Naif Mutawa

Organization: 
The 99
Year founded: 
2004
Country: 
Kuwait
Website: 

Video IdeasLab Video

The Teshkeel Media Group focuses on creating wholesome children’s adventures through its superheroes, THE 99, drawn from global culture, history and Islam. These superhero role models tell universally relevant stories that promote multiculturalism and personal responsibility.

Focus: Communication/Media, Culture, Children and Youth
Geographic Area of Impact: Middle East, North Africa, Indonesia, Turkey, France, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau
Model: Social Business
Recognition: Regional Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Middle East and North Africa, 2009

Background
Attempts by governments and other institutions in the Islamic world have not been very successful in communicating to the outside world or to its own youth that Islam’s global values are shared by all human beings of good will, regardless of religion, culture or heritage. The scarcity of positive and relevant role models for children in the Islamic world is startling, while the quantitative data of some contemporary role models can be measured in body bags and violence. Others have quantified the disastrous results of poorly chosen role models. THE 99 decided to do something to change perceptions.

Innovation and Activities
THE 99 tapped into the same sources from which others took violent, hateful messages, and created story lines that promote diversity, multiculturalism and personal responsibility. Drawing upon global history, culture and traditions, our 99 superheroes come from 99 countries and work together to improve the world. Their aim is to provide positive role models for children that are inspired on a global level. THE 99 is one of the most popular entertainment properties from the Islamic world. President Obama made a special mention of THE 99 in a speech given at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship held in Washington. A global animation project co-produced with media giant Endemol is scheduled for release soon. So far 26-episodes of the animated TV series have been completed, with another 26 in production. Broadcasting rights have been sold in 49 countries across four continents to Cartoon Network, The Hub, MBC and others.

Through its parent company, Teshkeel Media Group, THE 99 also already displayed success with character licensing and product endorsements for a theme park in Kuwait, back-to-school products in Spain, banking products for a Gulf bank, plus digital and mobile comics. DC Comic's Justice League of America has enlisted our superheroes to join Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and other heroes in a mini-series to advance the cause of good over evil. An agreement with the digital comics website Comixology has been signed to distribute THE 99 comics via their digital platform, which is compatible with iPad, iPhone, iPod, Android and the Web. THE 99 has also expanded into new territories with licenses for Turkish and French language editions with leading comic book publishers.

The direct impact of THE 99 cannot be easily measured, yet it clearly is causing a cultural shift. Our partnerships with major players like DC Comics, Endemol, Panini, Gulf Bank, Comixology, and others have demonstrated the strong commercial demand for the content. There are now classes in schools and universities studying THE 99, and +1,000 media articles have been written about its cultural goals.

The Entrepreneur
Born and raised in Kuwait, Naif Al Mutawa earned an undergraduate degree from Tufts University where he triple majored in clinical psychology, English literature and history. He completed an MA and PhD in Clinical Psychology at Long Island University, and an MA in Organizational Psychology and Business Administration from Columbia University. He has extensive clinical experience working with former prisoners of war in Kuwait as well as at the Survivors of Political Torture unit of Bellevue Hospital in New York. He has seen first hand the “cancer” that intolerance can bring to any society. His direct contact with the horrors of prisons and with people tortured because of their religious and political beliefs led him to write a children’s tale that won a UNESCO prize for literature in the service of tolerance. His work with Iraqi POW patients and awareness of the phenomenon of suicide bomber trading cards in the Palestinian territories left him with the impression that young people in the Arab world needed new heroes. This inspired the creation of THE 99.