LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Mrs Wordsmith, whose illustrated and animated word products are transforming the multi-billion dollar education industry, has raised $11 million in a Series A funding round to support expansion in the U.S. and China markets. Funding was led by Trustbridge Partners and includes returning investors Reach Capital and Kindred Venture Capital.
Since launch, Mrs Wordsmith has experienced triple-digit growth year-over-year and shipped more than 200,000 units. The company officially launched its U.S. store in June 2018, which now accounts for 85 percent of its revenue.
“The world of content is upside down. U.S. families collectively spend $30 billion on gaming content, $20 billion on home entertainment, $10 billion on cinema, but only $6 billion on education products -- and schools spend only $3 billion,” said Mrs Wordsmith Founder and CEO, Sofia Fenichell. “We are going to invert this. When parents and educators engage with Mrs Wordsmith, they can feel confident that what they are buying is backed by the latest research and data, focused on the best vocabulary, and wrapped in hilarious illustrations to engage children. It’s the hallmark of what we do.”
The company has raised a total of $14.5 million to date in a Seed Round and the current Series A. Historically, proceeds from the Seed Round were invested in building its team of story artists under Hollywood Art Director Craig Kellman to produce an inventory of thousands of illustrated words. The company has also invested over 5,000 hours, with three machine learning specialists led by Rob Koeling from Benevolent AI, and supported by Professor Ted Briscoe of Cambridge University and Swiftkey, to build a word curation engine.
“Mrs Wordsmith is reinvigorating a tired content sector with world class creative and machine learning. There are 214 million Chinese and 16 million American early-years children who can look forward to learning with more relevant and engaging content,” said investor David Lin, Trustbridge Partners.
The company’s formula of hilarious illustrations and smarter materials is working. A recent National Literacy Trust study of 122 children in 6 schools found that there was a 50 percent improvement in children’s word learning (study available here). And the SSIF, a strategic government school improvement fund, has recently awarded the Cambridgeshire local authority a grant of £47,000 (approximately $61,000 USD) to provide Mrs Wordsmith materials and training to 88 classrooms.
Susan Neuman, Professor of Childhood and Literacy Education at NYU and former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education says, “Every child in America should have a Mrs Wordsmith product because they teach the most important words. Feedback from our focus groups in New York around child engagement was very positive. Teachers even said the kids were so excited, it was hard to keep the class under control! That’s Hollywood style literacy for you.”
This round of funding will allow the company to expand its product narrative and add a new animated vocabulary game and video to its suite of products in early 2019. More immediately, the company is launching its first stand-alone product line starting with the world’s largest animated dictionary, The Illustrated Storyteller’s Dictionary. The first of its kind, the dictionary was edited by machine and human linguists and has almost 600 pages of 1,500 Hollywood-style hilarious illustrations.
Driving the company’s growth and international expansion, Mrs Wordsmith has attracted expert talent in linguistics, technology, education and Hollywood from Google, University of Cambridge and AI healthcare company Benevolent AI; most recently adding Will Csaklos as Head of Development. Csaklos will help propel Mrs Wordsmith story and product development as he did as Senior Creative Executive and Story Consultant to Pixar Animation Studios.
For more information about Mrs Wordsmith and its products, visit www.mrswordsmith.com.
About Mrs Wordsmith
Launched in 2016 from her kitchen table and now distributed globally, Sofia Fenichell designed Mrs Wordsmith to transform the way young people retain and use the vocabulary that drives literacy and academic success. Hilariously illustrated by the award-winning artists behind Madagascar, to make it more engaging to learn challenging vocabulary. The company works closely with literacy experts in the U.K. and U.S., and its in-house machine learning team.
Trustbridge Partners is a leading growth equity investor with offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Boston, focusing on high-quality growth opportunities in China. Trustbridge focuses on consumer and healthcare sectors investing in educational and publishing brands including Everafter Books, Holiday House and Mrs Wordsmith.
Kindred Capital is an £80m seed and early stage venture capital investor, focusing on European technology companies. Based in London, Kindred invests in entrepreneurs building globally ambitious businesses. Kindred’s portfolio includes Kalo, Paddle, Five.ai, LabGenius and Verve. Kindred’s unique Equitable Venture model of sharing carry with the founders they invest in, has led to 55 founders co-owning carry in the fund.
Reach Capital is a venture fund that supports the most promising entrepreneurs developing technology solutions for challenges in early childhood, K-12, higher education and lifelong learning.
Great movies combine relatable characters and storytelling, but there’s a subtle difference in education. Craig Kellman, the Emmy Award winning artist behind Madagascar, and Mrs Wordsmith’s Art Director said, “Most education brands struggle to inspire children because their characters are perfect and flat. There is no sense of a character progressing and growing. We are different. We purposefully build imperfect characters who are relatable and can teach children by taking them on a meaningful journey.”
“We have a formula that is repeatable and scalable,” said Mrs Wordsmith Founder and CEO, Sofia Fenichell. “Relatable characters that learn with you, data-driven curation and great story-telling. We’re here to raise the bar on literacy, bring words into homes around the world in a hilarious and engaging way, that helps children to realize their potential.”
“It’s easy to illustrate the word banana,” says CEO Sofia Fenichell. “But try illustrating the more challenging words that children need to succeed academically and to express themselves such as ‘ambitious’ or ‘brazen’. We have created a powerful data engine that not only inspires our artists, but also reduce research time and increases time spent on being creative and creating engaging materials. We also use data to identify gender bias or understand cultural nuances.”
While creativity and engagement are important, Mrs Wordsmith has partnered with the lead academic advisor and U.S. Childhood Education and Literacy Development expert at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Development at NYU, Professor Susan Neuman to ensure the content is classroom-ready. Neuman shares, "Only 9 percent of education apps use characters to teach children and yet, research shows that children create bonds with characters, which can have strong educational and psychological benefits. Mrs Wordsmith has found a way to take learning to the next level by identifying through data the most important works kids need to know and magnifying it with Hollywood-style animations.”
“Adding Will Csaklos to our team will propel Mrs Wordsmith to even greater heights. I think Peter Docter, Chief Creative Officer of Pixar, best articulates why we chose Will above all others, ‘Csaklos pushed, coaxed, and cajoled us towards a stronger, simpler version of our story. His concepts of structure and character helped us immeasurably in crafting and re-crafting our film.’ We know Will can do the same for Mrs Wordsmith,” said CEO Sofia Fenichell.