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Robotic Toy Carmaker Anki Raises $55 Million

The round was led by J.P. Morgan.

The consumer robotics startup Anki, which makes artificially intelligent toy race cars that seem like real-life video games, has raised a big Series C round.

It’s $55 million in funding led by J.P. Morgan, along with previous Anki investors Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures and Two Sigma. That brings Anki to a total of $105 million raised.

Anki’s first product is Drive, a set of cars that race around a vinyl mat. Each player controls his or her car with an iPhone app, and can rig additional cars to be controlled by AI. (Spoiler alert: The computer is really good at its own game.) The company won’t say how well Drive has sold, but Anki CEO Boris Sofman notes that only in recent months has the product been available outside of Apple stores, and it’s still not available on Android (that’s due in October).

“Apple’s a juggernaut, but they only have 280 stores in North America, so we’re really expanding to more demographics,” Sofman said. “It’s important for us to be where people would be finding us.” Today, Drive is also found at Best Buy, Amazon and GameStop, with additional retailers on the way. The price is also lower — $50 less than it used to be, at $149 (my colleague Lauren Goode’s original review verdict was: Fun, but expensive).

So what’s all the millions in funding for? Possibly products beyond toy cars — something that’s long been on the Anki roadmap — but also making and selling and extending Drive. “This becomes more capital intensive the more successful you get,” Sofman said.

San Francisco-based Anki has also made some significant hires, Sofman said, bringing the team to more than 70 people. The company’s new chief creative officer, Joby Otero, formerly helped lead the popular kids’ product Skylanders at Activision, and its new chief marketing officer is former EA exec Craig Rechenmacher. Sofman said both men were brought on to help turn Drive into an entertainment franchise.

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