Roominate is a construction toy for young girls. Founders Bettina Chen and Alice Brooks created the company to get more women into the engineering industry. The entrepreneurs got a deal with Lori Greiner and Mark Cuban on Shark Tank. As of 2023, Roominate is worth an estimated $15 million.
About the Founders
Bettina Chen and Alice Brooks are from San Francisco, California. Bettina got her engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Alice got hers from the California Institute of Technology.
The two met in 2010 when they were studying for their master’s degrees at Stanford University. Bettina and Alice quickly became friends as they were the only women on the course.
After a year, they became interns at different companies. Brooks worked at Nest Labs while Chen was at Discera. They both graduated from college in 2012 and became fellows at StartX, a non-profit organization for early-stage startups.
Founding the Company
Alice and Bettina started working on a toy collection called Roominate back when they were still Stanford students. In 2012, they developed Maykah Inc. to release a construction toy set that promoted science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
The product features building pieces and circuits that could all be connected to create unstructured models. The founders launched a Kickstarter campaign, asking for $25,000, but successfully raised $85,964 from over 1,100 backers.
They partnered with Education Forward DC, StartX, and the UC Davis School of Education to advertise their product to its target audience: girls between the ages of six and ten. After 18 months in business, they made $1.7 million in revenue. Before appearing on the show, they had raised $850,000 from other investors.
Shark Tank Appearance
Roominate was featured in the season six premiere of Shark Tank in 2014. Bettina Chen and Alice Brooks joined the show in hopes of getting $500,000 for a 5% stake in their toy line.
The entrepreneurs expressed their intentions to work with major toy retail brands. Their business that was marketed for girls immediately caught the attention of the female Sharks Lori Greiner and Barbara Corcoran. Surprisingly Barbara wasn’t interested and gave a bizarre reason for not making an offer.
The boys soon joined in the fun. In the end, Lori and Mark Cuban were the ones who had more faith in the startup. They teamed up to propose a final deal of $500,000 for 5% equity. Cuban in particular wanted to invest because he wanted a role model for his two daughters. He pretty much paid them to babysit his kids.
After Shark Tank
The massive investment from two Sharks helped Roominate flourish. In 2015, Mark and Lori helped the toy company get into more than 800 physical and online stores in the US. They increased their staff count and relocated to an official headquarters.
This expansion allowed them to reach $4.5 million in sales one year after the Shark Tank episode aired. In 2016, Roominate was acquired by toy manufacturer PlayMonster (originally Patch Products) for an undisclosed price. Given how strong the brand and sales were, the exit was lucrative for the founders.
Alice Brooks then served as a Brand Consultant for PlayMonster until 2018. Alice now works at Khosla Ventures, and Bettina is an Engineering Program Manager at Apple. Despite the original founders selling the business, Roominate is still doing well under PlayMonster’s control and is worth an estimated $15 million.