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BGF Ventures backs high-growth toucanBox

Investment news
15.05.2016.

toucanBox, a subscription-based children’s arts and crafts delivery service, has secured a £2.7m investment from BGF Ventures, as part of a £3.2m funding round, to accelerate its UK and international growth and introduce new products. This is the company’s first institutional investment following previous rounds of angel and seed funding.

toucanBox makes and delivers themed boxes of arts and craft activities for children aged three to eight. Activities and materials are developed by educational experts and there is no contract or tie-in, with customers able to pause, cancel or upgrade their subscription at any time. The business has been growing at a rate of 20 percent month-on-month since it was set up in 2012 and recently topped more than one million boxes delivered.

Entrepreneur and mother-of-three Virginie Charles-Dear was inspired to launch toucanBox after searching for engaging and inspirational ways for her children to learn creative skills through play. Virginie co-founded the business with former school teacher and current teacher trainer Sara Barokas, who is putting decades of teaching experience into making toucanBox a valuable resource for children.

Virginie said: “My four year old daughter would watch children’s TV presenters build all manner of things from everyday household objects. Hannah wanted to copy but quite often we didn’t have the materials required – I’m just not the type of person who remembers to save 24 ice-lolly sticks.

“Most people want to help their children learn through creative and fun projects, but in busy households that’s often easier said than done. I was sure there would be a market for a tailor made selection of arts and crafts materials and activities that could be delivered straight to the door. That was four years ago and since then we have been amazed by the wonderful feedback from our customers, both the kids and the adults.”

toucanBox’s new backer, BGF Ventures, is the UK’s largest  ever venture capital company dedicated to earlier stage UK technology companies, with £200m to invest. This is the seventh investment the BGF Ventures team has made since it began backing companies in 2015, and its second investment in a subscription-based business. In October last year, the team provided funding for recipe box delivery company, Gousto. Subscription Radar estimates that there are 150 subscription box businesses in the UK, with at least three to four new services launching every month.

Simon Calver, one of the three founding partners at BGF Ventures, led the investment in toucanBox. Simon was previously CEO of LOVEFiLM, one of the UK’s most successful subscription entertainment businesses, which was acquired by Amazon in 2011.

Simon Calver said: “Parents are always looking for creative and inspirational ways to keep their children entertained. Virginie, Sara and their team have tapped into this market and created a beautiful, fun and educational product that is underpinned by a clear growth plan and an exciting business model that we can help become a global phenomenon.

“toucanBox is reigniting the magic of receiving a surprise in the post –providing children with the materials to make something physical and offering a nice balance to the popularity of digital and online games and entertainment. Whilst I have spent time getting to know Virginie and the toucanBox team, my own two young children have thoroughly enjoyed testing the products for me.”

toucanBox’s activity sets come in three sizes – Petite, Grande and Super – with fortnightly or monthly delivery options and personalised with the child’s name. Themes change every fortnight and one off purchases include boxes with under-the-sea, frozen adventure, treasure island themes and more.

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