App-enabled construction toys for kids
Company website: www.samlabs.com
Sectors: Education & Technology
SAM Labs is an award-winning East London startup, founded in October of 2014, who make app-enabled construction toys for kids of all ages. Targeting both users at home and in schools, SAM allows kids to discover the fun in coding and creating. Aiming to bridge an increasing skills gap, they work with education institutions as well as entertainment experts to make engaging, fun and learning focused kits. Sold in over 60 countries around the world, SAM kits are capturing the global demand for exciting STEM products.
SAM kits have two markets: Education and Play. For the education market, SAM sells primarily to K-12 educational institutions around the world. Ranging from science to maths and even to history teaching, its technology becomes an integral part of creative 21st century pedagogy. Its educational offering is tailored for the classroom, with professional development, 24 hours support, and curriculum based learning materials all available.
On the Play side, SAM create engaging kits targeted at 7-11 year olds to play with at home, marketing to parents directly through online channels, while revenue is driven through e-commerce (Amazon, their own website, etc.) as well as through strategic retail partners such as Barnes & Noble and John Lewis. Evidence of the slick product to market fit comes from SAM’s rapid adoption into over 1,000 schools worldwide and into over 10,000 households in its first full year operating.
CommonwealthFirst looks forward to supporting SAM Labs build closer ties with schools across the Commonwealth and in navigating the cultural and legal systems of Commonwealth markets.
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How did the idea for your business come about?
SAM Labs was started with the intention of inspiring and empowering children to be prepared for a rapidly changing world by making technology skills accessible and engaging for all.
How do your products integrate/compliment with existing STEM toys like LEGO?
SAM is designed to work with other STEM products and seamlessly integrates with LEGO. The kits come with lego connectors that allow you to bring alive your LEGO creations.
What is your most popular product and why do you think that is?
Our most popular product is the Curious kit. This is because of the great proposition, gamified app that takes you through building awesome cars, and the book of crazy cool ideas that shows you how you can unleash your imagination with SAM!
What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
All of the typical difficulties that a startup faces! There are tremendous benefits of being in London, with everything from access to talent, governmental support from both the national and city levels, to financing options, being world class. But even with all of these things stacked in your favour, there are countless challenges to be faced every day. When developing a highly innovative product, there are technical challenges involved with developing and producing your offering. We have also had to build understanding and acceptance in the marketplace, which takes time. Lastly, navigating legal and structural challenges is always quite daunting, especially when exporting.
What are the biggest trade and export challenges you face?
Finding reliable partners on the ground, building a strong relationship with them and working together to capture the opportunity identified. You often don’t know if a partner is the right one until well into the business relationship, and if they are not, you will have lost valuable time and resources and missed out on market opportunities.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow and develop your business?
Built a world-class team with passion to take on the world. With this team constantly looking to improve, we have continuously learned and grown and moved to a position to realise opportunities presented to us.
How did you hear about the CWF programme and what made you apply?
We met with the team by chance at an event at Machines Room, and as we are already exporting to Commonwealth countries, felt that this programme could help us boost this dramatically.
What are you hoping to get out of the CWF programme?
Introduction to key people in the Commonwealth markets that we are working in that will help us scale at a new level through official endorsement and inclusion in key projects. We are also expecting great advice from mentors and introductions to key commercial players in the education and retail sectors.
Any exciting new products in the pipeline for young curious inventors?
We are continuously evolving the product and will be coming out with some great new kits for those who want to start smaller. Additionally we will be coming out with kits next year that bring alive some of kids’ favourite stories and characters.
What is a typical working day for you?
Being in a startup means that every day is different, and it would be impossible to define a typical day!
Where would you like your business to be in 5 years time?
Bigger than LEGO!
What advice would you give to anybody looking to set up an SME?
Believe in your idea, mission and products. Always strive to be better and continuously grow. You are never done and unless you always look ahead and push yourself, you will not succeed.