Another funding announcement that underscores what big business kids’ and educational apps can be. Mindshapes, a UK-based developer of interactive learning apps, has picked up a $4 million round of funding led by Index Ventures, with Richmond Park Partners and existing investors also participating.
The news caps off an eventful couple of weeks for Mindshapes. Earlier in the month, it had launched a flagship app, Magic Town, which Mindshapes calls the first virtual world based on picture book characters. Magic Town, a highly visual app, incorporates content licensed from Hachette Group, Simon & Schuster and Penguin Group, among others, into e-learning tasks. Mindshapes is ramping up content on Magic Town quickly: it currently contains content from 70 popular picture books but aims to have 200 titles in there by year’s end.
What is perhaps most interesting about Mindshapes is how it is trying to make education more engaging by being visually-appealing and, frankly, fun. “We are trying to make learning as accessible as possible,” its CEO David Begg told me when he first showed me the app.
Mindshapes is definitely on to something. Research from Nielsen (Feb 2011) shows that tablets, and specifically Apple’s iPad, are a big hit with the younger crowd. Its researchers found that in households that have iPads, seven out of 10 children under the age of 12 use them regularly.
But Nielsen’s research also revealed that there is an opportunity to create more engaging quality content for youngsters — if only to assuage parental guilt at letting their kids play on tablets for hours on end: 77 percent of kids played games, with only 55 percent using educational apps.
Mindshapes, which has published nine other apps in the app store since opening for business in 2010, will be trying this formula also with content for older users, too: it is gearing up for the launch of another immersive series of apps, Language City, which offers language learning in the form of a game that incorporates elements of social networking. Language City will be aimed at 16-30 year-olds, the company says, and will roll out in different versions covering different languages (and cities), with London first in line.
The funding being announced today brings the total invested in the company to-date to $9 million, after Mindshapes raised $5 million back in November 2011 from a group of angel investors and the five founders of the company: chairman Shukri Shammas; CEO David Begg; CTO Sami Lababidi; chief commercial officer Christian Dorffer; and CFO Tareq Naqib.
That list of founders also points to some of the pedigree and experience going into Mindshapes. Shammas and Lababidi were co-founders of the gaming company Playfish (Naqib was its CFO), which was sold to Electronic Arts for $400 million in 2009. Begg founded and sold a company to Priceline. And Dorffer had been a product executive working Nokia and WPP, among others.
Mindshapes is a mobile learning company that makes apps for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Founded in 2010, Mindshapes is based primarily in London, with an office in San Fransisco. Mindshapes builds interactive learning experiences both from their own new IP and in partnership with brands including the BBC and Harper Collins. Mindshapes highly creative team consists of artists, animators, designers, educators and engineers, with professional backgrounds from Scholastic, HarperCollins, CBeebies (BBC), Jetix (Disney), Sony, Sega, Playfish and the Harvard...
Index Ventures is a leading venture capital firm specializing in investments in information technology and life sciences companies. The firm invests in seed, early and growth stage start-ups across US and Europe. Since its inception in 1996, Index Ventures has backed visionary entrepreneurs who have taken on incumbents and built seminal companies in a number of growth sectors including: open source software companies such as MySQL, Trolltech, Zend and Pentaho; broadband and VOIP companies such as Virata, Skype, FON and...