Founded in 2010 and 2011 respectively, Sphero (nee Orbotix) and LittleBits took separate approaches, but ultimately ended up in similar spaces. Sphero first brought to life a smartphone-controlled 3D-printed ball that debuted at CES in 2011. That same year, Ayah Bdeir’s electronics kit side project became a serious business under the LittleBits banner.
But now things have changed. Sphero has officially acquired LittleBits!
Sphero, the maker of connected STEAM toys, is buying LittleBits, another connected toy company that teaches kids to code.
What do these Sphero or LittleBits Toys actually do?
Both companies have similar business models. They mainly sell to schools and have built educational support systems to assist teachers. Combined, the companies say, they’ve reached over 6 million students across 35,000 schools.
Both companies were alumni of Disney’s accelerator. Sphero leveraged that connection in the breakout Star Wars: The Force Awakens toy, a remote control BB-8. Ultimately, however, it flew too close to the sun with its licensed products, creating R2-D2, Lightning McQueen and talking Spider-Man toys. Early last year, the Colorado-based company ended the Disney deal, laid off dozens and announced that it was moving full time into educational toys.
Both companies understand the importance of schools to the viability of a hardware company. Some hardware companies focus on consumer subscriptions; like the Keurig coffee pod model; but Sphero and LittleBits instead sell to teachers and offer subscription plans that cover standard wear and tear; which is essential for products used by hundreds of kids yearly. Both companies also sell specialized packs of their products that are designed specifically for schools. Those schools have recurring budgets, too, which means they might always have cash to buy more devices.
More Insight –
Sphero+LittleBits=Fascinating Educational Toys!
“We’re thrilled to bring LittleBits into the fold here at Sphero,” CEO Paul Berberian told TechCrunch ahead of the acquisition. “Teachers need proven solutions that enhance learning for their students, and kids want technology that allows them to have epic experiences. Now, Sphero’s better poised to introduce the best coding tools and hands-on STEAM tools like littleBits to even more classrooms around the world.”
The deal will help Sphero expand its office footprint into New York. Bdeir, however, will be moving on to other projects after nearly a decade at the helm of LittleBits.
The deal bodes well for the companies in terms of positioning. Basically, Sphero has made some serious headway into schools (a notoriously difficult market to crack); Also LittleBits has been delivering a good and innovative product for a number of years that would fit well alongside it in a STEM curriculum. The combination could prove a solid one-two punch.