Kids educational and entertainment app maker Night & Day Studios is taking an unconventional path to growth. The startup isn’t announcing a round of venture funding, but rather a partnership with enterprise mobile software company ScrollMotion. The deal brings Night & Day Studios many of the things that an outside round would have otherwise provided: access to more engineers, a way to speed the time to market for their apps, and the ability to expand its company further. The startup also secured an undisclosed investment from entrepreneur and investor Steve Chapman who joins Night & Day Studios as CFO.
ScrollMotion may seem like an odd choice at first glance: It’s an enterprise mobile software company, you say? But like Night & Day Studios, ScrollMotion got its start in the kids’ app business, although more so on the publishing side. With the new partnership, Night & Day Studios now becomes the exclusive children’s media licensee of ScrollMotion’s interactive app development platform, and is now onboarding its portfolio of over 800 kids apps, making Night & Day now one of the largest independent kids app shops on the market.
ScrollMotion’s brand portfolio includes Warner Bros. Consumer Products Global Publishing (Scooby-Doo, Superman, Batman, DC Super Friends, Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, and others), Sesame Street, Arthur and other works of Marc Brown, Thomas & Friends, VeggieTales, and more. These brands join Night & Day’s current product lineup, which includes the licenses for The World of Eric Carle, Caillou, Richard Scarry’s Busytown, Charley Harper, and Ed Emberely.
Additionally, Night & Day is already well known for its original content, such as its “Peekaboo” series of apps aimed at toddlers, including Peekaboo Barn, Peekaboo Wild, Peekaboo Fridge, Peekaboo People, Peekaboo Forest, Peekaboo Trick or Treat, and, as of next week, Peekaboo Presents.
Although the ScrollMotion partnership is just being announced today, the startup had been building apps on ScrollMotion’s platform since June. It’s also adding a handful of ScrollMotion engineers, which brings the total headcount to 32. “The [ScrollMotion] tool definitely speeds up production quite a bit,” says co-founder Erin Rackelman. “It’s not identical to doing a native app, but it’s incredibly robust and we’ve been able to do a lot with it. We had been putting out one Peekaboo app a year, and now we’ve put out five in the last five months,” she adds. To date, Night & Day’s apps have been downloaded over 2 million times, only one of which is a free app.
In addition to the increased engineering headcount, Sara Berliner, VP of business development at ScrollMotion, who leads the company’s children’s and entertainment division, now joins Night & Day Studios as the company’s first chief revenue officer. Berliner will be based in New York, and will lead the opening of a Manhattan office.
If you’re unfamiliar with this company, then you’re probably not a parent. The apps Night & Day puts out are some of the best-designed in the kids’ app space, and even though the company has never had a formal marketing budget, you’re bound to hear about them through word of mouth alone. And then you’re hooked. Or rather, your kid is hooked.
The Portland-based startup, which Nat Sims founded with Rackelman, also had an unconventional beginning. Sims’ background was in museum exhibition design, and in 2008, the two were wrapping up a large project for a museum in Tuscon, which ended up losing all its funding as the market crashed. However, a part of that project had been a mobile tour of the museum.
“There were about 15 people at the company at that time,” says Rackelman, “and Nat had a daughter who was one and a half, so the company made Peekaboo Barn just to have something to do.” The app was released just before Christmas 2008. Today, it has been played over 40 million times and is Night & Day Studios’ most popular app.
Night & Day Studios, which is profitable as of last year, thanks not only to its portfolio of kids’ apps, but also the 30+ apps it has built on contract not listed on its website, will now spin off the outside work it does into its own division beginning now, and ramping up further in the new year.
And will it ever raise outside funding? “We’re not opposed to VC,” says Rackelman. “But as we got further and further into it, we didn’t feel like VC was the right fit for this company, mostly because we weren’t necessarily interested in doing a huge platform move – and when we met with ScrollMotion we felt like they had already done that.” The startup met ScrollMotion following their last VC meeting, and realized that a partnership could offer them another path. “What we needed to do in order to scale that large, just wasn’t the right fit for us in the end.”