Irish start-up Robotify, which recently partnered with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak on a major project, has been acquired by Imagine Learning, one of the largest digital education providers in the US.
The value of the deal has not been publicly disclosed but industry sources estimate it to have been close to €20 million.
Robotify, which teaches students to code through the use of robots and simulation, was founded by Adam Dalton and Evan Darcy in 2015, while they were still at school. Its backers include Sláinte Healthcare founder Andrew Murphy, Enterprise Ireland and Elkstone.
The company recently made headlines globally when it signed a deal with Wozniak to bring access to cutting edge robotics technology to students around the world using its virtual robotics software. Using Robotify's solution, Woz ED is to virtualise its existing physical curriculum and provide access to a virtual experience in addition to existing physical robotics experiences. This enables them to reach tens of thousands of students.
Robotify, which is based in the Talent Garden digital innovation campus in Dublin, is a recent participant in the State's national tech accelerator, the NDRC, which is operated by Dogpatch Labs. It employs 20 people.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Dalton, Robotify’s chief executive, said the founders had no plans to sell the company and originally began discussions with Imagine over a distribution deal for the US.
‘Best of both worlds’
“The deal took the best part of a year and originally we hadn’t been thinking about selling at all but once we started talking, it naturally led to a point where it came up in conversation and then things moved pretty quickly after that. I think for our customers and for the growth of the company we came to feel that with the scale Imagine has we could impact so many more students,” he said.
“It takes many years to build relationships and gain traction in the education market and this speeds things while also allowing us to maintain a huge amount of independence, so it is the best of both worlds,” Mr Dalton added.
The acquisition is the first announced by Imagine Learning since its recent rebranding from Weld North Education. Founded in Arizona in 2010, the group has made more than 15 investments in edtech companies. Other brands it owns include Edgenuity, LearnZillion, StudySync and Twig Education.
Overall, Imagine Learning serves more than 10 million students and partners with more than 7,500 school districts across the US.
"We're so excited to make Robotify part of our portfolio," Sari Factor, vice-chairwoman and chief strategy officer at Imagine, told The Irish Times.
“We intend to continue to invest in the Robotify platform and take it to market in the US and across the world... [and] we want to build more courses and more products with them [the founders],” she added.
Ms Factor said no decisions had been finalised about adding to headcount but that this was likely. She also said that having an operation in Ireland meant the group might look to add people for other parts of its business locally.