The UK-based provider of digital learning products Sandbox & Co announced on Tuesday it is taking the majority stake of PlayKids, a Brazilian digital education platform, for an undisclosed amount.
Alongside Brazil’s delivery company iFood, PlayKids is part of the Brazilian Prosus-funded tech holding Movile. Now, Movile will join Sandbox as a minority shareholder in PlayKids.
PlayKids’s business started in 2013 focused on content for children’s cognitive development. It used to have partnerships with telecom companies, and the app came with the phone.
Now, the company produces originals through video-on-demand, interactive books, and games. With the pandemic, PlayKids partnered with an education group to offer children learning tools while schools were shut. The app has more than 4 million monthly users and is available in 130 countries.
Guilherme Martins, PlayKids’ CEO, will lead Sandbox’s expansion in Latin America. Silvia Motta, director of M&A at Movile who steered this deal for the last two years, will join the Sandbox’s board as an observer with founder and CEO Bhav Singh. Sandbox has presence in the US, the UK and Western Europe and it wanted to grow in the emerging markets. “
Singh told Bloomberg Línea that he has already conducted acquisitions in Brazil and already knew Movile and PlayKids. “We were looking to do more outside the US and the UK and they were looking an outcome for PlayKids.”
“Latin America is one of the fastest-growing markets, it has got some real high penetration on mobile usage of learning so I think expanding all of the Sandbox properties into Brazil will be goal number one. Properties like Hopster, Code Kingdoms. We have a lot of teaching and parenting properties. How do we get them into Portuguese and really expand them into Brazil? It would be one of the tasks,” he said.
Sandbox also wants to start rolling out their products in Spanish to markets like Mexico, Argentina, and Central America.
“I think the opposite is also true. How do we now expand PlayKids? They got some strong presence in the US but we want it becoming deeper and use our network to build PlayKids there.”
According to Singh, the idea is to replicate what PlayKids has done with learning books in Brazil in the Western market.
“We’re trying to put a sweet together of Sandbox offering for the millennial families. So it’s not driven by how many acquisitions we can do, it’s more about what are the things that a family will want and we don’t have,” he said.
Sandbox currently owns 17 brands such as Code Kingdoms, Hopster, and the newest acquisitions Edujoy and Tellmewow. It has a peak monthly audience of over 60 million children, families, and teachers.
The company looks for products in in language learning and special needs for children, besides music learning. According to the exec, Sandbox shouldn’t think about what happens in capital markets in the next six months because it is building a long term business.
“It’s not just presence in the market, I think PlayKids built a very strong professional team. I think they will be able to add a lot of value to help us because we are trying to build Sandbox as an industrial-scaled enterprise. We’re not a venture capital or private equity shop. We are building for value, not for valuation, as I keep saying to my teams.”
This article has been updated to clarify that PlayKids’ CEO does become a personal shareholder in Sandbox & Co as part of the deal, as his kids’ book-subscription club was acquired by PlayKids in 2016, but Silvia Motta, director of M&A at Movile who steered this deal for the last two years will have the board seat as observer.