Kide Science was founded by a unique team consisting of a researcher, a teacher, and a business expert. This exceptional team created a distinctive brand that has been able to evolve. Their playful science education concept for children, featuring Hoseli the Robot, is now conquering America, state by state. A strong brand, brand rights and good contracts made international growth possible.

The past year has been a turning point for our client Kide Science. Established in 2017 by three women, Kide Science, specializing in science education for young children, merged in October 2023 with Accelerate Learning, a pioneer company in science education in the Unted States. With this merger, Kide Science became the first Finnish edtech startup that has been sold outside of Europe.

According to Kide Science’s CEO, Sari Hurme-Mehtälä, the partnership with Accelerate Learning is a perfect match.

"Before Accelerate Learning approached us, we hadn't even considered selling our company. As discussions progressed, we realized that Accelerate Learning was a 'perfect match' for us. Their teaching materials are also based on science and research, but they didn’t have offering for early childhood education for 3-5-year-olds, which is in high demand in the United States right now. They were looking for the best possible partner for this and found us from Finland," Sari says happily.

Strong brand and brand rights as a path to international growth

Even before the merger, the internationally awarded Kide Science had customers in over 30 countries and raised a total of 3.5 million euros in funding from international venture capitalists.

Behind this success is determined work to grow and protect the brand’s recognition, a unique team, pedagogically high-quality teaching materials and an online platform, a strong drive for internationalization right from the company’s establishment, and the agility and courage to make strategic changes to the business model and target markets when necessary.

The KIDE SCIENCE and KIDE brands are already widely known in the fields of science education and teaching. Trademark protection has been a cornerstone for the international business from the start, and trademark registrations have been expanded to new countries as the business has grown. The company has also understood the importance of reliable partners for protecting IP assets and for contract matters.

"When the CEO of a startup has a hundred things to think about all the time, it has been a relief to trust that our IP and legal partner, Kaulo & Partners, takes care of all these issues. Further, we have received valuable legal help to review and comment on contracts on a very quick schedule, if necessary, when we have negotiated cooperation with new partners," says Sari.

In discussions with representatives from other startups, she has noticed that it is not yet very common or self-evident in the startup world that the trademark and brand protection is in place, or that it has been ensured that the company does not infringe on the registered IP rights of others in the international markets.

"I’ve been surprised when even fairly large startups have asked me lately whether Kide Science has already applied for trademarks, as they haven't yet. Well, of course we have!" Sari exclaims.

The pandemic changed the business model and target markets

From the IP protection point of view, Kide Science has found it challenging that the company's target market and customers have changed significantly along the way.

"We have applied for trademarks also in countries where, at least for now, the customer base has remained smaller than initially thought. Nevertheless, I definitely see it as a good thing in terms of both the company's and the brand's value that registrations have been applied for quite extensively to support internationalization," says Sari.

The protection of brand rights has also served as insurance for investment for financiers.

"Kide Science's goal from the beginning was to scale the business to the international market. That's why we established our company only after we managed to get our first significant capital investor on board. We started licensing our playful science lesson concept to early childhood education professionals such as daycare chains and schools, as well as to international reseller partners, particularly in Asia and China, from where we received a lot of inquiries in the early stages. While we expanded domestically, we entered into international partnerships as well as licensing and resale agreements at a fast pace, with a strong focus on Asia", Sari describes the target markets and internationalization of the first years.

In Finland, “Pikku Kakkonen's Tiedonjyvä" television program series gave momentum to domestic customer acquisition and brought good publicity to Kide Science's science education model, where children learn about natural scientific phenomena through doing and playing. The children's science book series “Oppi&ilo”, published with Sanoma, also raised awareness.

"In the beginning, Kide Science also had a lot of private individuals as customers. Individual early childhood educators were able to start teaching science with Kide Science's materials and franchise model," says Sari.

The COVID-19 pandemic became a watershed moment that transformed the company's entire business. When schools and daycares closed worldwide and customer meetings were not possible, Kide Science focused on product development instead of sales. Soon, a completely new product was introduced to the market: an online version of the children's science lesson concept aimed at after-school programs, kindergartens, and home schools.

"We recognized that homeschooling was a big market, especially in the United States. Since we had English-language teaching materials ready, it was easy to start marketing the online platform to English-speaking markets like the United States and the United Kingdom."

Conquering America started with a partnership with DreamWorks Animation

Kide Science’s business had a strong China and Asia focus until 2022. After the pandemic, the focus shifted from Asia to the United States. A major partner in China had encountered financial difficulties; additionally, new restrictions and laws in China made it difficult for foreign companies or teachers to operate there. Growth expectations elsewhere in Asia had also begun to wane.

Kide Science's business in the United States gained momentum from a marketing partnership with the film and computer animation studio DreamWorks Animation.

"In negotiating this significant partnership agreement for us, we received legal consulting from Jani Kaulo. All of Kide Science’s brand rights were on the table, so to speak. The multi-page agreement specified both parties’ IP rights, obligations, and target markets in detail. We committed, among other things, to ensuring that there would be no access to Kide Science’s online platform and teaching materials from China. We had to make a clear choice about the markets we would focus on in the future," Sari explains.

The partnership involved DreamWorks Animation's "Gabby’s Dollhouse" TV series for Netflix. In the series, Gabby and her cat friends have adventures in a dollhouse world. These well-known animated characters in the United States served as a gateway to Kide Science’s online platform, featuring Hoseli the Robot and his friends' science adventures.

"It was a really successful PR campaign for us. Through the characters of Gabby’s Dollhouse, we gained tens of thousands of users on the Kide Science platform. At the same time, we realized that there is a huge demand for early childhood science education in the United States. We started receiving a lot of inquiries from both potential customers and companies that wanted to collaborate with us," Sari recalls the significant breakthrough in the United States.

Kide Science’s unique product and brand stand out

The timing for entering the U.S. market was perfect for Kide Science in many ways.

In the United States, a pre-school reform had been enacted, requiring public daycare opportunities to be offered to 3-5-year-old children. However, they lacked trained teachers or suitable science education materials for this age group. Kide Science, on the other hand, had pedagogically high-quality, visually strong, and narrative teaching materials ready for daycares and teachers to use. The general good reputation of Finnish education and the Education Finland Award received in June 2022 also opened doors.

"The Education Finland program, under the Finnish Ministry of Education, had just chosen our platform as Finland’s best education solution that can be scaled to international markets. This gave a good boost to the KIDE SCIENCE brand," Sari notes.

Kide Science also received attention from Common Sense Media, where early childhood educators reviewed the teaching materials they used for science education. Kide Science received a perfect five-star rating in the reviews. Around the same time, Kide Science participated in the significant education sector conference and trade show South by Southwest® in Texas, where it was among the finalists with its playful science education concept.

"Then suddenly we started getting inquiries from American companies wanting to collaborate or buy our science education concept. Accelerate Learning was among the first. In total, we received inquiries from nearly ten parties almost simultaneously; it was quite overwhelming!" Sari recalls.

Hoseli the Robot Continues the Conquest of America

Following the successful company sale, Kide Science continues its operations in Finland as part of Accelerate Learning. It now benefits from the local sales and marketing support of a large organization in the United States.

"Currently, Kide Science has customers in ten states, so there is still a lot to do in conquering America. However, it feels a great relief that a small Finnish company no longer has to handle sales in the United States alone or set up its own office and marketing team there," Sari says.

She considers it a major success that the new owner wanted to keep the Kide Science team in Finland and also maintain the trademark-protected brand names KIDE SCIENCE and KIDE.

"Accelerate Learning considered the KIDE SCIENCE and KIDE brand names so valuable that they wanted to keep them alive. Many potential buyers and partners would have wanted only a white label product to sell under their own brand names. Those offers felt like bad deals to us."

Negotiations with Accelerate Learning went smoothly and positively for Kide Science.

"We had extensive discussions with their product managers about the compatibility of our products. The negotiations did not start with due diligence type issues with financial and other company management. That phase came later once a common understanding had already been found. During the due diligence phase, it was useful and convenient to be able to download country-specific data and lists of Kide Science’s trademark portfolio using the LegalLandscape software developed by Kaulo & Partners," Sari explains.

Shortly after the company sale, Kide Science’s science education concept received significant recognition in the United States. Early childhood education professionals, essentially Kide Science’s customers, selected Kide Science’s teaching materials and online platform as "The best STEM/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Instructional Solution."

Kide Science sees its strength in the ability to collaborate with a wide variety of partners in the future, not just daycare centres and early childhood educators.

"There are many product categories and different ways to implement science education for children that suit us. In the future, new partners could be media companies, publishers, or other science education companies," Sari envisions.

Hoseli the Robot, children Pii, Kelvin, and Esteri, and Mrs. Noblegas are always ready for new games and science adventures!

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