Kukua, a Nairobi- and London-based educational entertainment company and the creators of “Super Sema,” the first African animated superhero franchise, has secured $6 million in Tencent and Alchimia co-led series A round, with the participation of EchoVC, firstminute Capital and Auxxo Female Catalyst.
The children’s entertainment content creator says the investment will support its vision to continue building an IP-centric kids’ “edutainment” universe with new Super Sema original content, licensing, merchandise, and publishing offerings.
Lucrezia Bisignani and Alexander Terrien co-founded Kukua in 2018, though it took three years for the team to launch the first version of Super Sema. According to TechCrunch’s report, the CEO said that the idea to create an animated superhero franchise for kids, especially those in Africa, was because there was a lack of such shows,
“When I started this, we saw there were no African characters, and very few that were just Black,” she said. So, we thought this was a much-needed space for kids in Africa and globally. It’s for kids to feel represented and to grow up with cartoons that are not only white but also to understand different cultures and themes.”
Bisignani finally got the needed finance for her project when “Black Panther.” The movie was released to commercial and critical acclaim in 2018, raising $2.5 million seed from Africa-focused venture capital firm EchoVC and other investors that year.
“We’ve always seen our target audience as global. So we wanted this to be a mega success in Africa and the rest of the world. So similarly to ‘Black Panther,’ which attracted the most diverse audience ever for being an all-African story and cast, our mission is really on both fronts,” 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 kids here in the continent to see themselves represented.”
Super Sema is the story of a 10-year-old African girl — a superhero — with the powers of creativity, determination, and team skills. She uses science, tech, engineering, arts, and math to create inventions from her secret lab to fight this evil robot villain — her town’s ruler — and his minions.
According to Bisignani, the show was made to “empower” a generation of kids to have positive female African role models and “inspire” them with team skills by making a fun, exciting series that creates an avenue for STEAM learning.
YouTube picked up Super Sema’s first season, acquired its 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 attracted more than 40 million views. The show — executive produced by Lupita Nyong’o — received an NAACP Image Awards nomination for Outstanding Animated Series this 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).
Youtube Original greenlighted the show’s second season and has premiered this month. Super Sema’s target audience is between the ages of 4 to 8, and being on YouTube Originals, 60% of its audience comes from the U.S. The U.K. and Kenya are the top three countries where Super Sema is most-watched. In addition to being on YouTube Originals, Super Sema also airs on major linear TV networks in Africa, like Citizen TV in Kenya and SABC in South Africa. Bisignani said the company is getting more rights to air the show on more TV stations across the continent.
Bisignani says Kukua has some methods to make the show more interactive in its pipeline. Immediate plans include launching a U.S. toy line 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 children can do at home 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, an upcoming version might see Kukua take Super Sema to the metaverse. “One of the goals is to have kids enter Super Sema story world and do that in a Roblox experience, somewhere they can just go from online to offline and continuously play and learn 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 technologies to create engaging experiences for our users.”
To this effect, the company has appointed Matthew Ball — a venture partner at Makers Fund, the world’s largest gaming venture fund by AUM — to its board. The company said Ball’s support would be critical as it expands its Super Sema IP and story world into interactive and immersive educational experiences for kids.
Commenting on the round, Paolo Barletta, partner at Alchimia, said, “Kukua is one of those companies in the world that everyone wants to succeed. We have been part of their growth journey from the first day and are thrilled to continue to support their world-class team, inspired by the positive impact we can have on an entire generation of kids.”