MEL Science raises $2.5 million to put a VR twist on chemistry sets

Remember those old school chemistry sets that came in a cardboard box with a bunch of vials, plastic beakers, safety glasses and a booklet full of instructions for different experiments?

London startup MEL Science is putting a high-tech twist on them, with virtual reality and augmented reality content that takes kids on a virtual tour inside a chemical reaction, right after they conduct an experiment in the real world.

The startup has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding from Sistema Venture Capital to grow their subscription commerce and VR content business.

Subscribers to MEL Science get two new chemistry sets by snail mail each month for $49 each. The kits are now selling in the U.K., U.S. and Russia.

The MEL Science app shows a 3-D model of glucose.The MEL Science app shows a 3-D model of glucose.

The experiments in the kit work along with the MEL mobile app, available for iOS and Android devices, and a Google Cardboard VR headset that the company provides in its introductory kit.

The app was designed to enhance kids’ understanding of what’s happening in a given experiment, with 3D graphics, macro photos and videos of molecules up-close.

According to MEL Science CEO and founder Vassili Philippov, he decided to start the company after conducting science experiments to entertain and educate his own kids at home.

After they used tin chloride and zinc to grow a “crystal hedgehog,” his kids were clamoring for more information about what caused the crystals to grow so quickly. He turned to YouTube, and myriad educational sites, but couldn’t find good content that would show kids more about what was happening on the molecular level during this chemical reaction.

The entrepreneur said IT and physics were always dueling passions for him. MEL Science allows him to bring those together.

A MEL Science "colorful chemistry" experiment.

A MEL Science “colorful chemistry” experiment.

Philippov previously co-founded SPB Software, a developer of mobile games, apps and mobile OS shells, which was acquired by Yandex in 2011.

Sistema VC’s Dimitry Filatov said he expects MEL Science to use its new funding to develop more VR content, kits and curriculum for use both in schools and at home.

MEL Science is currently sold direct to consumers, and typically parents or grandparents are buying a subscription as a gift for science-curious kids. Subscriptions are also popular among families that homeschool their kids.

The CEO said, “It’s easy to teach history and literature at home, but most people do not have a lab in their homes, unless they happen to be scientists.”