Sesame Workshop – makers of Sesame Street – has spent decades bringing educational entertainment to millions of young people. Now it’s about to bring millions of dollars to some young and growing startups.
And it’s all for the sake of the children.
The sweet, innocent children.
The Collab+Sesame Fund is a newly announced seed funding partnership between the Workshop and the Collaborative Fund, a VC firm founded by Craig Shapiro. The partnership aims to provides seed capital for “creative entrepreneurs changing the world.”
With a focus on startups in the childhood development space, companies selected for funding will work directly with Sesame Workshop executives and have the opportunity to use Sesame Street characters and other brand elements in their products and marketing to help boost presence, awareness and impact (though they won’t be required to use them).
They also get that cold, hard sesame seed money – up to a million bucks in an initial round, with possible future investments for portfolio companies. The Fund is limited primarily to currently unfunded companies and ideas, though they haven’t entirely ruled out embracing startups further along in their development.
Exact equity stakes for Collab+Sesame Fund and the ownership split between the Collaborative Fund and Sesame Workshop haven’t been announced, but both the nonprofit and the very much for-profit VC firm have had a fair amount of success with joint ventures before. Collaborative Fund investments include properties like Buffer and Reddit, among others; Sesame Workshop has a a few…modest…licensing deals in place. You may have seen the brand on a variety of retail goods, like EVERYTHING YOU OWN IF YOU HAVE A CHILD.
Most other details have also been left up to the imagination, much like Snuffleupagus for his first 14 years on Sesame Street. The fund was just announced and there’s no “first class” of startups already signed up, so we have no idea what kind of things we’ll start seeing from the venture. Whether or not the fund is currently considering anyone is a mystery, and how the deals might tie into future Sesame Street offerings remains to be seen.
There is this handy chart that breaks down “Childhood Development” into some more manageable business categories:
This gives us a bit more of an idea about what Big Bird and the gang may be looking for, but according to the Big Cheese (that’s Sesame Workshop CEO Jeffrey Dunn) the goal is simply to do anything and everything to help the next generation of kids have things just a little bit better – while keeping the Sesame brand in place:
“As a non-profit, our success is measured by our global impact on kids’ lives. Sesame Street was the original disrupter in kids’ media, and we have a 45-year history of being a creative workshop dedicated to breaking new ground. We are in the midst of an extraordinary time in the history of how digital technology can change the education, health and welfare of kids around the world. History suggests that much of that change will spring from new companies. By partnering with some of these startups, Sesame Workshop can help grow the next wave of kid-focused innovation and improve the lives of children everywhere.”
In other words, times are a changin’ and Dunn wants Sesame Street to remain as relevant and as innovative as it was nearly fifty years ago. That’s something no company in the tech space has been able to pull off, but anything’s possible with enough imagination.
The Muppets could even get a second season, right???
OK, so imagination can’t achieve the truly impossible, but as one of the most successful and longest-running media franchises ever, and with the business savvy of the Collaborative Fund on board, don’t be surprised when Sesame Workshop is being piped into every nook, cranny, and crevices of your children’s lives.
Their sweet, innocent lives.
Feature image courtesy http://grouches.wikia.com/
Daniel A. Guttenberg is an Atlanta-based writer who fell into the startup world by accident and has been gleefully treading water ever since. He will be survived by his beard and his legacy of procrastination.
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