San Francisco-based Fingerprint Digital, a mobile gaming startup with a focus on educational apps for kids, has taken in new investment, the company announced today. The lead investor, Canadian-based media and entertainment company Corus Entertainment, is not disclosing the size of the round, but Fingerprint had previously raised a seed round of $1.4 million followed by a bridge round, and says its total raise to date is now $7.75 million. (See also: this SEC filing). What Corus brings to the table, in case you’re wondering, is a host of IP in the kids animation space, specifically popular titles like Franklin and Friends, Max & Ruby, Babar, Scaredy Squirrel, Chester and Citzenkid, to name a few. Plus, as an entertainment company, it has the ability to help on the distribution side as well. The end result of the partnership is that some of those animated titles will be now able to jump off the TV screen and onto the iPad, thanks to Fingerprint’s own in-house development team.
The way Fingerprint has operated to date is that it develops around one third of the kids’ apps on its platform internally, and another two-thirds are built by third parties using the Fingerprint SDK (software development kit). This is the toolset that allows the developers to integrate the company’s unique technology, including its parent-child in-app communication system and progress tracking features, into their own mobile apps.
According to Fingerprint CEO Nancy MacIntyre, formerly the EVP of Products and Marketing at LeapFrog, the company’s strategy from launch was to build a network of high-quality kids content that would be great for kids but could also benefit the parents. “But we’ve discovered since that time, even the youngest kids drive the bus,” she says. “The kid features that allow the kid to go through the new apps, watch the videos, then ask mom to purchase the next app – the kid features are used way more than the parent features,” she explains. “That’s led us down this path to really building out this suite of features that will really keep the kid engaged first, and will then layer on the parent-child communication.”
Those kid-friendly features have yet to launch, but will include things like a shared rewards system, a loyalty program that keeps kids returning to earn free apps, and an in-app currency system that’s used across all of Fingerprint’s properties. “The biggest challenge facing anybody selling apps to kids is that the payer and the player are not necessarily the same person,” MacIntyre explains as to why it’s shifting focus to the child. “So we think investing in ways to remove those barriers will be valuable over the long haul.” She says the company isn’t ready to discuss the specifics here, but should have some additional product news in four or six weeks.
As for the Corus investment, Fingerprint is already in talks about how it will bring some of the best-loved properties (Franklin and Friends, Max & Ruby, Babar) to the iOS platform. Having Corus’ Colin Bohm, Managing Director of Nelvana Enterprises (the animation arm) join Fingerprint’s board will help them with their future collaborations, which won’t debut until the first half of next year.
MacIntyre declined to disclose download numbers for the current line-up of 14 Fingerprint apps, but says engagement time is high. It’s top property, Big Kid Firefighter has been played by a fourth of kids over 50 times, and the apps have been played for a total of over 25 million minutes. The company currently works with six other partners who develop apps for Fingerprint’s platform, and is expecting to ship 8 more apps by year-end, and 4 more (so far) for next year.