Amazon Alexa Fund Invests $20M in Synthetic Media Startup Superplastic
Synthetic celebrity and character design studio Superplastic has raised $20 million in a Series A funding round led by Amazon’s Alexa Fund. Superplastic has also inked a deal with Amazon Studios for a television series starring its synthetic celebrities, Janky and Guggimon, who have built an enormous following on social media.
Superplastic’s digital characters, including Janky and Guggimon, have attracted huge audiences on Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. The company has translated that interest into profitable merchandise and gaming ventures, raking in tens of millions of dollars of sales a year for both digital and real-world products. The company counts global brands like Gucci, Mercedes-Benz, Tommy Hilfiger, and Fortnite as partners. The characters have also appeared alongside a raft of celebrities for projects, including Kidsuper, Pusha-T, Paris Hilton, Post Malone, The Weeknd, Vince Staples, and Rico Nasty.
The Alexa Fund’s investment adds Superplastic to its widening portfolio, looking beyond strictly voice assistant-based startups. Alexa Fund director Paul Bernard explained to Voicebot in an interview that he and his team are looking to support all sorts of consumer technology, including entertainment and synthetic media. The Alexa Fund had already participated in an earlier Superplastic funding round. Its portfolio includes celebrity video message service Cameo and AI-powered music creation startup Splash Music, whose software is available as a mobile game and on the Roblox metaverse platform.
“Our approach has evolved in an additive way. At the beginning, we were very specific about building an ecosystem around voice. We’ve expanded our mission since.” Bernard said. “The latest area of focus for us is what we call new media. That started to manifest when Amazon combined its global media and entertainment.”
The funding also begins Superplastic’s development of The Janky & Guggimon Show at Amazon Studios. The deal will also give Amazon Studios a first-look deal for future Superplastic shows. Janky and Guggimon were created by Superplastic as devious yet blundering best friends who engage in wild adventures depicted on social media platforms. The TV show will maintain that concept, with Janky trying to trick celebrities out of their money and Guggimon manipulating the people around him to feed his narcissism, leaving a “trail of chaos and destruction in their wake,” according to Amazon.
“Superplastic’s universe of synthetic celebrities have earned a cult following in every medium they’ve touched,” said Superplastic founder and CEO Paul Budnitz. “The new collaboration partnership with Amazon Studios reaches a massive audience and provides a new playground for us to wreak havoc worldwide. We’re grateful for the investment the Amazon Alexa Fund gave us to help us continue to grow the Superplastic Universe!”
Superplastic has raised $58 million since it launched. The new round saw ten investors joining the Alexa Fund, including tech giants and several growing synthetic media and metaverse brands. The funding counted Google Ventures, Sony Japan, Craft Ventures, Galaxy Digital, Kering, Scribble Ventures, Kakao, Animoca Brands, Day One Ventures, and Betaworks.
“Our model as an investor is to manifest compelling partnerships. [Budnitz] has this big vision. He wants to build this modern-day Disney of different experiences. He’s got a roadmap to this holistic vision, [at the] intersection of a Hollywood haunted house and the traveling immersive Van Gogh exhibit. The existence of virtual entities as IP changes the economics of thinking about a studio.”