Kenya-based instructional leisure startup Kukua nabs $6M

Kukua, a Nairobi- and London-based instructional leisure firm and the creators of “Super Sema,” the primary African animated superhero franchise, has raised $6 million in its newest spherical of funding.

Tencent, which made its first African edtech bet in Nigeria’s uLesson final December, co-led this Sequence A spherical with Italy-based VC Alchimia. Different buyers embody EchoVC, firstminute Capital and Auxxo Feminine Catalyst.

Kukua says the funding will assist its objective to proceed constructing an IP-centric youngsters’ “edutainment” universe with new Tremendous Sema authentic content material, licensing, merchandise and publishing choices.

Lucrezia Bisignani based Kukua in 2018, nevertheless it wasn’t till three years later that the group put out the primary model of Tremendous Sema. The thought to create an animated superhero franchise for youths, particularly these in Africa, was as a result of there was an absence of such reveals, co-founder and CEO Bisignani instructed TechCrunch on a name.

“Once I began this, we noticed there have been no African characters, and only a few that had been simply Black,” she stated. So, we thought this was a much-needed house, not just for youngsters in Africa however globally. It’s for youths to really feel represented and to develop up with cartoons that aren’t solely white but in addition to grasp completely different cultures and themes.”

Although white and raised in Italy, Bisignani travelled extensively in Africa when she was younger. She visited most international locations on the continent along with her mother and father and cultivated a “world mindset and appreciation for the whole lot” that was completely different from her and her upbringing.

Regardless of her background and demand for such content material, securing funding for Kukua’s first challenge wasn’t straightforward as buyers had been unconvinced of its world enchantment. Till “Black Panther.” The film was launched to industrial and significant acclaim in 2018, and its success helped comparable initiatives like Kukua safe investments. The corporate raised $2.5 million seed from Africa-focused enterprise capital agency EchoVC and different buyers that yr.

“We’ve all the time seen our target market as world. We needed this to be a mega success in Africa and the remainder of the world. So equally to ‘Black Panther,’ which attracted essentially the most numerous viewers ever for being an all-African story and solid, our mission is admittedly on each fronts,” the CEO stated. “We wish to showcase the sweetness and a distinct narrative coming from Africa to the remainder of the world. And naturally, for all the children right here within the continent to see themselves represented.”

Tremendous Sema is the story of a 10-year-old African woman — a superhero — with the powers of creativity, willpower and group abilities. She makes use of science, tech, engineering, arts and math to create innovations from her secret lab to battle this evil robotic villain — her city’s ruler — and his minions.

Bisignani stated the present was made to “empower” a technology of children to have optimistic feminine African function fashions and “encourage” them with group abilities by making a enjoyable, thrilling sequence that creates an avenue for STEAM studying.

The Kukua group. Picture Credit: Kukua

YouTube picked up Tremendous Sema’s first season, acquired its distribution rights and launched the sequence on its YouTube Originals channel in March 2021. It was a continuing hit. Since its launch, Tremendous Sema’s YouTube Channel has attracted greater than 40 million views. The present — govt produced by Lupita Nyong’o — obtained an NAACP Picture Awards nomination for Excellent Animated Sequence this January. The Oscar-winning actress can be a shareholder within the firm. Different members of the Tremendous Sema group embody COO Vanessa Ford, CFO Giovanni Bisignani and four-times BAFTA winner Claudia Lloyd (producer and inventive director).

The present’s second season was greenlit by YouTube Originals and has premiered this month. Tremendous Sema’s target market is between the ages of 4 to eight, and being on YouTube Originals, 60% of its viewers comes from the U.S. The U.Ok. and Kenya spherical up the highest three international locations the place Tremendous Sema is most watched. Along with being on YouTube Originals, Tremendous Sema additionally airs on main linear TV networks in Africa, like Citizen TV in Kenya and SABC in South Africa. Bisignani stated the corporate is getting extra rights to air the present on extra TV stations throughout the continent.

In accordance with Bisignani, Kukua has some strategies to make the present extra interactive in its pipeline. Quick plans embody launching a U.S. toy line within the fall with toy firm Simply Play and “Let’s Technovate with Tremendous Sema,” a companion vlog sequence with actual science and DIY experiments youngsters can do at dwelling scheduled to premiere in 2022. Kukua additionally plans to increase Tremendous Sema’s North American Publishing and Licensing program with the signing of Penguin Random Home, Bendon and Bentex, class leaders in publishing and attire.

Nonetheless, an upcoming model may see Kukua take Tremendous Sema to the metaverse. “One of many targets is to have youngsters enter Tremendous Sema story world and try this in a Roblox expertise, someplace they will simply go from on-line to offline and repeatedly play and study with their favorite characters on this very participating story world,” Bisignani stated. “We wish to be the Disney of studying and leverage all the newest media and applied sciences to create participating experiences for our customers.”

To this impact, the corporate appointed Matthew Ball — a enterprise associate at Makers Fund, the world’s largest gaming enterprise fund by AUM — to its board. The corporate stated Ball’s assist will probably be important because it expands its Tremendous Sema IP and story world into interactive and immersive instructional experiences for youths.

Talking on the funding, Paolo Barletta, associate at Alchimia, stated, “Kukua is a kind of corporations on the planet that everybody desires to see succeed. We now have been a part of their development journey from the primary day and are thrilled to proceed to assist their world-class group, impressed by the optimistic affect we are able to have on a complete technology of children.”

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