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Owl Cameras gets a new lease on life after the startup left users in the lurch

Update: Owl Cameras has a new lease on life. As of May 19, 2020, CallPass announced it has acquired the Owl Cameras business and is beginning to restore support to users cut adrift when Owl Cameras, Inc. dissolved rather untidily earlier this year (see original news story below for more on that). Existing Owl customers should have received a notification via their app or email. 

Owl Cameras is dead. The startup made a splash in 2018 with the Owl Car Cam, a dash cam that plugged into a car’s OBD-II port and recorded both inside and outside the vehicle, uploading those videos to a cloud service via LTE. But now, two years later, the company’s employees are scattered, and its assets have been sold. The story might have ended abruptly right there, but this tale holds a glimmer of hope for existing users.

PCWorld reviews dash cams, including both the debut 2018 Owl Car Cam and the improved 2019 Owl Car Cam. Even though the camera’s $350 price was very high for its competitive set, it received largely positive reviews, and some people bought the Owl Car Cam—though, apparently, not enough people to keep the company afloat.

Things started looking alarming earlier this year when PCWorld dash cam reviewer Jon L. Jacobi began receiving emails from readers who were unable to reach Owl Cameras for support. As we began to investigate the Owl Cameras communication blackout, we found a company that looked alive on the surface, but seemed very much dead upon closer inspection. 

The lights are on, but…

If you had looked at Owl Cameras’ website in early February, all would have seemed normal, at least at first glance. Its slickly designed pages were up and running. The About page listed the executive team and a Board of Directors. A Careers page showed a long list of job openings. Today, the site greets you with a pop-up stating new purchases are being “temporarily suspended while the next steps are being determined,” but just a few weeks ago, nothing seemed amiss.

owl cameras andrew hodge linkedin feb 27 2020LinkedIn

Owl Cameras, Inc. co-founding CEO Andrew Hodge still says “we’re hiring” on LinkedIn in early March, long after the company had closed its doors.

Other signs of life could be found on LinkedIn, where the founding executive team was still listed as employed by Owl Cameras, Inc. The LinkedIn profile pages of co-founding CEO Andrew Hodge and co-founding CTO Nathan Ackerman went so far as to proclaim, “we’re hiring!”

Other signs of health: Job postings on Glassdoor looked recently refreshed, and employee reviews were generally glowing. Some reviews mentioned typical startup perks, like plentiful free snacks. But one hint of a different story came in the final Glassdoor review, dated October 31, 2019. It was a favorable review, but it ended with a foreboding sentence: “Company makes a great product but failed to raise more money.”

glassdoor oct 31 2019 review owl cameras incGlassdoor

The last review of Owl Cameras, Inc. on Glassdoor, dated October 31, 2019, ends with an ominous “cons” comment.

No one is home

The more we pulled at Owl Cameras’ strings, the more it became clear that the company was either on life support or completely dead. We reached out to Owl’s public relations firm and learned it was no longer working with Owl. We also noticed Owl Cam products were unavailable to purchase on the company’s website and Amazon. And, after failing to reach anyone on Owl’s customer support line, we visited the company’s Palo Alto, CA headquarters to find offices gone completely dark. Inside we could see office furniture and some scattered paraphernalia. But there were no people, no PCs, and no signs of free snacks. 

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