Exclusive: Top-Selling Children's App Maker iStoryTime Lands $2M

Germany-based Zuuka, which publishes a library of interactive books for children called iStoryTime and creates mobile apps for kids, has secured a $2M Series A investment led by Frankfurt-based Corporate Finance Partners.

“It’s just very encouraging for where we see the market going,” says Woody Sears, co-founder of Playa del Rey, Calif.-based FrogDog Media, which created the iStoryTime business in 2009 and became a fully-owned subsidiary of zuuka GmbH earlier this year. “It really allows us to grow at the rate that we desire.”

Zuuka will use the funding to expand its library of more than 100 books in 80 countries on additional mobile platforms. The investment also finalizes the merger between FrogDog Media and zuuka.

The iStoryTime library includes the "Smurfs," currently the best-selling children’s book in the Apple App Store, and "Kung Fu Panda 2," the second best-selling iStoryTime app. The apps are currently available on the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android devices and the HP TouchPad.

FrogDog Media is not disclosing the number of storybooks bought and downloaded to date.

“Right now we’re adding four titles a month and we’ll probably see that increase for titles under our brand, and we'll also do some contract work where we white-label the content and a traditional publisher will use our services to create interactive books," says Woody.

iStoryTime mobile apps are designed for children ages 2 and up to be able to use with or without a parent. Many stories are based on shows or movies adapted to an interactive book format and often include other activities.

Competitors include Callaway Digital Arts and Ocean House Media.

Callaway has licenses for content including "Sesame Street" and "Thomas and Friends" while Ocean House licenses "Dr. Seuss" and "Berenstein Bears" content. iStoryTime has digital mobile licensing partnerships with the Cartoon Network, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Reader’s Digest Children’s Books. Each license typically has a term of two to three years, Woody says.

“There’s some competition for getting the licenses but there’s so many great characters and brands out there that one company’s not going to get them all,” says Woody. “It’s friendly competition at this point because they’re also putting out quality content as we do.”

iStoryTime plans to aggressively pursue new licenses and expand to emerging mobile platforms, he says, but will maintain its core values.

“We’re still really true to that and having our own kids do the product testing and making things for them that they love and put smiles on their faces,” he says. “It’s still the mantra of the company.”


1. This Week in Startups #57 with Woody Sears (June 18, 2010)