Kids using iPads and smartphones is a common sight these days, and that trend has allowed a number of companies focused on this very young demographic to grow and expand. Case in point: San Francisco-based kids app maker Fingerprint, led by former Leapfrog exec Nancy MacIntyre, is announcing $10.85 million in Series B funding from new investor, Hollywood entertainment company Dreamworks, along with existing investors Corus Entertainment and Reed Elsevier Ventures.
The company also reports that its revenues have grown ten times over in less than two years, and its network now reaches around 3 million users. These users generally download two-and-half games, on average.
Founded in 2010, Fingerprint is run by a team with experience in children’s educational and entertainment apps, as well as those with backgrounds in mobile gaming. Alongside MacIntyre, Fingerprint’s CTO Brad Edelman previously co-founder casual gaming company PlayFirst (Diner Dash), while Chief Creative Officer Michael Chanover has experience from Leapfrog, Disney, Kidlandia, frogdesign and elsewhere.
Today, Fingerprint offers a large lineup of kids’ apps, including originals it has built in-house, those whose content is licensed (e.g. Calliou, VeggieTales), and partner apps which include the company’s SDK (software development kit). This SDK offers parents tools to stay up-to-date with their child’s learning progress, while the app itself becomes a member of the company’s network.
That SDK is a unique selling point for Fingerprint, as not only does it allow for parents to better understand what their kids are doing while they’re playing away on their iPad or mom’s smartphone, it also serves as a way to present other, relevant apps to kids based on the child’s previous download and play patterns.
The other big selling point for Fingerprint are its curated, custom mobile networks. Today, the company offers its own network, but also runs those for others including Samsung (KidsTimeTM), Sylvan Learning (SylvanPlay) and Astro (AstroPlay). The company is now working to build a network for Cricket Media, too.
By December, Fingerprint will have over 600 apps, 50 e-books and other video services for children, and through the new relationship with Dreamworks, it will have access to even more branded properties, we understand. (It currently offers 250 apps across its networks).
To date, the now 26-person Fingerprint has raised $20 million in outside funding. Notably, its investors are those Fingerprint wants to partner with, as opposed to the more traditional VC. With Corus, Dreamworks, and Reed Elsevier, the goal is to help them distribute their content and collaborate with them on newer content as well – with the latter, Reed Elsevier, the plan is to move up to reach an older audience.
Fingerprint’s games, which were used on occasion in my house by a now four-year old girl, have gotten better over the years, with improved animations and gameplay, but I never saw them drawing back my young gamer for more sessions, despite the network benefits. This is likely because it’s difficult to get kids to really connect with apps and games that don’t have fun, recognizable characters, the way that apps from places like Nickelodeon or Disney do. (And when they do, as with Toca Boca, it’s a marvel). Plus, those brands Fingerprint does have are not top of the heap – though that may change with Dreamworks’ involvement, it seems.
In addition, kids have short attention spans, so they’re often seeking out new apps instead of becoming loyal users. That’s why most large kids app makers, like Fingerprint, have to keep releasing new content to maintain their numbers, which are slow to scale. But the demographic’s mobile engagement is ripe for tapping into: from ages 1-8, kids log nearly 2 hours of screen time per day, according to Common Sense Media.