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LittleBits grabs $44.2 million funding for prototyping push

The littleBits intro kit sells for $99.The littleBits intro kit sells for $99.
The littleBits intro kit sells for $99.Image courtesy of littleBits

LittleBits, the New York City startup that started making electronics toys for kids and has evolved into making prototyping tools for makers, enterprise customers and anyone else, has raised $44.2 million in funding. The round was led by DFJ Growth with additional participation from new investors Morgan Stanley, Grishin Robotics and Wamda Capital. Existing investors Foundry Group, True Ventures, and Khosla Ventures also participated.

As part of the funding, DFJ Growth’s Barry Schuler will join littleBits‘ board. The funding supports littleBits as it continues to grow beyond being an educational toy company—although it will still continue to sell kits aimed at children. For example, it now has a deal to sell the collection of sensors, circuits, and electronic bits in Barnes and Noble stores.

However, the company’s big push is to become an essential tool in the creative and corporate world for prototyping ideas. CEO Ayah Bdeir, says that the goal is to democratize hardware, making it as easy to build a physical device as it is to build an app. SAP is using littleBits to test ideas such as building a smart wallet. Twilio, which provides access to voice services for app makers, is another enterprise customer.

As it seeks to expand, littleBits has hired some impressive names including Jenny Lawton, the former CEO of 3D printer company MakerBot, who joined as the chief strategy officer. It also brought in former executives from LEGO, the toy that littleBits is most often compared with, to help with marketing and growth. So far, investments in connected toys have been a bust for most investors, but with the enterprise focus and the incredible interest in building connected hardware thanks to the Internet of things, littleBits may make good.