SuperAwesome, the London-based "kid tech" company established by Irish tech entrepreneur Dylan Collins, has confirmed that Microsoft has taken a stake in the group through its venture fund M12.
The company has raised $17 million (€15.4 million) in its latest funding round, which was led by M12 and included participation from existing investors such as Mayfair Equity Partners and Hoxton Ventures, of which Mr Collins is a partner.
Overall, the company has raised nearly $60 million (€54 million) to date.
Mr Collins said the backing of SuperAwesome by Microsoft was “hugely significant”.
“It sends quite a message to have one of the world’s biggest technology companies directly investing in kid tech,” he told The Irish Times.
He said that with the company being profitable last year, the funding round was primarily a strategic one, aimed at bringing companies such as Microsoft on board. “We’re pretty picky about who we bring in and their values have to be aligned with ours,” he said.
Founded by Mr Collins in 2012, SuperAwesome is a kid-safe marketing platform that operates as a bridge for brands to reach those aged between six and 16. It includes a number of channels across physical, digital and mobile, including its "Instagram for Kids" app, PopJam. Partners include the likes of Lego, Mattel, Hasbro and Nintendo.
The company moved into the black in late 2017, leading it to be valued at $100 million (€91 million) at that time. It recorded revenues of $55 million (€50 million) last year and Mr Collins said he expects turnover of between $70 million (€64 million) and $80 million (€73 million) for 2020.
M12’s backing of SuperAwesome comes as concern over children’s privacy is growing and as authorities look to increase regulations to protect young people online through legislation such as COPPA, GDPR-K and CCPA.
Just last week the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office published new standards that online services are expected to meet to protect children’s privacy.
Mr Collins said that while historically the internet has been designed to be used by adults, over 40 per cent of new users going online are kids. He described this transition as being as significant as the shift from desktop to mobile.
“When we started SuperAwesome there were lots of people pretending kids didn’t exist online. Now they are close to being the majority of new users, which is pretty extraordinary. This means the world is being forced to recognise younger people and their needs,” he said.
SuperAwesome, which has been weighing up a market listing, powers over 12 billion digital transactions every month. It is currently working towards introducing a dedicated children’s video-on-demand service, known as Rukkaz.
Mr Collins said the new funding would be used to help bring Rukkaz to market and for potential M&A.
“Kids tech historically has been completely underfinanced because investors weren’t educated about it. So we’re seeing a lot of companies coming to us when they are starting up to talk about potential investments and we have a growing track record in backing start-ups in the space,” he said.
Mr Collins is considered one of Europe's most experienced digital media entrepreneurs. Prior to establishing SuperAwesome, he founded DemonWare, which was acquired by Activision Blizzard, the video games giant behind the Call of Duty franchise. He was also behind Jolt Online Gaming which was bought by GameStop, the largest video games retailer in the world.
The entrepreneur said the company was still considering going public at some point.
“It is definitely still on the table,” said Mr Collins.
“We’re on a mission to make the internet a safer place for kids. It is a big, big job and we’re just getting started. We think there are lots of different ways to support that journey,” he added.