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SoftBank is said to hold preliminary talks to back Makeblock
[HONG KONG] Makeblock, a DIY robotics maker backed by Sequoia Capital, is seeking to raise about US$60 million in financing and has held early stage talks with SoftBank Group Corp, people familiar with the matter said.
Makeblock is targeting a doubling of its valuation to US$400 million in the series C round, the people said, asking not to be identified talking about private plans. The talks and figures are preliminary, the people said.
SoftBank and Makeblock declined to comment.
Makeblock is competing with a coterie of Chinese startups, as well as Pearson, Lego Group and Sony, who all want a slice of a learning industry that focuses on science, technology, engineering and maths.
So-called STEM-education could become a US$15 billion market by 2020, according to Beijing-based consultancy JMD Education.
Shenzhen-based Makeblock already works with SoftBank- the two partnered this month to offer a DIY drone, and the Japanese company distributes its educational robotics kits.
STEM education, which employs a problem-based approach to education, is tapping into Chinese parents' craze for their children to learn coding and robotics. Makeblock has created a local competition equivalent to the Intel-backed RoboRave contest.
Founded in 2013 by aircraft-design major Jasen Wang, Makeblock sells kits of mechanical parts and electronic modules that can cost as much as US$800 to robot hobbyists and educators. Its user base grew to two million by July from 600,000 in February, with about 70 per cent of its revenue generated from overseas. Apart from Sequoia Capital, Shenzhen-based hardware startup accelerator Hax is also a backer.
Shares of SoftBank rose 0.4 per cent in Tokyo.