April 20, 2024

About the business: Royelles Gaming for Girls is the company behind Royelles, a learning-based virtual reality game that empowers young girls and nonbinary individuals to develop their skills in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) industries and leadership. The game utilizes artificial reality, artificial intelligence and voice technologies and is made for users aged 4 through 12.
“The whole idea is to create safe, inclusive, transformational play experiences that dismantle the stereotypes and really inspire and empower girls in particular to realize their greatest potential,” said Múkami Kinoti Kimotho, the company’s founder, CEO and “chief girl crusader.”
The Royelles app was publicly launched in mid-July after private beta testing and is available on Apple and Android. The game uses a freemium model, where all gameplay is free but users can upgrade their experience through in-app purchases that will be rolled out in the coming months.
How it started: Kimotho, an entrepreneur, journalist and DEI expert, created Royelles for her daughter, an 11-year-old gamer.
“She happens to be within the demographic of the fastest-growing yet underserved communities in the gaming space: young girls, girls and young women,” she said. “And like other moms or their parents and even educators, what we’ve come to realize is that kids as young as 2 years old spend more than six hours a day on their smartphones and tablets, with mobile gaming quite literally at the heart of the way that they socialize with themselves and with the world, how they’re entertained and how they learn.”
The company has been funded thus far by Kimotho’s personal funds, help from friends and family, and wins from pitch competitions. Royelles has won grants from UBS and Hello Alice, Virginia Innovation Partnership Corp.’s Virginia Venture Fund and New Voices Foundation Fund. Kimotho said Royelles Gaming for Girls is working to aggressively raise seed funding and is in talks with early-stage investors and corporate partners. It is also a fall 2022 fellow of the Halcyon Incubator, specifically its Opportunity Intensive program. Halcyon describes that fellowship as being “carefully crafted to maximize the cohort’s time and focus on the most pertinent content, whether that means going deep on certain skills training, networking and developing critical business relationships, coaching and mentorship, or other areas we know are essential to growing social enterprises and bolstering the leadership of their founders.”
The challenge today: “From my perspective, as the CEO of a female, [Black, Indigenous and people of color]-led technology company, and specifically a gaming company, this is a male-dominated industry,” she said. “Breaking through the noise in terms of bringing this timely product to the market has been quite a challenge.”
Another hurdle? Connecting with the target demographic in the first place.
“How do you reach the mother or the father or the teacher or the mentor or just the champion and crusader for that young girl? And how do you alleviate the concerns that that adult is coming into as it relates to gaming because they’ve already had all these experiences that are not necessarily impact meaningful or positively impactful?” Kimotho asked.
One such way to make that connection is through Royelles Revolution Live events, which are curated for kids to experience with their parents, educators, community leaders and other trusted adults. These virtual events have engaged thousands of girls, Kimotho said.
What’s next: “We’ve only launched our first avatar persona, Mara, who identifies as female. We have 13 other avatar personas that we built out that we’re excited to roll out over the next six to 12 months, several of whom are nonbinary individuals,” Kimotho said.
Royelles is also partnering with nonprofits like New York-headquartered Girls Inc. while developing corporate partnerships, all with the long-term goal of reaching 1 million girls. Kimotho said she hopes to drive a wave of girls into STEAM fields and leadership in the workforce and, generally, have a “significant impact around really important issues that impact girls and women across the globe.”
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