Tech startup M’sian Durioo enters Y Combinator and secures pre-seed funding
Not too long ago, Sinan Ismail, who used to be the face of Digital Durian, told us about his big dreams for his new tech and animation startup, Dourioo.
His goal ? To be the Disney and Netflix for Muslim children.
Fully seeded for its 2021 launch, Durioo has now secured an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding from global investors, Sinan wrote in a LinkedIn position.
They include names like Fadzarudin Anuar and Vivy Yusof (founders of FashionValet and dUCk), an investment manager from Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), and Qadr Financial Partners (UK venture capitalists).
At the same time, he announced that Durioo had been accepted into Silicon Valley’s coveted accelerator program, Y Combinator (YC).
For context, YC has already invested in Airbnb, Dropbox, Stripe and DoorDash. 25 of its portfolio companies have become unicorns with a total valuation of US$600 billion.
Durioo is the 5th Malaysian company to be accepted into the YC, according to Sinan. Malaysian YC alumni include Dahmakan (now Pop Meals), Dropee, BrioRH, and Pandai.
An unusual but exciting app
In addition to providing companies with seed funding, YC runs accelerator programs aimed at helping startups grow their ideas.
YC also helps founders deal with investors and acquirers, teaching them how to pitch their startups to investors and close a deal once they’ve garnered interest. The accelerator helps startups navigate paperwork, legal investigations, filing intellectual property (IP), and mediating disputes between founders.
Durioo has been accepted to join Y Combinator’s Winter 2022 (YC W22) cohort, beating 17,500 online admissions from around the world, where less than 2,000 names were invited for a 10-minute online interview with YC.
Prior to COVID-19, companies selected for this interview actually had to do so physically in Silicon Valley. Although Sinan complained that he could no longer visit Silicon Valley, he still felt lucky to have been chosen.
Sinan was told by the YC team that Durioo was one of the most unusual, yet exciting apps they had come across. Indeed, Durioo is the very first animation company YC has invested in that caters to the Muslim market, which the YC team found unique.
After the nerve-wracking interview at 1:30 a.m. (Malaysian time), Sinan and his team then eagerly awaited YC’s final decision.
Eventually an email arrived. “I have good news for you: we would like to invite you to join Y Combinator this batch,” read an email from Jared Friedman, CTO of Scribd and YC Partner of Durioo.
The rest was history, and Durioo is now one of the 400 companies chosen for YC W22.
Based on a new standard agreement, YC will issue a check for $500,000 to any company that enters its batch program, which Sinan is grateful to have received.
Applicants can also receive additional funding after pitching their business to at least 2,000 investors on YC’s Demo Day, which will take place after the 3-month acceleration program.
Sinan is currently participating in the 10-week online acceleration program which began on January 10, US time. Thus, he had to adopt a sleep schedule that allows him to work and participate in YC programs from noon until dawn.
Financing the ambitions of the tech startup
As mentioned, after Sinan exited Digital Durian to start Durioo, the new tech company was created from scratch.
“No income, no injection of foreign capital, no intellectual property. But what we had was a team, a founder, and most importantly, a big mission,” Sinan said.
The 10-year-old animated children’s content creator told his team of 50 that he would look to invest more to support the Durioos first.
Ultimately, the funding will be used to make Durioo’s dream of being the Disney for Muslim children a reality, reaching 400 million young minds worldwide.
Speaking to Vulcan Post, Sinan revealed that he also hopes Durioo will one day become a unicorn, which will benefit the startup financially and allow it to produce high-quality Islamic content.
11 titles to launch this year
The official launch of Durioo took place on January 12, 2022, during the Expo 2020 conference in Dubai, where Durioo was one of three animation studios representing Malaysia.
When Durioo was first incorporated in August 2021, the team’s goal was to launch two Durioo Originals in 2022 on YouTube. They included Little Ammar (a Cocomelon for Muslim children, referencing the popular Netflix song series) and Mina Mila (Islamic-themed content for girls aged 5-10).
His streaming platform, Durioo+, was set to launch during Ramadan 2023. Just two weeks after the YC program began, Sinan shared that this goal has been accelerated, and Durioo+ will now launch in February 2022.” I guess they call it an accelerator for a reason,” he chuckled.
So far, he has indicated that the progress of these shows has been satisfactory. The announcements for the shows even caught the attention of his friends in the industry, who expressed interest in becoming co-producers to create three more Durioo Originals.
Zehni, POLYTAKO and Bubu Lala, as well as Little Ammar and Mina Mila are all satisfied that Sinan expects to be available in the first quarter of 2022.
Based on YC’s advice to “Do something people want,” Durioo talked to parents about his target audience to learn that kids want more than cartoons.
“We thought if we really wanted to be a platform for Muslim kids, we had to create something they wanted: live content, non-animated Durioo (DNA) shows,” Sinan realized.
With this in mind, Durioo will release 6 DNA titles as part of its Durioo Originals which will be injected with Islamic values and virtues.
Durioo+ will be available to the public worldwide in February 2022 on Andriod, iOS, Andriod TV and Apple TV for a monthly fee of USD 7.99 (Malaysian fees have not yet been disclosed).
Advance subscriptions are already open on the streaming site, and Sinan’s personal goal for Durioo+ is to reach 3,000 subscribers by the end of March 2022.
- Learn more about Durioo+ here.
- You can read more about the Malaysian startups we have covered here.
Featured image credit: Sinan Ismail, CEO and Founder of Durioo