Mon. Aug 8th, 2022

Kukua, a Nairobi and London-based educational entertainment company and the creators of ‘Super Sema’, the first African animated superhero franchise, has raised $6 million in its latest investment round.

Tencent, which made its first African edtech bet in Nigeria’s uLesson last December, led this Serie A round alongside Italy-based VC Alchimia. Other investors include EchoVC, firstminute Capital and Auxxo Female Catalyst.

Kukua says the investment will support its goal of continuing to build an IP-centric “edutainment” universe for kids with new original content, licensing, merchandise and publications from Super Sema.

Lucrezia Bisignani founded Kukua in 2018, but it was not until three years later that the team released the first version of Super Sema. The idea of ​​creating an animated superhero franchise for kids, especially those in Africa, was because there was a lack of such shows, co-founder and CEO Bisignani told BestFitnessBands during a phone call.

“When I started this, we saw that there were no African characters, and very few who were just black,” she said. So we thought this was a much-needed space, not just for kids in Africa, but worldwide. It’s for kids to feel represented and grow up with cartoons that are not only white, but also understand different cultures and themes.”

Although white and raised in Italy, Bisignani traveled extensively in Africa when she was young. She visited most of the countries on the continent with her parents and cultivated a “global mindset and appreciation for everything” that was different from hers and her upbringing.

Despite her background and demand for such content, getting funding for Kukua’s first project was not easy as investors were not convinced of its global appeal. Until ‘Black Panther’. The film received commercial and critical acclaim in 2018, and its success allowed similar projects like Kukua to secure investment. The company raised $2.5 million in seed that year from Africa-focused venture capital firm EchoVC and other investors.

“We have always viewed our target audience as global. We wanted this to be a huge success in Africa and around the world. So as with ‘Black Panther’, which attracted the most diverse audience ever because it was an all-African story and cast, our mission really is on both fronts,” the CEO said. “We want to show the beauty and a different story of Africa to the rest of the world. And of course for all the children here on the continent to see themselves represented.”

Super Sema is the story of a 10-year-old African girl – a superhero – with the power of creativity, determination and team skills. She uses science, technology, engineering, art and math to invent inventions in her secret laboratory to fight this evil robot villain – the ruler of her city – and his minions.

Bisignani said the show was created to “empower” a generation of children to have positive female African role models and to “inspire” them with team skills by creating a fun, exciting series that creates an avenue for STEAM learning.

The Kukua Team

YouTube picked up the first season of Super Sema, acquired the distribution rights and launched the series on its YouTube Originals channel in March 2021. It was a constant hit. Since its launch, Super Sema’s YouTube channel has been viewed more than 40 million times. The show — executive produced by Lupita Nyong’o — received an NAACP Image Awards nomination for Outstanding Animated Series in January. The Oscar-winning actress is also a shareholder in the company. Other members of the Super Sema team include COO Vanessa Ford, CFO Giovanni Bisignani and four-time BAFTA winner Claudia Lloyd (Producer and Creative Director).

The show’s second season was greenlit by YouTube Originals and premiered this month. Super Sema’s target audience is between 4 and 8 years old, and on YouTube Originals 60% of its audience is from the US, UK and Kenya around the top three countries where Super Sema is most watched. In addition to being featured on YouTube Originals, Super Sema is also broadcast on major linear TV networks in Africa such as Citizen TV in Kenya and SABC in South Africa. Bisignani said the company will get more rights to broadcast the show on more TV stations across the continent.

According to Bisignani, Kukua has a number of methods to make the show more interactive in the pipeline. Immediate plans include the fall launch of a US toy line with toy company Just Play and “Let’s Technovate with Super Sema,” an accompanying vlog series featuring real science and DIY experiments that kids can do at home, slated to premiere. in 2022. Kukua also plans to expand Super Sema’s North American publishing and licensing program with the signing of Penguin Random House, Bendon and Bentex, category leaders in publishing and apparel.

However, in an upcoming version, Kukua may bring Super Sema to the metaverse. “One of the goals is for kids to get into the Super Sema story world and do it in a Roblox experience, somewhere where they can just go from online to offline and continuously play and learn with their favorite characters in this highly engaging story world,” Bisignani said. “We want to be the Disney of learning, leveraging the latest media and technologies to create engaging experiences for our users.”

To that end, the company has appointed Matthew Ball, a venture partner at Makers Fund, the world’s largest gaming venture fund of AUM, to its board of directors. The company said Ball’s support will be critical as it expands its Super Sema IP and story world into interactive and immersive educational experiences for kids.

Paolo Barletta, partner at Alchimia, said of the investment: “Kukua is one of those companies in the world that everyone wants to see succeed. We have been part of their growth journey from day one and are excited to continue supporting their world-class team, inspired by the positive impact we can have on an entire generation of children.”

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