UPDATED 22:08 EST / FEBRUARY 01 2016


U is for unicorn as Sesame Street launches a venture capital fund

Could the “U” in the Sesame Street segment “letter of the day” soon stand for “unicorn,” with another segment asking viewers to count to “Series A”?

Those questions may actually not seem all that absurd given news Monday that Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization that produces Sesame Street, has launched a venture capital arm.


The new firm, called Sesame Ventures, will largely be an advisory arm focused on working with venture capital firms and startups focused on children’s development, according to The Verge.

Sadly this doesn’t mean that the world’s most famous closeted gay couple Bert and Ernie will be setting up shop on Sand Hill Road and buying a car with gullwing doors (or should that be Big Bird wing doors?), but will see Sesame Ventures partnering with established firms to launch new funds.

While we can make fun of the move (and rightfully so), there is some logic in the move, with Sesame Workshop’s Chief Executive and President Jeffrey Dunn explaining to FastCompany that it reflects the fact that in 2016 about two-thirds of kids who watch its show first access it not through a traditional television channel, but through an on-demand source like the PBS Kids Video App, Sesame Street‘s YouTube channel, or HBO GO.

“Television isn’t going away,” Dunn said. “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.”

Sesame Ventures’ first partner is Collaborative Fund, with the two to manage a new $10 million fund called the Collab+Sesame Fund that will focus on child-related investments in areas including education & media, health & wellness, social & emotional development, and a number of related fields.

S is for Seed

Sesame Workshop not only brings experience in children’s education to the table, but also a previous history of developing new products, including having worked with Nickelodeon to launch children’s education cable programming Noggin, and with PBS, HIT Television Ventures, and NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group preschool channel Sprout.

As part of the deal, startups funded by a Sesame Ventures fund will obtain access to some of Sesame Workshop’s resources including access to executives and to its existing network of partners in health, education, and other children’s fields, let alone quite possibly the ability for either cross-promotional opportunities, or even access to characters owned by Sesame Workshops, although we’re unlikely to see Count von Count endorsing medical services any time soon.

It will be at the very least interesting to see how it turns out, particularly given their entrance into a broader venture capital market that has now arguably passed its peak, but in the meantime, to paraphrase Big Bird: “Hello Boys and Girls, welcome to Venture Capital Street.”

Image credit: seeminglee/Flickr/CC by 2.0

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