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Update from the CEO: Part 1

By January 31, 2023 No Comments

I have some unfortunate news to share.

Before I get into that, I want to point out that Mycroft has always had ambitious plans, but has never been a large company. At its peak of my tenure here we had 13 people. Every one of those people made sacrifices because they believed in Mycroft’s mission. I am grateful for everyone that stuck with us, despite the challenges, stress and uncertainty over the last three years, when they could have easily found better pay and less stress elsewhere.

Since starting here in early 2020 I’ve had to make some of the toughest decisions I’ve ever faced, and none more so than at the end of last year. At the end of November, just after the Mark II entered production, I was faced with the reality that I had to lay off most of the Mycroft staff. At present, our staff is two developers, one customer service agent and one attorney. Moreover, without immediate new investment, we will have to cease development by the end of the month. I want to explain what this means for our customers and community, and for Mycroft’s future in general.

The consequence of the first round of layoffs was that we were unable to make as much progress on the software as we had planned for after the launch of the Mark II. It has also greatly impacted customer service response times and our ability to engage with the community in general. Fortunately, manufacturing and shipping of the Mark II has not been affected, as these processes are handled by our manufacturing partner. All components have been purchased, and all Mark II orders outstanding and those placed in the future will be delivered.

We’ve been diligently pursuing options to ensure that all devices shipped to date and in the future will continue to operate and that our customers’ privacy will continue to be protected. The first measure we’ve taken is to ensure that even if we must shut down our servers at some point in the future, all Mark IIs will continue to operate. Our efforts to push everything to the “edge” and to improve our privacy policies have made this possible as a natural stop on our technology roadmap.

The second measure we’ve taken is to enlist the aid of one of our long-time partners to ensure continuity of development and maintenance of the Classic Core code base. This will also have the benefit of bringing back some of the most requested features by our community.

So … is this goodbye? Not quite. We’ve accomplished a lot in the last few years, and along the way I’ve learned that there are still many untapped opportunities in the voice assistant space. The mission of a privacy-first voice assistant for every human that wants one is yet to be realized, and we are exploring new pathways to get us there. Rest assured that regardless of what happens, no devices will become ‘bricks’ and our commitment to customer’s privacy will not be compromised.

This has been a very difficult message to write. I came out of retirement three years ago, invested a truly inadvisable percentage of my personal savings, and gave my best effort to advance Mycroft’s mission. I am still very emotionally invested in Mycroft and its vast potential, and I believe the challenge to privacy is an important and a solvable one, to say nothing of access for people with disabilities, under-resourced languages and other pressing issues that open source, privacy-respecting software is uniquely positioned to address.

There is much more to be said and many other topics that I will cover in future posts over the coming days.