Internet-first animation studio Invisible Universe, taking aim at becoming the “Pixar of the internet,” continues to build momentum. Having raised a reported $8 million as of February, the company has pulled together another $4 million to complete a successful Series A funding round of $12 million, signaling a sustained interest in an online IP development and franchising model.
What do you mean by “Internet-first”? Internet-first IP is content designed to live, and more importantly grow, on social media and Web3, leveraging the community-driven nature of online platforms to generate more real-time feedback and direct engagement with characters. In other words, a character gains popularity in small doses on platforms like Tiktok, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram before amassing a large enough following (read: proof of return on investment) to be franchised out into more familiar forms like series, features, books, games, licensing, and merchandising.
What is the $12 million for? Funds will be used to grow the reach of Invisible’s existing IPs and to launch new franchises, speeding up the studio’s goal of “internet-first IP incubation.”
Who’s investing? The round was led by venture capital firm Seven Seven Six. In addition to Serena Williams (spouse to Seven Seven Six and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian) and Jennifer Aniston, investors include Will Smith’s Dreamers VC, Cosmic Venture Partners, Dapper Labs, Franklin Templeton, Gaingels, Initialized Capital, Schusterman Family Investments, Wheelhouse, TCG, CASSIUS, and Spencer Rascoff’s 75 & Sunny.
What’s the appeal of a web-first model? Katelin Holloway, founding partner of Seven Seven Six and board member of Invisible Universe, shares her point of view:
We’re seeing the power of can’t-live-without-it-IP and how it’s driving the growth and retention of audiences regardless of the platform and igniting potential for franchise expansions. I saw the Pixar magic up close, and this company is building the same kind of unforgettable IP with an innovative approach that reduces both time and capital while embracing audience feedback.
always remember to make time for yourself 💜
Give me some examples of Invisible Universe’s “unforgettable IP”? Just ask soon-to-be-evolved-away-from-tennis star, Serena Williams. She’s already a few years in on her Invisible Universe-developed IP, Qai Qai, a character based on her daughter’s favorite real-life doll. Adding to a well-established online presence, Williams is about to publish The Adventures of Qai Qai, a children’s book featuring, you guessed it, little Qai Qai. Actress Jennifer Aniston, another investor in the company, has been building a following for Clydeo, a cartoon character who lives in Aniston’s house and is a cousin to her own dog Clyde. According to the company, Clydeo “fancies himself more human, loves to cook, and is less of a food snob as he is a food enthusiast.” Another character is the happy-go-lucky monkey Crazynho who engages with Brazilian soccer player Dani Alves:
@crazynho Hj tem a Seleção no Maracanã! RUMO AO HEXA! #neymar #viniciusjunior #selecaobrasileira #seleção #maracana #copadomundo #danialves #ginga #futebolbrasileiro ♬ Mas Que Nada – Sergio Mendes
What does Web3 have to do with it? In short, popularity reigns. An obvious departure from “in the can”-style episodic content, the studio is in production on a Web3-based series, The R3al Metaverse. The show is an “animated parody where Big Brother meets The Real World” which stars cg animated versions of five NFT projects. According to the project’s website, season one features a select number of voting-based, community-driven episodes and a chance for a viewer’s own NFT to make a cameo appearance (after proving its popularity, of course). This leaves at least some of the series’ storylines open to mid-season influence.