JibJab Bros. Studios, which is the parent company to JibJab.com and the StoryBots apps, has made its first major purchase in its 15-year history, with the announcement that it’s acquiring a startup called Make Believe Labs, whose product “Hello Santa” we reviewed last year. The company’s three founders will now join JibJab and continue to run their service from Venice, Calif.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but we do know that it was all-cash, and Make Believe Labs had not raised any additional funding before the acquisition.
Hello Santa, for those who missed it last year, is an adorable video calling service that allows children to talk via their smartphone or tablet with the real Santa Claus, up in the North Pole. Yes, really! I swear! Having given it a spin in December, I found the experience to be on par or even better than many competing products that let you call or text Santa, given its use of a real-life character – that is, a legit-looking Kris Kringle type, not a virtual rendering.
The service also includes a video recording of your child’s call which you can keep for memory’s sake or post to social media. At $14.99, it’s pricier than a free trip to have your kid sit on Santa’s lap, but if you include the photo package you’re usually pitched through these traditional “meetings,” it’s more competitively priced. (JibJab is now looking to reduce this cost, and says a pre-recorded call with Santa will be around $10 and a live video call will be under $30. The $14.99 price point was from 2013 and was discounted from the official price at $24.99.)
For JibJab, the acquisition makes sense as the company is trying to grow its portfolio of children-focused apps and services, as it has evolved from its earlier roots which saw it focusing more on political satire and e-cards to be a more well-rounded digital entertainment studio.
The Hello Santa app will go live again in the Apple App Store on November 1, 2014, allowing families to schedule kids’ calls with Santa beginning on Nov. 28 and continuing through Christmas Eve. Parents can prep Santa with info on their child’s interests, activities and wishes, or ask him to coach the kid on improving their behavior before Christmas.
Going forward, Hello Santa’s co-founders, Dorian Collier, Jordan Lyall and Sam Dassanayake will continue with JibJab, which sees the service as a potential revenue opportunity for its business. The founders had previously spoken of expanding the service to include meetings with more characters, like the Easter Bunny, so that’s an obvious next step.