At AliveLab we use technology to ‘bring kids favourites to life’, which means that we design, develop, produce & market a range of Augmented Reality (AR) products, aimed at children. As well as having already sold over 500,000 units, we also licence our IP and app to third parties. We own the Mardles brand which includes 30+ lines of stickers, colouring books, story books and fancy dress masks that all come to life with our free app. We ensure that our products use the latest technology and remain very competitively priced.
The company was founded by Sharon Wyness and James Murden, after meeting at QVC, the Shopping Channel. The initial concept was originally intended for the Shopping TV market. Just 2 years later the brand is breaking into bricks and mortar retail as well as expanding internationally. The licencing opportunities for our IP and app are very exciting and there are deals either signed or in discussion that will continue to push the Mardles brand to new audiences.
AliveLab aim to be a global leader in AR toys that engage and educate through play.
We spotted an opportunity to fill a gap in the AR market. Whilst the market seemed to be becoming hot, it was mostly aimed at adults. We set out to combine the magic of AR with physical children’s products, to create a new craze. Two years later, the range is growing as is the consumer awareness of AR as more global brands are adding it to packaging, displays and catalogues.
Research shows that children are becoming engaged with technology younger, via smart devices. We see a change in the way children play - Mardles products still encourage creative play and parents love the link to classic toys.
AliveLab enable kids to learn through play and many parents feel happy that their kids are using a safe platform with no in-app purchases, no registration & no WiFi needed.
AliveLab aim to be a market leader in cutting edge uses of AR for kids. We see our Mardles range as the first of many brands for AliveLab.
Substantial accomplishments to date
- The business has been completely funded to date by the founders and is in profit (excluding research and development costs)*.
- We launched our first product 2 years ago and since then have sold over 500,000 units.
- We have been featured on major shopping channels around the world including in the UK, Germany, France, USA and Canada.
- We have expanded our range from 5 lines to over 30 lines in 2 years.
- We have secured major contracts for listings within in-flight magazines with major airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, and Oman Air.
- Our Mardles app has made ‘Good App Guide’ & our Mardles discovAR 4D colouring books were rated in the ‘Good Toy Guide’, both run by Fundamentally Children.
- Our Mardles stickers that come to life were placed in the ‘Top 10 toys for 2016’ by The Sun. Metro selected our colouring books to be on their ‘Lust List’ in 2016.
Working alongside James and Sharon is:
Laura Murden - Laura‘s history in marketing for TomTom and JVC for over 15 years has seen her launch products in Europe and the U.S, lead global marketing campaigns and successful partnerships. Laura was delighted to be honoured as an Ambassador at the 2015 Specsavers Everywoman in Retail Awards.
Supporting as advisors to the AliveLab team are:
Jason Higgins - Jason has been working in the Augmented Reality business for over 8 years, and has won awards along the way.
Lee Hohbein - With over 20 years of tech industry experience, entrepreneur Lee has worked with both start-ups and established global brands.
*Based on unaudited management accounts
Our primary focus has been on getting our products into the hands of kids initially through QVC The Shopping Channel, where we quickly became one of the top 5 toys of 2015 following our sell-out debut, as well as via our own website and Amazon. This has expanded to include WickedUncle, a successful online toy store, as well as independent gift shops and garden centres.
The 2017 range is ‘retail ready’ therefore we are focused on having distribution partners for specific territories. We are in discussions with a UK Toy Distributor, and hope to have similar talks at New York Toy Fair 2018.
Via an exclusive distribution contract, 5 airlines have raised orders for Mardles Stickers ahead of the main Cannes show in October.
Already partnered with Scribble Down, a rub down transfer company present in Europe, North Africa, Russia, and the Midde East. They have paid a development cost and up front minimum guarantee against royalties.
Promotional agencies TLC, NDL & Matrix plan to secure successful campaigns between AliveLab & big brands.
Use of proceeds
The funds raised on Seedrs are intended to be used as follows:
50% to expand the team
30% for consultation, development and roll out of Education range
20% for Marketing and Point of Sale
Expand the team
- Key hires will include a Business Development Manager and a Licensing Manager to explore and harness key partnerships with global brands.
Focus on Education Sector
- We are planning on developing a range that links specifically with National Curriculum guidelines and EYFS. We intend to re-work some of our existing content and add an educational element which will enable us to manufacture a product range specifically for schools. We plan to allocate £36,000 towards consultancy and development, and once the programme is in place, intend to appoint a member of staff to coordinate the roll out.
Marketing and POS
- We plan to support retailers with in-store displays, and digital demo screens for key accounts.
Please note that the company has a long-term loan of £20k outstanding, with an interest payment of £100 per month. None of the proceeds from this round will be used to repay this loan.
Alivelab operates within the busy toy sector, specifically focusing on Augmented Reality. We have two distinct markets.
1) We sell our ranges direct to consumer, and via third parties (b2c).
2) We provide AR solutions to existing businesses seeking to use AR to support their own product and service offerings (b2b).
Our Mardles products appeal to children aged 3-8 and so we are targeting the purchaser, usually their parent/guardian, or a relative. We feel that our combination of technology and physical product makes us an easy and exciting gift or impulse buying choice.
AliveLab’s ‘Powered by Mardles’ offering is being targeted towards companies that wish to add value and experience to their products or packaging. We feel that this makes us a potential AR partner for mosts consumer brands. We are currently operating with a range of brands however, our key partnership aims are Food, Toy and Brand Promotion with focus given to ‘gift with purchase’ offers.
Characteristics of target market
Whilst AR emerged in 1992, it was the launch of Pokemon GO in July 2016 that increased global media coverage and consumer understanding. The global AR/VR market is now reported to be worth $11.4bn and forecasts show that it is estimated to grow to $143.3bn by 2020.
The UK toy market in 2016 was estimated to be worth £3.3bn and the UK has the largest percentage of online Toy sales in Europe at 37%. Last year it was estimated that around 15% of toys now rely on hi-tech software or apps to enhance their play and we expect that to grow.
Recent studies show that there are now 2.9 smart devices per household and 70% of children aged 2-5 own a tablet. Technology now plays a recognised role in assisting learning and development with NAACE’s Senior Vice Chair confirming "The use of mobile digital technologies in the classroom might be largely unfamiliar to parents, but the benefits can be huge”.
AR in marketing is now a $1billion industry, and used in everything from fashion to food.
We feel that we can add value to any brand’s existing products, services or promotions with our Mardles characters and/or our commercially licenced app which uses market leading image recognition software.
Our upcoming marketing plan is as follows:
- Increase our online presence through social media marketing & YouTube Campaigns.
- Increase our PR budget & continue our relationships with the likes of The Gadget Show & Metro.
- Attend New York Toy Fair where we’ll meet with potential distributors for the USA & Canada. We aim to sign contracts by April 2018.
- Continue to feature on QVC & other Shopping channels : TV exposure & Brand awareness.
- Target travel retail by showcasing our products within inflight magazines.
- We’ve identified over 20 brands that would fit well into our ‘Powered by Mardles’ platform & intend to meet these during our Spring 2018 trade fair season and secure 5 relationships.
- Beyond this, we aim to target promotional campaigns for 2018 FIFA World Cup & Tokyo 2020.
To our knowledge, we are the only company specifically focused on AR toys. However, many other toys companies have a product or packaging that has Augmented Reality added - Hasbro’s Furby, Marvin’s iMagic, Lego packaging.
Our app has no in-app purchases, we don’t ask for registration & WiFi is not required. We feel that retail buyers are confident our range will not be overlooked because parents are happier for their children to play with ‘safe’ app toys.
We can add an AR element to any toy company’s product or packaging without them taking on the full expense of building their own app.
With our free, parent friendly & commercially licenced app and over 60 characters, we are ideally placed to quickly adapt existing product lines to broaden the use of Augmented Reality.
The toy market can be a crowded place, we are competing with regular toys and books. Innovation is important as retail buyers and consumers are always looking for the next big thing. We believe AliveLab is the next big thing.