Orbotix, the company that makes fast-moving, robotic toys that you control with smartphone apps, has raised another $20 million in funding, TechCrunch has learned and confirmed with a reliable source. This brings the total raised by maker of the popular Sphero ball to $35 million, as it gears up to start selling its next product, the cylindrical Ollie (originally called the 2B), later this year (pictured here).
We are still trying to find out Orbotix’s valuation, as well as the investors are in this round. Previously, Orbotix — based out of Boulder, Colorado and originally incubated at TechStars — had raised $15.2 million from TechStars, Foundry Group, Highway 12 Ventures and SK Ventures. That includes Series A, B, and C rounds; a partial close in 2013; and, it seems, a very small round of $50,000 earlier this year.
That last round included Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson from the Foundry Group and Mark Solon from Highway 12 — possibly an indication of who is involved in this latest raise, with that Form D for such a small amount actually a place marker for a bigger round.
Orbotix has never revealed sales figures for the Sphero, but we understand that it has sold some half a million units of the first and second versions of the product, with version two retailing at $129.
Co-founded by Ian Bernstein and Adam Wilson, robotics and software engineers who are now respectively Orbotix’s CTO and chief software architect, the company was an early mover in the new generation of toy makers that have tapped into the rapid growth of smartphones and apps in their products.
An SDK that it launched in 2011 has become the basis for some 30 Sphero apps on iOS and Android devices, both made by Orbotix and outside developers, which create games around the features of the ball. The latest version of the Sphero rolls at up to seven feet per second and operates via a Bluetooth connection with a range of 100 feet and is powered by induction charging and features colored lights.
But while there are definitely fun and games to be had with the product, there are more educational angles, too — not just in terms of developing apps using the SDK but also teaching children about geometry and physics, which is how more toys should be in my opinion.
We have contacted Orbotix to confirm details directly and will update the post as we learn more.