The Pearl Dream: storytelling startup that aspires to be the Disney of Africa launched by Ugandan & Kenyan team
Africans have always enjoyed telling stories. Since the ancient times, oral storytelling in African culture has been a primary tool to pass the Continent’s traditions and beliefs from one generation to the next.
A lot has been said about the lack of “authentic African edu-tainment” content.
YourStory presents an education startup that is trying to improve child learning and cultural exposure.
“Relive the past, celebrate the present and create the future with timeless stories” through Disney for Africa. The Pearl Dream Inc is a bootstrapped startup that is in the process of raising a 1.5 million dollar equity round to create more authentic digital content (100+ stories collected) for customers and bring more team members on board. The company has recently built an animation team in Tanzania.
Who are behind the startup & how did it come to be?
Kenyan-born Franco Eugene Abott is the CEO and Co-founder of The Pearl Dream®. He graduated from Lafayette College with a degree in Computer Science and presently works as a Senior Project Software Engineer at Lutron Electronics.
Ugandan-born Brian Asingia is the COO and Co-founder of The Pearl Dream®. He graduated from Lafayette College in 2012 with dual qualification in Engineering and Economics. He also works for the New York Stock Exchange. An alumnus of United World College USA and International House NYC, he is a global citizen.
Both are based out of New York City. Franco says, “I always felt it was a bit unfair that I got to enjoy stories like ‘Peter Pan’ but my American friends could not easily access stories like ‘Anansi’.
On the other hand, Brian, the current COO, always loved to share his culture with everyone around him. He loves adventure and he wanted those around him to have an adventure through African stories just as he had been told by his grandparents. “But to be totally honest, when the thought crossed my mind that I would have kids soon in America and they would not get to experience African culture, I wasted no time to work on this,” he says. So in April 2013, they incorporated The Pearl Dream® and by December 2013 they had the beta version of DreamAfrica app on AppStore and Google play.
What is The Pearl Dream®?
Franco, the Founder and CEO of The Pearl Dream®, says, “Our goal is to provide unlimited global access to authentic African experiences. DreamAfrica app for mobile and soon TV, gives our customers access to DreamStories, the largest collection of African stories for kids on mobile devices and on the web.”
On the DreamAfrica app, kids worldwide also learn through unlimited access to quizzes. After reading the storybook, the app provides discussions and questions that are great for a literature class in elementary school.
DreamAfrica app will soon provide unlimited access to DreamTV which is a collection of animated shows. Families will enjoy endless animations and videos while learning about Africa.
DreamRadio, the audio recordings of African stories for kids, will also be available through the DreamAfrica app. Kids without access to TV or mobile devices will still be able to listen to African stories on radio. And if you are stuck in traffic, the audio stories will take you away to an African fireside.
You can also gift your family toys inspired by DreamStories at their very own DreamStore. And if you can’t put your game down, try their African inspired, and soon to launch gaming experience called DreamPlay.
Franco Eugene points out that a subscription fee of $1.99 per month gets users unlimited access to DreamAfrica app. “Users can also buy merchandise ranging from t-shirts to baseball caps with designs inspired by our DreamStories on our online DreamStore.” Families and schools have a special package where a single login account can be used on up to 100 devices.
Check out this one and half minute story below.
The main challenges faced by The Pearl Dream®
“Intellectual property issues surrounding distribution and content acquisition rights will always be an issue but we are lucky to have a great legal counsel from Jennifer Berrent from Wilmer Hale,” says Franco, adding “Licensing of our animated shows to TV networks was initially considered but with increase in mobile use in Africa and the world, we are globally delivering content directly to people via DreamAfrica app for mobile, web and TV.”
Since we are focused on delivering great content to our users, high-quality animation and game development is costly. While we have successfully run a lean production process by leveraging the cloud, automating distribution and reusing digital assets in our first year, funding is pivotal to our goals to scale up from here.”
Distributions, partnerships & tractions
Their goal is to have a global audience. The DreamAfrica app currently can be downloaded on mobile devices from anywhere in the world.
“We are also working with strategic partners in as many regions as we can. For example, we just reached a strategic agreement with Ghana’s Alltel Ltd to pre-install DreamAfrica app on the K-Pad and K-Phone mobile devices with potential to reach a million plus users in their network”
Regarding the traction, the founders say they have a 10% conversion rate. Brian Asingia and Franco Abott have also reached a strategic agreement with Ghana’s Alltel Ltd to pre-install DreamAfrica app on the K-Pad and K-Phone mobile devices with potential to reach a million plus users in their network. Franco says, “We will continue working with telecom companies like MTN, Orange, Airtel, Vodafone and hopefully Safaricom to deliver DreamAfrica seamlessly to millions of users across Africa.”
The Pearl Dream collections of stories include folktales as well as original stories from African writers from all over the world. Writers can submit their stories through the website. Then they partner with some of these writers to illustrate and animate their stories.
“At present, there is a scarcity of high quality authentic African content for children. I am super pumped that companies like Ubongo are working hard to correctly provide digital access to African content. Together, we hope we can build an ecosystem poised to create a steady stream of quality African content accessible globally while adding value to creatives from Africa,” says Franco.
YourStory asked The Pearl Dream® team what it meant for them to be part of Demo Africa 2014 pitch.
“First, it is a great honor to be part of the top 40. The momentum of entrepreneurship is building, and we are excited for what that means on the continent. We look forward to sharing the feedback from our users, strategic partners and evangelists, and we plan to use this special opportunity to continue building strategic relationships with the investment community, key players in the telecom, airline, retail, media and education space.”
In ancient days there were certain people in society whose job was only telling stories in their village. They called them ‘griots’.
Seems the The Pearl Dream Inc is giving the modern day ‘digital griots’ a platform to tell their traditional story.