PlayShifu, the award-winning technology startup, announced today a $7 million Series A round of funding led by Chiratae (formerly IDG Ventures India), Inventus Capital and Bharat Innovation Fund (BIF). Existing investor, IDFC-Parampara Fund also participated. A pioneer in the field of creating highly engaging and immersive AR experiences for children that encourage early STEM skills, PlayShifu has an aggressive strategic plan in place to expand on its tech prowess with this round of funding.
With $8.5 million raised to date, the company’s primary focus will remain tech innovation, continued research on unique phygital interactions and new product developments. PlayShifu also plans to update current products significantly and expand the diverse retail presence from 15 countries to 30+ countries in 2020 and beyond.
“We are extremely excited to have investors who are highly focused on consumer tech, on board in our journey to make early learning fun and accessible to children around the world,” said Vivek Goyal, CEO, and Co-Founder of Playshifu. “We have an exhaustive product pipeline, an incessantly creative and passionate team of innovators, and now, the right partners to make an extremely positive impact on the educational foundations of generations to come.”
PlayShifu’s first flagship product, Shifu Orboot (Top Image), is an AR-based globe that promises an adventure around the world. The user base has crossed 250,000 kids worldwide, but that’s not all. Orboot has seen unprecedented engagement among 4-8-year-olds. While the best of the children’s apps/ toys retain approximately 8% of kids after the first month, Orboot boasts more than 40% of kids retained in the second month! In other words, the amount of time spent on the app, thanks in large part to the breadth and depth of learning, has resulted in an impressive frequency of play, and month-after-month retention equal to 4-5 times that of kids-app category benchmarks.
In less than a year, teachers and technology integrators from hundreds of schools in the US, Europe, India discovered PlayShifu and experimented with adopting the innovative products in their tech-friendly classrooms. Today, more than 65% of these schools use Orboot every week in their classes. With Orboot 2.0 launching soon (student profiles and progress tracking, teachers’ portal, detailed lesson plans), this engagement will only increase from here, as PlayShifu prepares to expand its reach in schools by 10x this year.
The newest addition, Shifu Plugo, combines the charm of classic physical consoles with new-age digital interactions. Helping kids conquer STEM skills with super-fun characters, captivating storylines, and enriching tactile play, Plugo will soon replace tons of toys in your kid’s toy box.
The physical consoles bring alive the alphabet, math, engineering, music, steering, and more. With two consoles available today, PlayShifu plans to introduce four more by the end of 2019. PlayShifu’s global appeal is evident from the fact that they have managed a deep-rooted retail presence in key markets and countries around the world, including the US, Canada, UK, Russia, Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Hong Kong, South Africa, Middle East, and Japan.
“We are experiencing incredible demand from international markets across the world, purely due to the reason that our innovative products make early learning agnostic to markets and languages. Our products make an instant connection with kids and parents alike,” added Dinesh Advani, Co-Founder, and COO. “We now have the tools at our disposal to execute against an even more impactful retail strategy and presence, while we continue to strengthen our position as the segment leader and disruptor in the early learning space.”
Founded in 2016, PlayShifu has oﬃces in Bay Area and Bangalore, India. The co-founders Vivek Goyal and Dinesh Advani, graduates of Stanford GSB and IIT Kharagpur, are two dads who juggle toddlers, tech, and toys in their daily lives. They are revolutionizing the toy industry by creating groundbreaking AR experiences with a passionate pack at PlayShifu. For more information, visit the website at www.PlayShifu.com.
“PlayShifu is targeting the multi-billion dollar augmented reality industry with its unique proposition of an enriching learning environment for kids coupled with fun. Vivek and Dinesh, along with their team, have built a solid product roadmap to capture a significant market share in this segment in the US and European regions. Having backed the team early on, this round of funding will boost the product line and offer more such engaging and immersive experiences for their audience,” said Karthik Prabhakar, Executive Director at Chiratae (formerly IDG Ventures India).
“We were sold on the innovative concepts PlayShifu have developed in terms of physical interactions as well as digital gameplay, both for their existing products and what they have in store,” said Rutvik Doshi, Managing Director of Inventus Capital. “The user community they have built and the high engagement their products see, prove that they have cracked the code for a delightful user experience unseen in the space,” he added.
“We strongly believe in the capability of Indian entrepreneurs to develop highly innovative products and solutions for the global market, and PlayShifu fits squarely. With their expertise in computer vision, AR technology stack, game & toy design, and storytelling, the PlayShifu team has orchestrated a magical experience through phygital smart-toys for the vast ‘early learning’ market, quickly making inroads in US, Europe, India, and Japan,” said Som Pal Choudhury, Partner at Bharat Innovation Fund commenting on the investment.