Shenzhen, China-based DIY robotics construction and programming learning platform Makeblock just raised $30M in Series B funding. In conjunction with the announcement, we interviewed CEO Jasen Wang about the company, the products it offers, growth and future plans.
FinSMEs: Hi Jasen, can you tell us a bit more about you?
Jasen: I’m a first time founder from Anhui, China with a passion for robots and a background in engineering. I began getting into robotics when I was in college, studying Aircraft Design and learning the power of DIY and critical thinking. After a year of working as an engineer following receiving my Masters degree, I quit my job and went on to found Makeblock with the hopes of empowering makers, educators and future engineers to feel as though they had the tools and ability to turn any idea into reality.
FinSMEs: How did you create Makeblock? Which market needs and opportunities did you envision?
Jasen: In the village I grew up in, I didn’t have a lot of money nor the access to high technology. I didn’t even touch a computer until I was in high school! I learned to code relatively late in life and wanted to do my part in bringing young students into the maker movement younger. With a platform like Makeblock, we give kids all of the tools to learn how to code with or without prior coding experience, and more importantly to learn to solve problems independently and creatively. The hope is that we inspire the future engineers of the world to continue society on the fast trajectory of innovation.
FinSMEs: Can you tell more about the marketplace and the products?
Jasen: Makeblock has a suite of products for kids, makers, hobbyists and educators that come flush with all the hardware and software components you’d need to build a gadget. Our best-known products include programmable rovers in our mBot robotics kit series, and the Airblock, a modular programmable and transformable drone for beginners.
Our latest product, Neuron, is a programmable building blocks platform for STEM education that teaches gadget-building through instructional guides. Neuron just launched earlier this month and raised over $100k within the first 12 hours and is available for pre-order starting at affordable $49 via Kickstarter now.
FinSMEs: Some numbers?
Jasen: Makeblock products are used in over 140 countries by over 1 million customers. Our kits have been integrated into educational curriculums in over 20,000 schools to help educators better engage their classrooms in STEM education.
FinSMEs: You just raised $30m. How are you using the funds?
Jasen: 2017 is a big year of growth for Makeblock! In the first few months, we already have two new products, and we’re not looking to stop there. With the additional funds, we’re looking to expand our footprint with new offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, North America, Japan and the Netherlands. We’re also going to be announcing our first proprietary robotics competition in the coming months.
FinSMEs: From abroad, we see an impressive movement growing and expanding. Can you confirm it? What do you think about tech in China?
Jasen: The technology sector is considered to be one of the fastest growing industries in China.
In recent years, some of the well-known Chinese tech companies such as Huawei, Xiaomi & Tencent are leading the trends in both software and hardware innovations. There is even a featured story from the Wired, introducing the concept of “it’s time to copy China”, so it becomes a starting point for those who are not familiar with China’s innovation to find out the reason behind the new operational model of Chinese tech companies. It fascinates them how these Chinese companies can maintain their profit earnings while keeping the product affordable and easy-to-use.
Thanks to the matured supply chains, market and eCommerce platforms and our talented groups of engineers, Chinese technology companies are able to achieve what we have right now and have great potential to thrive even more so.