Sphero and littleBits have long been kindred spirits in the world of entertaining STEM toys, and soon they’ll be one and the same. Sphero this morning announced plans to buy the New York-based electronic building block company.
Founded in 2010 and 2011 respectively, Sphero (nee Orbotix) and littleBits took separate approaches, but ultimately ended up in similar spaces. Sphero first brought to life a smartphone-controlled 3D-printed ball that debuted at CES in 2011. That same year, Ayah Bdeir’s electronics kit side project became a serious business under the littleBits banner.
Both companies were alumni of Disney’s accelerator. Sphero leveraged that connection in the breakout Star Wars: The Force Awakens toy, a remote control BB-8. Ultimately, however, it flew too close to the sun with its licensed products, creating R2-D2, Lightning McQueen and talking Spider-Man toys. Early last year, the Colorado-based company ended the Disney deal, laid off dozens and announced that it was moving full time into educational toys.
After several of its own Marvel and Star Wars licensing deals under the Disney IP banner, littleBits faced similar difficulties earlier this year. In a statement to TechCrunch, the site noted that it, too, would be experiencing layoffs as it shifted its focus to K-12. “As you can imagine, the education market’s needs are vastly different than that of retail,” the company said at the time. Given this, we had to re-shape our internal struct
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