Deals

VCs just poured $15.5M into these toy robots

Above: Orbotix's new Sphero 2B is like a rolling dumbbell. But it's a smart, robotic one.

Image Credit: Orbotix

Earlier this morning, news broke that Orbotix, the robotic toy maker behind Sphero and Ollie, is allegedly raising a new round of about $20 million dollars.

Here’s the real deal.

The company is raising $15.5 million as its fourth full institutional funding round, Orbotix cofounder and chief technology officer Ian Bernstein told VentureBeat in an interview. Shea Ventures led the round, with additional participation from the Foundry Group and Grishin Robotics. The company declined to share its current valuation.

The company also said that it will use the funding to further its global expansion — it’s currently in 80 countries and has retail store presence in 70 of those — and to increase global awareness and mass marketing exposure for the connected toy category, as chief marketing officer Kelly Zachos said to VentureBeat.

“This is our opportunity to introduce an entire family of connected play toys,” Zachos added.

“The sweet spot of where we landed is in creating this new category of connected play. We’re adding these gaming elements to physical toys … [and] we’re harnessing the full power of play, the full power of toys” said Zachos.

Zachos also shared that they really sought to showcase how the company is taking traditional toys and “making them into more” during its talks with investors to raise this new round.

Orbotix is a Boulder, Colo.-based TechStars alum, and it makes smartphone-control robot toys. Sphero, its first toy which it launched in 2011, is a rolling ball with an ARM processor and a companion smartphone app. It uses artificial intelligence and robot-controlled motors to roll around.

It released its SDK in 2011, which has yielded 35 apps to date, developed both by Orbotix and outside developers, for games that incorporate Orbotix toys.

At this year’s CES show, the company unveiled its upcoming toy, Ollie, which looks like a rolling dumbbell. The toy is slated to come out in Fall 2014 and sell for under $100. Ollie has updated artificial intelligence capabilities for its driving and is programmable, meaning that kids as young as 7 can learn to program by making custom apps for the device.

The company was founded in 2010 by Ian Bernstein and Adam Wilson. Orbotix graduated from the TechStars Boulder program in 2010.

More about the companies and people from this article:

We create connected toys, fusing emerging technology with the latest innovations in robotics to offer a new kind of open play experience. With our smart robots and open software we hope to inspire the next generation of inventors and p... read more »

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