Espressif Snaps Up a "Majority Stake" in Internet of Things Specialist M5Stack

No longer just an angel round investor, Espressif is the majority owner of M5Stack — which, it says, will help its AIoT vision.

Espressif has announced its acquisition of a "majority stake" in Internet of Things (IoT) and hobbyist electronic specialist M5Stack, for an undisclosed sum — which, the company says, "aligns Espressif's and M5Stack’s common vision to democratize AIoT [Artificial Intelligence of Things] technology."

Founded by Jimmy Lai in 2016, M5Stack's first product was the Core development board — designed to be stackable with a range of add-on units, hence "M5Stack." In 2018, just ahead of the release of M5Stack's in-house UIFlow visual programming environment, the company received angel round investment from Espressif — thanks in no small part to M5Stack's use of the Espressif ESP32 microcontroller in its products.

In the years that followed, M5Stack branched out from its core Core range with the more compact M5StickC family, including its first tiny machine learning (tinyML) computer vision system the M5StickV in 2019. Most recently, the company has been offering more application-specific devices like the M5Dial display-equipped smart rotary encoder, the Cardputer Kit, the M5StickC-powered BugC2 robot, and even a programmable power supply designed primarily for use with its Core board range.

Now, Espressif has moved beyond its position as a minority angel-round investor and acquired a "majority stake" in the company. "The collaboration between Espressif and M5Stack is poised to enhance Espressif's ecosystem," the company claims, "leveraging M5Stack's extensive experience in industrial IoT applications to expand Espressif's range of AIoT technology offering which includes chips, software, cloud middleware, tools and logistics support. This acquisition also demonstrates that Espressif's commitment extends beyond its proprietary hardware, embracing third-party collaborations to foster a diverse ecosystem of IoT solutions."

The acquisition comes as Espressif reports its best quarter yet, boasting a near-22 per cent increase in revenue and more than a 73 per cent increase in net income year-on-year — bringing in a total of RMB 53.92 million (around $7.44 million) for the first quarter of its 2024 financial year. Financial terms of its M5Stack acquisition, however, have yet to be disclosed.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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