Kano, a simple computer kit which began as a Kickstarter project three years ago, has gone on to become a bona fide hit. It raised 15 times more than its goal and has shipped over 100,000 kits to customers in countries around the world. Today it’s announcing a deal that will get it in front of a lot more potential customers, inking retail agreements with Toys R Us and Barnes & Noble, two of the largest retail chains in the US.
"We are incredibly excited to add Kano to the growing assortment of STEM-related offerings at Toys"R"Us, especially at a time where the next generation is more immersed in technology and parents are looking for ways to marry education, play and real life skills that can truly impact their children’s future," said Richard Barry, executive vice president and global chief merchandising officer at Toys"R"Us, Inc. "This category is an important one on both a national and global scale and we look forward to introducing the world of coding to our U.S. customers who are looking for products that offer brain-boosting fun."
Screen time is replacing, well, everything
As screen time replaces paper media, Kano has also brought on John Makinson as its new Chairman of the Board. Makinson happens to also be the chairman of the venerable book publisher Penguin Random House. "This is an incredible time for Kano, a time that not only speaks to the company’s rapid global expansion, but also to the new channels of opportunity," said Makinson. "Through unique storytelling and physical building, Kano cultivates environments for creativity, play and learning like no other company provides."
Kids clearly want to interact with their entertainment, and book sellers are trying to adapt. "Kano is a natural extension of Barnes & Noble’s 'learning through doing' offering and we are thrilled it will be a featured item this fall at our 2nd Annual Mini Maker Faire," said Kathleen Campisano, vice president of toys and games at Barnes & Noble. "Products like this help to further our commitment to encouraging tech literacy across the country at a time when it’s more important than ever."
Program or be programmed
Kano has gotten some spiffy new packaging for its big retail debut, but will still sell for $149.99. It comes with 10 plug-and-play components: a Raspberry Pi, a wireless keyboard, a DIY speaker, a custom case, power HDMI cables, memory card, USB power supply, an illustrated story book, and four sheets of stickers. Online resources provide projects and curriculum based around popular software like Minecraft.
Along with the $1.5 million Kano raised on Kickstarter, it has taken $19 million in venture capital funding. The company has set some ambitious goals for a humble kit build around the cheap but powerful Raspberry Pi. "As screen time becomes all-the-time, still, only a fraction of us know what is happening below the surface of the devices we often take for granted... demystifying a sealed world that is usually only for 'experts,'" said Alex Klein, CEO and co-founder of Kano. "The natural next step was for us to partner with retail leaders Toys"R"Us and Barnes & Noble who support our mission and have the ability to share Kano’s innovative products with children and adults alike nationwide."