LittleBits, the New York City startup that started making electronics toys for kids and has evolved into making prototyping tools for makers, enterprise customers and anyone else, has raised $44.2 million in funding. The funding was led by DFJ Growth with additional participation from new investors Morgan Stanley, Grishin Robotics and Wamda Capital and existing investors Foundry Group, True Ventures, and Khosla Ventures participated.
As part of the funding, DFJ Growth’s Barry Schuler will join littleBits‘ board. The funding supports littleBits as it continues to grow beyond being an educational toy company—although it will still continue to sell kits aimed at children. For example, it now has a deal to sell the collection of sensors, circuits and electronic bits in Barnes and Noble stores.
The big question, of course, is what the company’s sales look like currently. Alas, in an interview yesterday, Bdeir declined to provide many metrics, offering only that LittleBits’s revenue has grown three to four times annually since the company’s founding, and that it has sold “millions of units over a hundred countries.” (Bdeir later acknowledged that “units” in this case means the components themselves – hundreds of which are packed into most kits.)
Still, the company is seemingly getting serious about extending its reach.
In early May, it brought aboard Jenny Lawton, the former CEO of Makerbot, who is now LittleBits’s chief strategy officer. LittleBits has also hired two new VPs, including Joey Neal, who’d spent two years in a variety of executive roles at MakerBot and today heads up LittleBits’s user experience and digital product group; and Shirish Joshi, a former VP of operations at Pluribus Networks who oversees its supply chain.
LittleBits also brought in a head of enterprise sales — Ryan Luikens, also from MakerBot — last October.
littleBits originally was only seeking to raise $30 million, but heavy interest in the round led it to allowing more money. Investors saw the growth and wanted in, explained littleBits founder and CEO Ayah Bdeir. The company has been growing three to four times every year since its founding in 2011.
“The companies roots are in the maker movement, but we’ve now scaled far beyond that,” said Bdeir.
Based in the Starrett-Lehigh Building on the far West Side, littleBits has been on a tear, more than doubling its staff to 92 from 40 in the past six months.
Ms. Bdeir said the new hires from MakerBot and Lego were critical because hardware startups face different challenges from those that software and Web-based companies encounter.
“The identity of a hardware startup is so massively different from other kinds,” Ms. Bdeir said. “There’s a kinship and understanding and experience in what we need to do to scale.”
Littlebits’ kits can also be used by big corporations for prototyping new products—hence littleBits’ partnerships with companies like SAP and cloud communication company Twilio; ventures that the company hopes to expand.
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