One of the most charming companies we came across at Slush this year was Gigglebug. Slightly confusingly it’s the name of the company, the central character they created, the children’s cartoon series they made, and the iOS app they published. However all share the same heart and soul, a passion to make children laugh and through laughter boost self esteem, deepen an inbuilt love of learning and discovery, develop problem solving skills, and help them bond with their peers.
With the company in talks to make more episodes and applications based on their creation and a plan to corner the preschool market by owning the theme of laughter and cheering up to become number one at making kids feel better, they have grand ambitions. How do they plan to get there?
Unless you live in Finland and have small children you might not yet have heard of Gigglebug. A cartoon for preschoolers that first appeared on YLE, Finland’s national public-broadcasting company, in June and ran for a total of ten episodes during which time it saw higher ratings than both Peppa Pig and the Moomins. That’s a fairly good early indicator that you might have a successful idea in your hands. In the same month they also released their first app, an animated story and game about Gigglebug and friends trying to cross a river to get to a party. Currently available only on iOS there are plans to release it on Android and Windows Phone platforms but no release date has been set. In the game players tickle Gigglebug’s friends to help them smile and get to the party faster. A simple game but one that seems to connect well with such young children. Seriously check out this super cute video.
The concept is simple but a lot of planning and preparation has gone into the creation of Gigglebug and his world, two years worth in fact. Founders Anttu Harlin and Joonas Utti have backgrounds in brand and character development and are strategically targeting a market normally dominated by the likes of Viacom and Disney, to go up against such behemoths you need to be prepared.
Their hope is that as the success of Angry Birds has shown, you no longer need to spend years building up a successful IP on television before it finds cross-market appeal. Now a well received character driven mobile application can do so in a matter of months should it get exposure in the right markets. This is why they released an iOS app at the same time as the TV series aired, and why they plan to make more apps in addition to more television episodes.
Off the back of the success of the first series YLE have asked for an additional 52 episodes to be made and Gigglebug are currently in talks with certain German and Canadian broadcasters, should negotiations go well with either then they will have the funding to get the second series made and we could expect to see it on television in late 2015 or early 2016. If you are interested in watch the first series it will be repeated on YLE beginning on the 4th December on Wednesday mornings. Or for those living in Belgium, Denmark, Croatia or Argentina you may be able to watch Gigglebug too in the not so distant future, again depending on ongoing talks. Then as if that wasn’t enough countries to be chatting to, they have also had interest from an unnamed UK broadcaster as well.
In the meantime Gigglebug are also looking to make eight new applications that will drive the brand forward. They might only be a small team of three right now, with a new animator only recently hired, but they have been able to utilize the skills of some of Finland’s very well educated and trained teachers. One a kindergarten teacher who also lectures in pedagogical subjects as curriculum consultant, and the other a lower school teacher, who doubles up as a lecturer and author of educational material, to be their scripting consultant. With their help Gigglebug are looking to make apps that are fun to play and achieve their goals stated in the opening paragraph.
To that end they are currently looking to close out a series A funding round. There are already have two investors onboard with one more spot open. The new injection of cash will allow them to expand the team and develop their planned apps then as awareness of the brand grows there are other markets they want to enter. Think Angry Birds but at a preschool level; so games, toys, licensed products and especially learning materials. Leveraging the skills of their consultants in the educational sphere they believe that through the apps and TV show Gigglebug will become associated with preschool learning, leading to the character making a natural appearance in other forms of children’s learning materials.
So keep your eye open for a Gigglebug near you soon, until then check out more cuteness.