Wheelings & Dealings: Sesame Street Gets More Tech with New Investment

February 02, 2016
By: Steve Anderson

There have been a lot of changes on Sesame Street over the last few years. A move to HBO might have been the biggest in recent memory, but now, it's putting some cash into a new venture arm focused on technology to help children. The new Sesame Ventures is set to join up with venture capital firms—like Collaborative Fund—to fund and drive the new Collab+Sesame Fund.

The Collab+Sesame Fund will pack $10 million into its operations, and given that Collaborative Fund was an early investor in both Lyft and Kickstarter, it should be the kind of fund with some forward-thinking aspirations. Sesame has long been known for forward-thinking, going as far back as 1966, when the group wondered if one of the biggest new technologies of the time, television, could be used to educate children. The result was Sesame Street, and most everyone reading this knows how that turned out.

With a new major advance developing in the Internet—it's actually starting to cut into television time as far as leisure activities go—that's making for still other changes. Two-thirds of Sesame Street's viewership comes from an on-demand source, like the PBS Kids Video App,  HBO GO, or even its YouTube (News - Alert) channel. That's a practical illustration of a changing landscape, and one that Sesame Ventures will likely take on in the months to come.

Six key factors will join in the investing, including tools specifically geared toward educators, issues of food, health and wellness, social and emotional development, family development, and issues relating to education and media. The operation won't just be signing checks, either, but offering some mentoring help from current Sesame executives, as well as access to Sesame characters for branding. That won't be a requirement—it's not looking to extend its branding, reports note—but it will be an option, a way for products to more readily connect with target markets.

It's clear there will be no shortage of possibilities here. A fitness tracker, a new kind of menu planner, toys and games to focus on learning, all with that Sesame brand, could all be possible hits in the field. There's also the outside chances of unexpected wins, completely new products that focus on child development that we haven't even heard of yet, the product lines still limited to whiteboard drawings in garages and spare rooms. One of the biggest impediments to launching new products is a lack of resources, and the Sesame Ventures operation could take a lot of that problem off the field.

There's a lot of room in the market for new products, even potentially, whole new markets to be established from products not yet known. Sesame Ventures might well be a major force in such an undertaking, and that could mean the coming years will be full of new advancements making children's lives better. By extension, that will only improve our own as well.