Mobile-based early childhood education company MarcoPolo Learning has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding to expand its award-winning suite of apps, and produce premium animated long-form content in partnership with Boat Rocker Media. The latter’s family of companies includes toon houses Radical Sheep (The Bagel & Becky Show, Fangbone!) and Jam Filled (The Loud House, Camp Lakebottom).
The financing round was led by Boat Rocker Ventures. Other investors include leading technology investors such as Horizons Ventures (Asia), Seedcamp (Europe), and managing partners of DST Global, as well as influential individuals from the kids and media industries such as founders / senior executives from Diapers.com (acquired by Amazon), Maker Studios (acquired by Disney), NewsCorp, and YY.
The funding round caps a breakout year for MarcoPolo Learning, which reaches over 5 million children in more than 150 countries including the US, China, Russia, UK and Japan. New original, premium animated content for linear and digital platforms will boost the company’s profile in the early education market and broaden brand exposure across distribution channels.
“The children’s media space is evolving rapidly, and Boat Rocker is excited to partner with a category innovator like MarcoPolo,” commented Michel Pratte, Chief Revenue Officer at Boat Rocker and new MarcoPolo board member. “We believe that their educational focus and integrated app-plus-video strategy provides them with an opportunity to become a leading, globally trusted pre-school brand for the mobile generation.”
The two companies’ production and distribution partnership will involve a deep collaboration on fresh animated TV and digital series, leveraging Boat Rocker’s global video distribution expertise and team of over 400 in-house animators and producers. Details are to be announced, but every property will feature MarcoPolo’s cast of characters from its award-winning apps, who share an innate desire to explore the wonders of the natural world.
MarcoPolo Learning was founded by technology and investment veterans Nazar Yasin and Justin Hsu with the goal of building a global, mobile-based “preschool in your pocket.” Executive chairman Yasin is a former Goldman Sachs and Tiger Global executive who has led or invested in a number of “unicorn” Internet companies including YY in China, Forticom in Russia, and iconic businesses in Latin America, Africa, and other markets. CEO Hsu was the founder of PMG Financial, a specialist in retirement planning services for K-12 teachers, which he sold to Zurich Financial; and founder of 10 Music, an artist management company based in London. Hsu was also a board member of The Institute of Play, a Gates-based non-profit with a mission to transform educational using a unique game-based approach.