Sesame Street has been educating children since 1969 through TV screens, but will now expand to help educate children of the digital world who spend time looking at more modern screens — those on smartphones and tablets.
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that produces Sesame Street, announced the launch of a venture capital arm on Monday, a new initiative that will support emerging technology companies looking to develop teaching tools for kids.
Properly titled Sesame Ventures, the arm will invest in startups that will support technology education, family, social and emotional development, and health and nutrition.
"As a nonprofit, our success is measured by our global impact on kids' lives," Jeffrey D. Dunn, Sesame Workshop's CEO, said in a statement. "Sesame Street was the original disrupter in kids' media, and we have a 45-year history of being a creative workshop dedicated to breaking new ground. We are in the midst of an extraordinary time in the history of how digital technology can change the education, health and welfare of kids around the world. History suggests that much of that change will spring from new companies. By partnering with some of these startups, Sesame Workshop can help grow the next wave of kid-focused innovation and improve the lives of children everywhere."
Sesame Ventures partnered with the early-stage investor Collaborative Fund (which has invested in startups like Kickstarter) to launch the Collab +Sesame Fund, a $10 million fund that will give financial support to the startups. Along with funding, the entrepreneurs selected will also be mentored by Sesame executives, and will be able to use characters from the children's show in their products and platforms if appropriate.
There are no startups on board at the moment, but Sesame Ventures and Collaborative Fund are looking for companies that would encourage healthy eating habits for children, or develop education apps that teach coding to kids.
As viewers continue to discover new content on computers, smartphones and tablets, the decision to launch the venture capital arm seems like a smart move — especially since Sesame Workshop revealed that approximately two-thirds of children watch Sesame Street through on-demand platforms like the PBS Kids Video app, HBO Go (thanks to the five-year exclusive deal), or the show's YouTube channel.
"Television isn't going away," Dunn told Fast Company. "The kids who watch it, we can still have an impact with, but if we want to have an impact in the future to the same extent we had one in the past, we and others are going to have to make a much bigger foray into the digital world than has been made."
Investing in Silicon Valley will help Sesame Workshop continue to be a leading innovator for childhood education.