Making Education as Fun as Games: Why We Invested in Tiny Comet

Roble Ventures
August 8, 2023
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We at Roble Ventures are delighted to announce our investment in Tiny Comet, a game studio focused on making immersive and educational role-playing games (RPGs) for school-aged children. Powerhouse founders Emily Tierney and Anca Agapi bring an expertise in gaming and a commitment to edtech to their first project, which is currently being developed for Roblox.

As mothers, Emily and Anca wanted to find the best way for their children to learn.

“This all started with taking a graduate course to design an educational plan for my daughter Keira,” said Tierney in a recent LinkedIn post. “It then leads me down the path [of] writing a research paper on visual learning on Autism and finally applying to SPEEDRUN [Andreessen Horowitz’s acceleration program for gaming startups] and getting accepted!”

Our GP Sergio Monsalve is excited to work alongside the best in the best in gaming as we partner with A16Z GAMES for this pre-seed deal; they tout an extensive expert network of games industry professionals who have built billion-dollar companies such as Activision Blizzard, Twitch, and Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. “This is an investment in an amazing team, and the A16Z GAMES guys are incredible experts when it comes to improving education in the gaming world,” he says. “We’re big believers in making education much more engaging to today’s students.”

According to 2018 research done by Gallup, over half of our nation’s students admit to being not engaged or actively disengaged with school. This number only continued to drop as a result of the pandemic, with teachers reporting an 88% decline in the motivation of their students by the end of 2020. These changes can be attributed to a variety of factors, but the personalization of education plays a large role in determining student engagement.

Roble has been working to solve the student engagement issue since 2017, when we first invested in Kahoot!, a game-based learning platform that sold for $1.72B just a few years later. “The success of Kahoot! proved to us that education needs to be done by a different medium,” says Sergio. “In an increasingly digital environment that is demanding more and more time from students, learning needs to happen beyond the traditional textbook, which in itself is static, outdated or biased, and geared towards only a specific type of learner.”

With the average teenager spending 6 hours per week playing video games, the medium is a vastly underestimated method of immersive learning that meets kids where they’re at. Games can teach geospatial reasoning, collaboration and other soft skills, resource and money management, and delayed gratification — a frontal-lobe skill that motivates adults to hop on a Peloton or get a degree, but is difficult to cultivate in children who want what they want now. The gamification of education has been found to increase learner engagement by 65%, increase motivation by 68%, and boost memory and recall by 40%.

This is why we’ve partnered with A16Z GAMES to invest in Tiny Comet as they seek to leverage youth interest in online gaming platforms in order to teach important lessons about U.S. history, especially during a time when only 15% of 8th graders are scoring proficient or above in the subject.

There’s no chocolate-covered broccoli here; try as we might, we can’t trick kids into investing time into things that they don’t want to do, which is why it’s important to Tiny Comet that their games are immersive, educational, and most of all, fun.

The Team

With degrees in mathematics and computer science, Emily Tierney built a name for herself as a Tech Lead behind some of the world’s most recognizable and successful mobile games at SupercellClash of Clans, Clash Royale, Brawl Stars, and more — each of which has surpassed $1B in lifetime revenue, and on the whole resulted in over $12B in revenue over the past six years. She was also a Staff Tech Manager at Google.

“We definitely think she’s the right person to build an engaging game,” says Sergio. “Emily has worked on massively successful games at Supercell. Her expertise as both mother and highly talented game developer will enable her to build incredible experiences in the years ahead.”

Anca Agapi, the other half of Tiny Comet’s development team, has a master's degree in international management from Aalto University and HEC Paris, and developed online campaigns with DDB Paris. She brings a strong analytics and leadership background from her time as a product owner at KONE, one of the largest companies in Finland, as well as a critical perspective on education that neatly complements Tierney’s eye for building engaging and immersive games.

Why Now

Roble’s partnership with Tiny Comet continues a thread that started with our Series A investment in Kahoot!, which recently announced it would be going private in a $1.72B deal led by Goldman Sachs Assets Management’s PE division, General Atlantic, and others, as well as our early investment in Kinjo, which helps parents analyze the learnings and takeaways from the Roblox games that their children are playing.

Now, with Tiny Comet, we are exploring Roblox as ground zero for educational video games, which have the potential to boost student engagement by as much as 70%. But no growth will come unless you make something that kids love.

“We are truly creating a fun game that is pedagogically sound,” Tierney told us. She understands how vital it is for Tiny Comet to gain the trust of their audience. Building thoughtful and high-quality educational games is a huge opportunity to contribute to alternative modes of learning that better serve our nation’s younger learners.

Stay involved with Tiny Comet and receive access to their development updates by joining their mailing list.

About the author

Roble Ventures
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Roble Ventures is a future-of-work focused fund investing in technologies that enable people, teams, and organizations to achieve their most ambitious work.

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