report reveals Brydge's main product (the Max+) had return rates of over 50%.
The nail in the coffin is the fact that during a christmas party, the company card used to pay for the shindig was declined and an employee ended up footing the bill.
Miller's reporting is insightful and a deep dive into the downfall of a company that looked to be doing great. I highly recommend you read the entire thing at 9to5 Mac.
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