Interactive storytelling startup Hullabalu has spent the last several years producing a series of apps for kids based around a group of characters it has developed. But after making multiple apps of its own, the company has decided to open up its creative tools to other interactive storytellers.
With a new platform called Lightwell, Hullabalu has productized its app creation engine to allow other brands, media companies and creative agencies a simple way to bring their interactive stories to life. It also opens up a new potential revenue stream for the company, which had previously just made money off the sale of its own interactive kids apps.
Founded in 2012, Hullabalu has released a series of interactive apps for children detailing the adventures of panda Pan Beribolt and friends. In developing those apps, the Hullabalu team created all the characters, voices, art and animation itself, but, more importantly, it built an app creation engine that allowed it to reduce development time tremendously.
According to founder and CEO Suzanne Xie, the first interactive book took nine months from start to finish to build. The team was able to shorten that time to launch as it created better workflows, and as time went on, the company built more technology that allowed it to simplify the process of building its apps.
Those efforts resulted in what is now called Lightwell, which is an app development engine focused specifically on interactive storytelling. Without knowing any code, creators with their own digital assets can use Lightwell to build animated apps and submit them to the Apple App Store.
The product — which, btw, is named after Hullabalu character Locke Lightwell, a fox who is a self-proclaimed “gadget scientist” — is aimed at media companies and creative agencies looking for an easier way to build and release apps.
Rather than contracting outside developers to code out an app or hiring in-house developers, Hullabalu is offering subscription access to Lightwell. It’s testing pricing for indie creators at $99 a month, but also is negotiating enterprise plans with larger organizations.
Creators simply upload their digital assets or images to Lightwell, then use the platform to create custom animations, interactions and dialogue. Once all that is done, they can compile the code and then submit their app to the App Store.
For Hullabalu, which has raised $4.4 million from investors that include SV Angel, Vayner RSE, Initialized Capital, Technicolor, Joanne Wilson, Scott Belsky, Carmelo Anthony, Nas and others, Lightwell should provide a new (and more predictable) revenue stream. And for creators, the product will hopefully mean a lot more interactive apps available on the App Store.