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School is in session. MarcoPolo Learning, a mobile-based early childhood education company, has raised $8.5 million in a first round of funding. The company will also produce premium animated long-form videos in partnership with Boat Rocker Media and its family of companies.

Boat Rocker Ventures, a division of Boat Rocker Media, led the round. Boat Rocker is the global media company and studio behind such hits as Orphan Black, The Next Step, and Stella and Sam.

Investors in MarcoPolo Learning’s financing round include Horizons Ventures, Seedcamp, and the managing partners of DST Global. Other investors include founders and senior executives from, Maker Studios (acquired by Disney), News Corp, and YY.

New York-based MarcoPolo Learning serves more than 5 million children in more than 150 countries. It will now create more premium animated content for kids and distribute it through a variety of channels.

Nazar Yasin, MarcoPolo’s cofounder and executive chairman, and Justin Hsu, CEO of MarcoPolo, started the company to put a “preschool in your pocket.” Yasin formerly worked at Goldman Sachs and Tiger Global, while Hsu was previously founder of PMG Financial, which he sold to Zurich Financial.

“This is a significant step toward advancing our vision of making early childhood education accessible to every child in the world,” said Yasin, in a statement.

Hsu added, “Boat Rocker is one of the world’s leading video entertainment companies, and partnering with them to bring our video products to life on a global basis is an amazing opportunity that we could not be more thrilled about.”

In addition to Boat Rocker’s investment, both companies have formed an exclusive strategic production and distribution partnership on original animated television and digital series.

Michel Pratte, chief revenue officer at Boat Rocker and new MarcoPolo board member, said in a statement, “The children’s media space is evolving rapidly, and Boat Rocker is excited to partner with a category innovator like MarcoPolo. We believe that their educational focus and integrated app-plus-video strategy provides them with an opportunity to become a leading, globally trusted pre-school brand for the mobile generation.”


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