RoboTerra takes robot education in China to the next level

Education is something parents in China highly value when it comes to parenting, and now some are looking into robotics education. This is when “robotics learning kits” come in handy for school-aged children, and business opportunities in this sector have also followed.

RoboTerra, an educational robotics startup based in Beijing and Silicon Valley, is one of those front-runners in robotics education. The company’s mission is simple: teaching kids around the world to code and build robots.

Yao Zhang, the founder and CEO of RoboTerra who is originally from China, sat down for an interview with AllChinaTech at GMIC Beijing 2017 on Friday.

Yao Zhang, founder and CEO of RoboTerra, sharing her views on robot education at GMIC in Beijing. (Photo from GMIC)
Yao Zhang, founder and CEO of RoboTerra, sharing her views on robot education at GMIC in Beijing. (Photo from GMIC)

Launching RoboTerra out of a garage, Zhang founded the company in 2014 with two former Apple and Google engineers who were also Chinese international students. The startup first developed its products catering to high school students, but soon stretched its services towards K-12 students.

“Users can do ‘real’ coding, which is C++ language, even at the age of nine years old,” said Zhang. “They program in C in a very gamified and fun way.”

The startup has sold its services to more than 500 schools over 30 countries. “The revenue is driven by the Chinese and American markets,” said Zhang.

RoboTerra generated USD 3 million in revenue last year for its China and U.S. operations, and earlier in 2015 closed its Series A funding at USD 3.7 million, according to Zhang.

While ambitiously penetrating the China and American markets, the company is looking to scale up its business. “We’re announcing a Series B financing round soon in the following weeks,” said Zhang with a grin.

Students working on RoboTerra's kits. (Photo from RoboTerra's webstie)
Students working on RoboTerra’s kits. (Photo from RoboTerra’s webstie)

For startups related to robotics and AI, it is the data that matters. RoboTerra also views the data it collected from learners as one of its biggest assets. “We have 10,000 monthly active users,” said Zhang, adding that the models in China are a bit expensive with pricing at about RMB 5,000, and hinted that this might scare off some schools.

Zhang, however, is confident of the company’s operation in China. “China is the world’s largest and best education market,” said Zhang. “The competition among testers is fierce and parents are investing a lot [on education].”

As China sees test-centric education startups booming, robotics education startups like RoboTerra have also found their niche. The company has partnered with top high schools in China, providing training materials for budding teenagers to compete in robot contests.

The startup takes an adaptive learning approach where it develops a system with machine learning techniques that can reflect learners’ behavior. This artificial intelligence technique that RoboTerra applies to its products makes it easier for students to learn.

While the company is making an all-out effort to optimize its users’ learning experience, it hopes to expand to more countries and reach more students. “We’ve signed contracts with partners in Latin America such as Argentina,” said Zhang.

“The growing user base also helps us to develop and roll out our AI-based technology,” she added.

(Top photo from RoboTerra)

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