After years of research and development, Reach Robotics has closed a $7.5 million Series A, co-led by Korea Investment Partners (KiP) and IGlobe, to bring its augmented reality bots to market in a big way. The Bristol-based startup is looking to expand into the U.S. and the team is exploring opportunities for growth into other European and Asian markets.
Reach Robotics first product, MekaMon, launched last fall. Today’s round comes after the company produced and sold an initial run of 500 of its four-legged, crab-like, bots. MekaMon fits into an emerging category of smartphone-enabled augmented reality toys like Anki.
Silas Adekunle, CEO of Reach Robotics, tells me that the influx of capital will be used to make some strategic hires and to increase brand recognition through marketing. This is the first time the startup has announced a funding round. Adekunle tells me that his experience raising capital wasn’t easy — as they say — hardware is hard.
“It was hard to pitch in our early days because people didn’t believe,” explained Adekunle.
MekaMon sits somewhere between toy and full-fledged robot. Unlike the radio-controlled Radio Shack robots of yesteryear, MekaMon costs a hefty $329. At first glance this can be hard to swallow, but Adekunle remains adamant that he is building a platform and not a line of toys — think PS4 instead of expensive, single-use, robot collecting dust on a shelf.
Outside of retail sales, another avenue for the company to make money is through partnerships within the entertainment industry. Adekunle says that Reach would never go out of its way to deliver a specific product for a client, but he always keeps an eye out for overlap where a partnership could occur with minimal operational changes.
“People are taken aback that something could be this realistic,” asserts Adekunle. “If you strip back the product and lose that, then you don’t have an innovative company.”
Because Reach is selling software enabled hardware, it has the opportunity to collect all sorts of interesting data that it can use to fine-tune its products. The startup is able to track retention in aggregate and look at how people actually use their robots. Moreover, if MekaMon suffers leg failure, Reach can analyze indicators like temperature readings and torque.
Adekunle insists on keeping the Reach Robotics team interdisciplinary — one employee helped shape the way robots move in the Transformers movie series. This same team is focused on empowering the next group of developers who will build on the MekaMon platform and create new use cases, beyond the company’s initial vision for the product.