Kukua, a Nairobi and London-based educational entertainment company and the creators of “Super Sema”, Africa’s first animated superhero franchise, raised $6 million in its latest investment round.
Tencent, which made its first African edtech bet in uLesson in Nigeria last December, co-led this Series A round with Italian company 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 universe of “educational entertainment” for children with new Super Sema original content, licensing, merchandise and publishing offerings.
Lucrezia Bisignani founded Kukua in 2018, but it wasn’t until three years later that the team released the first version of Super Sema. The idea of creating an animated superhero franchise for children, especially those in Africa, was due to the lack of such shows, co-founder and CEO Bisignani told TechCrunch during a 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 it was a much-needed space, not just for children in Africa, but around the world. It’s for kids to feel represented and grow 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 countries on the continent with her parents and cultivated a “global mindset and appreciation for everything” that was different from her and her upbringing.
Despite his track record and demand for such content, securing funding for Kukua’s first project was not easy as investors were unconvinced of his global appeal. Until “Black Panther”. The film was released to commercial and critical success in 2018, and its success helped similar projects like Kukua secure investments. The company raised $2.5 million from venture capital firm EchoVC and other investors that year.
“We have always considered our target audience to be global. We wanted it to be a mega hit in Africa and the rest of the world. So much like ‘Black Panther,’ which has attracted the most diverse audiences ever for being an all-African story and cast, our mission is really a two-pronged one,” the CEO said. “We want to showcase the beauty and a different narrative coming from 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 superheroine – endowed with the powers of creativity, determination and team spirit. She uses science, technology, engineering, arts and math to create inventions from her secret lab to battle this evil robot villain – the ruler of her town – and his minions.
Bisignani said the show was designed to “empower” a generation of children to have positive African female role models and “inspire” them with team skills by creating a fun and exciting series that creates a pathway for STEAM learning.
YouTube picked up the first season of Super Sema, acquired its distribution rights, and launched the series on its YouTube Originals channel in March 2021. It was a consistent hit. Since its launch, Super Sema’s YouTube channel has attracted over 40 million views. The show – produced by Lupita Nyong’o – received an NAACP Image Award 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 4-8 years old, and being on YouTube Originals, 60% of its audience is from the United States. The UK and Kenya complete the top three countries where Super Sema is the most watched. Apart from being on YouTube Originals, Super Sema is also shown on major linear TV networks in Africa, such as Citizen TV in Kenya and SABC in South Africa. Bisignani said the company was getting more rights to air the show on more TV channels across the continent.
According to Bisignani, Kukua has a few methods to make the show more interactive in its pipeline. Immediate plans include launching a toy line in the US in the fall with toy company Just Play and “Let’s Technovate with Super Sema,” a companion vlog series with 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 category-leading Penguin Random House, Bendon and Bentex. in publishing and clothing.
However, an upcoming release may see Kukua take Super Sema into the Metaverse. “One of the goals is to get kids into the story world of Super Sema and have it in a Roblox experience, somewhere they can just go from online to offline and play and learn continuously. with their favorite characters in this very engaging story world,” Bisignani said. . “We want to be the Disney of learning and leverage all the latest media and technology to create engaging experiences for our users.”
To that effect, the company has appointed Matthew Ball – a venture capital partner of Makers Fund, the world’s largest gaming venture capital fund by AUM – to its board of directors. The company said Ball’s support will be essential as it expands its Super Sema intellectual property and world of stories into interactive and immersive educational experiences for children.
Speaking on the investment, Paolo Barletta, Partner at Alchimia, said: “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.