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M’sian studio Durioo joins Y Combinator, its founder shares his next big goal: unicorn status

Not too long ago, Sinan Ismail, who was formerly the face of Digital Durian, spoke to us about his big dreams for his new tech and animation startup, Durioo

Its goal? To be the Disney and Netflix for Muslim children.

Wholly bootstrapped for its launch in 2021, Durioo has now secured an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding from global investors, wrote Sinan in a LinkedIn post

They include names like Fadzarudin Anuar and Vivy Yusof (founders of FashionValet and dUCk), an investment manager of Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), and Qadr Financial Partners (venture investors from the UK).

At the same time, he announced that Durioo has been accepted into the coveted Silicon Valley accelerator programme, Y Combinator (YC).

For context, YC has previously invested in Airbnb, Dropbox, Stripe, and DoorDash. 25 of its portfolio companies have gone on to become unicorns with a total valuation of US$600 billion.

Durioo is the 5th Malaysian company to be accepted in YC, according to Sinan. Past Malaysian YC alumni comprise Dahmakan (now Pop Meals), Dropee, BrioHR, and Pandai.

An unusual, yet exciting application

On top of providing companies with seed funding, YC conducts accelerator programmes aimed at helping startups expand their ideas.

YC also helps founders deal with investors and acquirers, teaching them about pitching their startups to investors, and how to close a deal once they’ve garnered interest. The accelerator helps startups navigate paperwork, legal enquiries, intellectual property (IP) filing, and mediate disputes between founders too.

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, the companies selected for this interview actually had to do it physically in Silicon Valley. Though Sinan lamented that he wasn’t able to visit Silicon Valley again, he still felt lucky to have been chosen.

The Durioos (Durioo’s employees) were by Sinan’s side as he waited for his turn to pitch / Image Credit: Sinan Ismail

Sinan was told by the YC team that Durioo was one of the more unusual, yet exciting applications that they’ve come across. This was because Durioo is the first-ever animation company YC has invested in that addresses the Muslim market, which the YC team found unique.

After the nerve-wracking interview at 1.30AM (Malaysian time), Sinan and his team then waited with bated breath for YC’s final decision.

Finally, an email came through. “I have good news for you: we’d like to invite you to join Y Combinator this batch,” an email from Jared Friedman, CTO of Scribd and Durioo’s YC Partner, read.

The rest was history, and Durioo is now one of the 400 companies chosen for YC W22. 

Durioo’s acceptance email from the CTO of Scribd, Jared Friedman / Image Credit: Sinan Ismail

Based on a new standard deal, YC will give a US$500,000 cheque to any company that enters its batch programme, which Sinan is grateful to have received. 

Applicants may also receive additional funds after pitching their companies to at least 2,000 investors on YC’s Demo Day, which will happen following the 3-month accelerator programme.

Sinan is currently attending the 10-week accelerator programme online that started on January 10, held in US time. Thus, he’s had to adopt a sleep schedule that allows him to work and participate in YC programmes from noon till daylight.

Funding the tech startup’s ambitions

Sinan Ismail, CEO and founder of Durioo / Image Credit: Durioo

As mentioned, after Sinan came out of Digital Durian to start Durioo, the new tech company was built up from scratch. 

“No revenue, no foreign capital injection, no IPs. But what we had was a team, a founder and most importantly, a big mission,” stated Sinan. 

The 10-year creator of children’s animated content told his team of 50 that he will seek further investment to first sustain the Durioos. 

Ultimately, funding will be used to make Durioo’s dream of being the Disney for Muslim children a reality, reaching 400 million young minds all around the world.

Speaking to Vulcan Post, Sinan revealed that he also hopes for Durioo to become a unicorn one day, which would financially benefit the startup and allow it to pump out high-quality Islamic content.

11 titles to launch this year

Launching the startup in Dubai / Image Credit: Sinan Ismail

The official launch of Durioo happened on January 12, 2022, held at the Expo 2020 Dubai conference, where Durioo was one of three animation studios representing Malaysia there.

When Durioo was first incorporated in August 2021, the team’s target was to launch two Durioo Originals in 2022 on YouTube. They included Little Ammar, (a Cocomelon for Muslim Children, referring to the popular Netflix sing-along series) and Mina Mila (Islamic-themed content for girls aged 5-10). 

Its streaming platform, Durioo+, was projected to launch during Ramadan 2023. Just two weeks into the YC programme, Sinan shared that this goal was fast-tracked, and Durioo+ will now be launching in February 2022. “I guess they call it an accelerator for a reason,” he chuckled.

So far, he has reported that the progress of these shows has been satisfactory. The shows’ announcements have even gotten the attention of his industry friends, who reached out with an interest in ​​becoming co-producers to create three more Durioo Originals.

Zehni, POLYTAKO, and Bubu Lala, along with Little Ammar and Mina Mila are all content Sinan expects to be available within Q1 of 2022.

The first two titles to launch / Image Credit: Durioo

Based on advice from YC to “Make Something People Want”, Durioo has spoken to parents of its intended audience to learn that children want more than cartoons.

“We told ourselves that if we really wanted to be a platform for Muslim kids, we needed to make something that they want: live-action content, Durioo Non-Animated Shows (DNA),” Sinan realised.

In line with this, Durioo will be publishing 6 DNA titles as part of its Durioo Originals which will be injected with Islamic values and virtues. 

Durioo+ will be made available to audiences all around the world in February 2022 on Andriod, iOS, Andriod TV, and Apple TV for a monthly fee of US$7.99 (Malaysian fees have yet to be disclosed). 

Early-bird 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 about more Malaysian startups we’ve covered here.

Featured Image Credit: Sinan Ismail, CEO and founder of Durioo

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