HONG KONG – SoftBank Group Corp. is in talks to invest in Makeblock Co., a Chinese maker of DIY robotics, people familiar with the matter said.
Makeblock is seeking to raise about $60 million in a series C round by the end of this year as it targets a doubling of its valuation to $400 million, the people said, asking not to be identified talking about private plans. The figures are preliminary and could vary depending on negotiations, the people said.
SoftBank and Makeblock declined to comment.
Makeblock is competing with a coterie of Chinese startups, as well as Pearson PLC, Lego Group and Sony Corp., who all want a slice of a learning industry that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math. So-called STEM-education could become a $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 Corp.-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 $800 to robot hobbyists and educators. Its products are used by more than 600,000 people, with more than 60 percent of its revenue generated from overseas.
Apart from Sequoia Capital, Shenzhen-based hardware startup accelerator Hax is also a backer.
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