Kukua, creator of ‘Super Sema’, raises $6 million led by Alchimia and Tencent | Wender Mind Kids

Kukua, creator of 'Super Sema', raises $6 million led by Alchimia and Tencent

Kukua, a Nairobi and London-based educational entertainment company and 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, co-chaired this Series A round with Italy-based VC Alchimia. Other investors include EchoVC, firstminute Capital and Auxxo Female Catalyst.

According to Kukua, the investment will support his goal to continue building an IP-centric children’s “edutainment” universe with new Super Sema original content, licenses, 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 kids, particularly in Africa, came about because there was a lack of such shows, co-founder and CEO Bisignani told TechCrunch over a call.

“When I started doing this, we saw that there weren’t any African characters and very few who were just black,” she said. So we thought this was a much needed space, not just for children in Africa but around the world. Children should feel represented and grow up with cartoons that are not only white, but also understand different cultures and topics.”

Although white and raised in Italy, Bisignani traveled widely throughout Africa at a young age. Visiting most of the continent’s countries with her parents, she cultivated a “global mindset and appreciation for everything” that was different from her and her upbringing.

Despite her background and the demand for such content, securing funding for Kukua’s first project was not easy as investors were unconvinced of its global appeal. Until “Black Panther”. The film was released in 2018 to commercial and critical acclaim, and its success helped similar projects like Kukua secure investment. The company raised $2.5 million in seed capital this 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 mega hit in Africa and the rest of the world. Much like 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,” said the CEO. “We want to show the rest of the world the beauty and a different story from Africa. And of course, so that all the children see themselves represented here on the continent.”

Super Sema is the story of a 10-year-old African girl – a superhero – with the power of creativity, determination and teamwork. She uses science, technology, engineering, arts and math to create inventions from her secret laboratory to battle this evil robotic villain – the ruler of her city – and his minions.

Bisignani said the show was made to “empower” a generation of kids to have positive African female role models and “inspire” them with teamwork by making a fun, exciting series that paved the way for STEAM learning creates.

The Kukua team

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. She was a consistent hit. Since its launch, Super Sema’s YouTube channel has attracted more than 40 million views. The series — executive produced by Lupita Nyong’o — received a nomination for the NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Animated Series in January. The Oscar winner is also a shareholder of 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 has been greenlit by YouTube Originals and premieres this month. Super Sema’s target audience is between the ages of 4 and 8, and 60% of viewers on YouTube Originals are from the United States. The UK and Kenya round out the top 3 countries where Super Sema is most viewed. In addition to YouTube Originals, Super Sema will also air on major linear TV networks in Africa, such as Citizen TV in Kenya and SABC in South Africa. Bisignani said the company would get more rights to air the show on more TV channels across the continent.

According to Bisignani, Kukua has a few methods in its pipeline to make the show more interactive. Immediate plans include launching a US toy line in the fall with toy company Just Play and Let’s Technovate with Super Sema, a companion vlog series featuring real-world science and DIY experiments kids can do at home in 2022 should premiere. Kukua also plans to expand Super Sema’s North American publishing and licensing program by signing Penguin Random House, Bendon and Bentex, the leaders in the publishing and apparel sectors.

However, in an upcoming version, Kukua could bring Super Sema into the Metaverse. “One of the goals is for kids to be able to enter the Super Sema story world and do it in a Roblox experience where they can easily switch from online to offline and continuously play and learn with their favorite characters in this very immersive story world,” said Bisignani . “We aim to be the Disney of learning, using the latest media and technology to create engaging experiences for our users.”

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

Regarding 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 a part of their growth journey from day one and look forward to continuing to support their world-class team, inspired by the positive impact we can have on an entire generation of children.”