Chiratae (formerly IDG Ventures India), Inventus Capital, and BIF led the round.
The startup, which is based in Bangalore, India and the Bay Area, wants to be a pioneer in the field of creating highly engaging and immersive AR experiences for kids.
With $8.5 million raised to date, it will continue to focus on tech innovation, unique “phygital” (physical and digital) interactions, and new product developments. PlayShifu also plans to significantly update current products and expand its diverse retail presence from 15 countries to more than 30 countries in 2020 and beyond.
“We are extremely excited to have investors onboard who are highly focused on consumer tech, in our journey to make early learning fun and accessible to children around the world,” said PlayShifu CEO Vivek Goyal in a statement. “We have an exhaustive product pipeline, an incessantly creative and passionate team of innovators, and now, the right partners to make an extremely positive impact on the educational foundations of generations to come.”
PlayShifu’s first flagship product, Shifu Orboot, is an AR-based globe that promises kids adventures around the world. The company says its user base has crossed 100,000 kids in the U.S. alone, with an emphasis on children ages four to eight. While the best of kids’ apps and toys on the market retain approximately 8% of kids after the first month, Orboot boasts more than 40% retention in the second month.
In less than a year, teachers and technology integrators from 28 different states in the U.S. discovered PlayShifu and began adopting the products in their iPad-enabled classrooms. PlayShifu says that today more than 65% of these teachers use Orboot every week in their classes.
With Orboot 2.0 launching soon (common core aligned, with student profiles and progress tracking, teachers’ portal, and detailed lesson plans), PlayShifu is preparing to enter 2000 schools this year, the company said.
The newest addition to the company’s lineup, Shifu Plugo, combines the charm of classic physical consoles with new-age digital interactions, helping kids conquer STEM skills with super-fun characters, captivating storylines, and enriching tactile play methods.
With two consoles available today, PlayShifu plans to introduce four more by the end of 2019 (starting at $50 for a console and a gamepad). PlayShifu’s global appeal is evident from the fact that it has managed a deep-rooted retail presence in key markets and countries around the world, including Canada, Poland, Germany, Dubai, Japan, and India.
“We are experiencing incredible demand from international markets across the world, purely due to the reason that our innovative products make early learning agnostic to markets and languages. Our products make an instant connection with kids and parents alike,” said chief operating officer Dinesh Advani in a statement. “We now have the tools at our disposal to execute against an even more impactful retail strategy and presence, while we continue to strengthen our position as the segment leader and disruptor in the edtech space.”
Goyal and Advani — both fathers — started the company in 2016. It now has 55 employees.
“PlayShifu is targeting the multi-billion dollar augmented reality industry with its unique proposition of an enriching learning environment for kids coupled with fun. Vivek and Dinesh, along with their team, have built a solid product roadmap to capture a significant market share in this segment in the U.S. and European regions,” said Karthik Prabhakar, executive director at Chiratae, in a statement. “Having backed the team early on, this round of funding will boost the product line and offer more such engaging and immersive experiences for their audience.”