STEM robotic startup Matatalab (玛塔创想) recently raised tens of millions of yuan from a Series A+ round of funding at a post-money valuation of over 100 million yuan (US$14.48 million).
Suzhou Fenhu Venture Capital alone poured money into this round. The proceeds will be used to promote global market expansion, organize global programming competitions and conduct R&D work on new products intended for children.
In addition, the startup will also invest to build a China headquarters in Fenhu, a new development zone in the bustling Yangtze River Delta, covering production, R&D, sales and international collaborations.
Matatalab counts Cowin Capital, Future Capital and South China Venture Capital among its earlier financial backers.
Founded in 2017, Matatalab started out by providing robot-assisted programming education for children aged 3 to 9, to enable human-to-machine communication.
By converting esoteric computer commands into easily recognizable icons, Matatalab departs from traditional programming courses that are inaccessible to lay men.
It has made programming considerably easier for young children by allowing them to move codes like building blocks. The programmed tasks will then be carried out by robots.
Inspired by what is known as tangible programming language, Matatalab developed two product lines catering to different clients.
Matatalab Home supplies families with robotic gadgets, programming tutorials for beginners, case illustrations, exercises and games to add fun to the learning process.
Meanwhile, its corporate-facing product, Matatalab Edu, primarily offers education equipment to teaching professionals and programming curriculum to cohorts from kindergarteners, all the way to participants in after-school tutoring.
According to Frost & Sullivan, China’s smart education robotics market has grown from 600 million yuan in 2017 to 2.3 billion yuan in 2021, averaging a CAGR of 39.9%.
Matatalab has impressed its investors largely thanks to its performance overseas. It partnered with European Schoolnet — a network of 34 European ministries of education — and education authorities in Portugal and Israel, to help build a teacher training system and also provide online competitions to improve student stickiness.
The company said the finals of online tournaments it hosted in 2021 and 2022 drew over 10,000 students from 20 countries.
Matatalab has leveraged its differentiation advantages and steadily kept expanding its operations globally, so far to more than 70 countries and regions.
In major markets such as Germany, Italy and Spain, its market share has risen to 10% from 5%. Matatalab also said its programming tutorials have become teaching tools of choice designated by education officials in Russia and France, after entering the supplier list in the two countries.
In the domestic market, Matatalab’s screen-less programming robot, tale-bot pro, also became the officially recommended buy for Chinese teenagers, capable of meeting the requirements of tests administered by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and China Education Society of Electronics, a third-party non-government organization.
In Q2 2022, Matatalab scored well on the home front, providing upgraded AI courses to 165 kindergartens in regions including Gansu, Shandong, Baotou and Sichuan, based on its tangible modular programming philosophy, the firm said.
Notably, programming products have ridden on the crest of an online learning wave following the outbreak of the coronavirus in 2020. They were also spared the worst, escaping almost unscathed when China clamped down hard in 2021 on the for-profit private tutoring sector since programming was not deemed a mandatory academic subject.
In 2022, Matatalab recorded revenue in excess of 10 million yuan, with individual users comprising 30% of the total.