Archive for the ‘seed’ tag
To reference Marilyn Monroe, a good developer is hard to find. Which is why startup 500friends is deploying a disruptive new recruitment strategy to lure the most talented developers out there.
500friends posted a call for “entrepreneurial hackers” on Hacker News, a social news site with roots in YCombinator. In addition to the usual pledges of high salaries, equity, cool company culture, and opportunities for growth, 500friends is offering developers seed capital. After two years of employment and a proven record of quality work, aspiring founders will have the opportunity receive between $25K and $50K to start their own companies.
Thus far, this fishing tactic has proven effective. The company has been able to hook engineers away from Facebook and Google and over 50 qualified applicants have responded to the bait.
The mastermind behind this scheme is 500friends founder and CEO Justin Yoshimura. He is currently growing his team and wants to ensure that he not only finds people with strong technical abilities, but who are also ambitious, motivated, and hard-working.
“Like any startup, we want people with problem solving abilities,” said Yoshimura. “Entrepreneurs are people that can identify a problem, explain it coherently, and propose a legitimate solution. We want people willing to take ownership over their part of the product and make it succeed.”
This strategy works in multiple ways. First, it helps 500friends outmaneuver the competition. Secondly, it increases the likelihood that the employee will be loyal to the company for at least two years. Performing at a high level is heavily incentivized. In order to achieve their ultimate goals, employees have to give it their all. In return, 500friends will see positive returns as well.
“A really great engineer is typically 10 to 20 times better than an average engineer,” Yoshimura said. “Average engineers are much easier to find, but if you get someone really great, they are going to do things more efficiently and there will be a better user experience. Whatever you are building, whether it is for the web or mobile or hardware, those people are the real innovators behind the scene.”
It takes more than coding skills to be an entrepreneur. In some ways, working at 500friends resembles an incubator program where employees can learn about other aspects of the business, acquire relevant skills, and be tapped into a network. Developers have the option to sit in on sales meetings, marketing discussions, and learn about product management. Yoshimura also said he will take the time to hear his staff’s ideas, help draft pitch decks, and make investor introductions.
Yoshimura made it clear that this money is not charity. In exchange for the investment, 500friends receives equity, which means that there is a vested interest in seeing its “portfolio” companies succeed. All in the all, the arrangement seems to work quite nicely for everyone.
The idea was precipitated after the company raised $4.5 million a few months ago. Yoshimura began hunting for developers and realized he would have to do something different to build his dream team.
500friends is a social loyalty platform that helps online retailers identify their most valuable customers and incentivize them to generate the greatest returns. It is for companies that already have a dedicated client base, but want an even stronger one. 500friends is backed by YCombinator and officially launched in April.
The company currently has 30 employees, but as it has made abundantly clear, is looking to add more big fish to its pond.
Filed under: VentureBeat
Today was graduation time for the tech stars of Boulder, Colorado. These 11 startups pitched to a roomful of investors at the Colorado Theater, which included Morris Wheeler, founder and CEO of Drummond Road Capital and Ben Siscovick, Partner at IA Ventures.
Already a higher percentage than any previous TechStars class have committed to investment. ”I’ve already made soft commitments to two groups and I’m hoping to come to an agreement with a couple more,” said Wheeler.
“Reliably out of 11 companies to present today at TechStars Boulder Demo Day, all are very investable,” Aziz Gilani, Director at DFJ Mercury, told VentureBeat.
If you’re not familiar with TechStars, it’s an accelerator founded in 2006 in Boulder, with programs in Boston, New York City and Seattle.
TechStars invests $18,000 in seed funding and provides a $100,000 convertible debt note for every startup. The calibre is typically high: 13 of the 126 companies debuted at TechStars have already been acquired.
Ubooly is a stuffed animal for kids. It’s an educational toy powered by a smart phone that brings kids on adventures, teaches them foreign language and more. Ubooly is voice activated so kids can talk to their Ubooly and make decisions.
A site that shows what the true price of a hotel room, anywhere in the world should be on any day of the year.It is not influenced by any hotel chain (like Orbitz or Travelocity or other hotel deal sites) but rather takes into account historical rates and data to show travelers if a hotel is a good deal or a total rip-off.
Verbaliziet offers travelers and businesses access to a human translator anywhere in the world. It’s available in five languages and it costs $5 for 5 minutes for a traveler to call, tell the translator what they need in a taxi, a pharmacy, a restaurant, anywhere.
PivotDesk is launching in Denver and Boulder to help increase entrepreneurial density by giving businesses a way to rent out their extra office space. It’s co-working on steroids. Entrepreneurs and founders can avoid long term office leases for a small amount of space.
Roximity allows merchants to send targeted messages to consumers as they drive by. For instance, consumers can alert the system using a hands free, voice command that they are hungry for lunch and it will locate lunch deals nearby. Read here about Roximity’s recent partnership with Ford.
A site for clothing and furniture consignment stores to go online in a highly curated way. 27Perry works with independent thrift stores across the country to feature the best items on sale. The company is raising at seed round of $350K.
Rollsale is a marketplace to take the wheeling and dealing out of selling a used car. It’s an online marketplace that connects sellers with car dealers. There are approximately 250 million used cars in the United States.
Salesloft is enterprise application that works in Salesforce and other CRM tools to help sales professionals to engage with their clients. By pulling in social data (like LinkedIn updates and tweets) and bio information right into a CRM, SalesLoft brings new touch-point to sales folks.
MobiPlug lets homeowners manage their devices right from their smartphone with a single application that talks to various protocols and off the shelf devices. There’s no contract unlike Xfinity, ADT and other competitors.
The world’s simplest cloud hosting service with unlimited bandwidth. Aimed at individuals and startup companies, Digital Ocean lets anyone deploy a virtual server in less than a minute. Digital Ocean already has 500 active customers and 10,000 virtual servers (5000 were added in the past 30 days).
A way to sort and manage photo’s and media posted on various networks. In addition to time, location and date a photo or video was shot, Birdbox maintains the social context of the photo and video including comments, retweets, tags and more.
Any favorites? We will keep you posted on the funding amounts raised by each of these startups.
Today, seed fund and accelerator TechStars hosted its “Demo Day” in Boulder, where it showcased its 11 newest startups. With an average funding of $1.28 million raised per TechStars-backed company so far, it was an important day for these new companies as the room was full of investors at the Boulder Theater.
TechStars was founded in 2006 in Boulder but now holds programs in Boston, New York City and Seattle as well. Last April, it debuted a new accelerator called TechStars Cloud that focuses exclusively on backing cloud computing and infrastructure startups.
Here’s a look at the 11 finalists.
Ubooly is a stuffed animal for kids ages 5-10 that wakes up when parents put their iPhone inside the plush, orange little character. It’s an educational toy powered by a smart phone that brings kids on adventures, teaches them foreign languages and more. Ubooly is voice activated so kids can talk to their Ubooly and make decisions. Updates to Ubooly are made via wifi so it’s always learning. Ubooly is launching on Thursday but its kiddo beta testers are already in love with him.
DealAngel is a site that shows what the true price of a hotel room, anywhere in the world should be on any day of the year. It takes into account when there are conferences, time of year, proximity to landmarks, etc. It is not influenced by any hotel chain (like Orbitz or Travelocity or other hotel deal sites) but rather takes into account historical rates and data to show travelers if a hotel is a good deal or a rip-off.
Verbalizeit offers travelers (and businesses) access to a human translator anywhere in the world. It’s available in five languages – Spanish, French, Mandarin, Hindi, and Portuguese (the language options are expanding as they grow). It costs $5 for 5 minutes for a traveler to call, tell the translator what they need in a taxi, a pharmacy, a restaurant, anywhere. There are price packages for businesses as well. They have already partnered with Skype and TripLingo.
PivotDesk is launching in Denver/Boulder to help increase entrepreneurial density by giving businesses a way to rent out their extra office space. It’s co-working on steroids. Entrepreneurs and founders can avoid long term office leases for a small amount of space.
ROXIMITY is a location based alert and deals platform. It allows merchants to send targeted messages to consumers as they pass their cars. Integrated into a vehicle’s sync system, consumers can tell ROXIMITY using hands free, voice command, that they are hungry for lunch and it will locate lunch deals nearby.
27Perry is helping clothing and furniture consignment stores to go online in a highly curated way. There is an estimated trillion dollars worth of consignment inventory and they are entering into the untapped world of consignment goods. 27Perry works with independent thrift stores across the country to feature the best items on sale. 27Perry is not in market yet and they are raising at seed round of $350K.
RollSale is the Lending Tree for used cars. It offers a marketplace for people selling their used car to market it and sell it to car dealers. It takes the wheeling and dealing out of selling a used car. There are approximately 250 million used cars in the united states which a market of $325 billion (transactions make up $3.6B slice of the pie).
SalesLoft is an enterprise application that works in Salesforce and other CRM tools to help sales professionals to engage with their clients and prospects in a deeper, more meaningful way. This tool is targeting the $400B sales industry. Good sales people do their due diligence before reaching out to a sales lead so SalesLoft helps them do that quicker. By pulling in social data (like LinkedIn updates and tweets) and bio information right into a CRM, SalesLoft enables each touch-point for sales folks to be relevant, fresh and meaningful.
MobiPlug is putting the internet into your things! Mobiplug makes home automation a reality by providing a single box (a gateway) to control all wifi enabled devices like the thermostat, door locks, lights, TVs, garage doors, home security devices/alarms. MobiPlug lets homeowners manage their devices right from their smartphone with a single application that talks to various protocols and off the shelf devices. There’s no contract unlike Xfinity, ADT and other competitors and it’s much more affordable and integrated.
Digital Ocean is the world’s simplest cloud hosting service with unlimited bandwidth. Aimed at individuals and startup companies, Digital Ocean lets anyone deploy a virtual server in less than a minute. In 2011, cloud hosting market was at $3.7B and Digital Ocean is set to focus on a $1B part of that market that represents small businesses and developers that use cloud hosting for new projects, hosting personal sites, etc. Digital Ocean already has 500 active customers and 10,000 virtual servers (5000 were added in the past 30 days).
Birdbox is a smart box for anyone’s photos and videos. Great for families, parents and couples, BirdBox organizes photos and videos in one place making them searchable anywhere. With a estimated billion new photos taken everyday and 48 hours of video updated to YouTube every minute, Birdbox is a way to sort and manage this media posted on various networks. In addition to time, location and date a photo or video was shot, Birdbox maintains the social context of the photo and video including comments, retweets, tags and more.
Big Data, a mega-trend that is showing no signs of slowing down, now has its own dedicated venture fund. “Data Collective” launches today, and is head up by storied investors, Zachary Bogue and Matt Ocko.
The fund’s cofounders plan to invest in about 40 early stage and seed startups in the IT infrastructure, Big Data, and analytics space, which they see as a several hundred billion dollar market opportunity. I caught up with them on the eve of the announcement to chat about the hype surrounding Big Data, their decision to go rogue with a new fund.
The partners told me they plan to take an active role in the day-to-day operations of their portfolio companies, more so than traditional venture firms. It will likely differentiate them from established VC firms from Accel Partners (who carved out a $100 million Big Data fund in 2011) to Andreessen Horowitz, who are also angling for a piece of the Big Data pie.
Both investors are still knee deep in the process of raising capital, and so would not yet disclose a figure.
The founders are confident they have right team for the challenge. Ocko has been an investor and adviser on the startup circuit for 30 years, with investments in Zynga, BranchOut and CrowdMob. Bogue, (pictured, above) an analytics expert, is an early investor in Square and cofounder of San Francisco-based office space for entrepreneurs, Founders Den.
The fund’s extended team is comprised of 35 “equity partners,” who will have a significant material share in the investments. The equity partners are all experienced technical types — data experts, CTOs and chief scientists — currently or formerly at tech giants like VMware and Facebook.
“They range from rising star female principal engineers of name brand companies who haven’t yet made a giant pile to grizzled veterans of two or three IPOs,” Ocko explained. ”What they all have in common is the opportunity to work collectively with each other and be part of a unified elite club.”
Jason Rosenberg, formerly a lead systems architect at Zynga, is one of the fund’s equity partners. He told me the managing directors have a rare “nitty-gritty of what a hacker, especially a data hacker, does every day.”
Gaining access to the partners’ network doesn’t hurt either. Rosenberg said that in 48 hours, Bogue was able to pull some strings to get him a meeting with Lieutenant Governor, Gavin Newsom. Bogue, a Bay Area-based investor and philanthropist, is currently expecting his first child with wife, Yahoo’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer.
By joining the Data Collective club, the startups will also gain a head start in the painful customer acquisition process. According to Ocko, this will help them scale quickly and “punch outside of their weight class.”
This may be Data Collective’s first micro-VC fund, but the team has been working quietly in “stealth mode” for several years. They have already made seed investments in promising, early-stage Big Data startups like Kaggle, Citus Data, and Continuuity.
“Don’t get me wrong. I may be wearing a nice jacket, but I still write code,” said Ocko, formerly a managing partner at Archimedes Ventures. “Zack and I have been at this for a long time and were evangelizing Big Data when no one knew what it meant.”
Ocko defines Big Data, a rapidly emerging tech segment, as “the set of technologies and practices for dealing with an exponential increase in the amount of data being accumulated, stored, and prepared for analysis from terabytes per month to potentially pedabytes per day.” It’s a mouthful, I know. In a nutshell, Ocko and Bogue are investing in startups that can make sense of extremely large volumes of messy data within the enterprise, and use it to derive new insights. In the right hands, data can be a highly valuable commodity.
The cofounders said they like to think of the space as layers of a wedding cake. The bottom layer is infrastructure (storage, cloud management, networking, and security), the middle layer is analytics, and the top layer is the application layer, which is closest to the end-user, the person who actually uses the product.
For Data Collective, the middle layer is the sweet spot. “We’re looking for startups that are doing analytics at scale, at speed, or better yet, both,” said Bogue.
The core team will also include two data experts: Bradford Cross, Prismatic’s technical cofounder; and Michael Driscoll, Metamarkets’ CEO, who will retain their existing full-time roles. Bogue and Ocko will not reveal the exact equity breakdown for the partners, but they stressed that the terms are simple and transparent. They did reveal, however, that the equity partners will not be offered seat on the company’s board.
Before wrapping up our interview, I asked the managing directors about the trend for young talent to build new geo-located, social mobile apps, and not enterprise technology. “I welcome them, the future customers of our companies,” joked Ocko. “It means more data for us to crunch.”
Influitive has raised $3.75 Million from 11 investors for the company’s customer advocate platform that helps companies generate qualified leads and shorten buying processes.
Founder Mark Organ said the unusual seed round is illustrative of how the venture capital community is getting more engaged in smaller deals.
“It’s a huge seed round,” Organ said in an interview yesterday. “It could be called a seed preferred round.”
Organ said he raised money on both coasts. He leveraged Angel List. Seed funding came from the likes of venture capital firms such as First Round Capital, Lightspeed Ventures, New Enterprise Associates and Relay Ventures.
Organ has just a wee bit of credibility in the market where Influitive plays. He founded Eloqua, the marketing automation platform that started trading last week on the NASDAQ Exchange.
Influitive’s business model reflects the new world of online customer advocacy that has emerged in the past several years with the rise of the read/write web. Blogs, Facebook, Yelp – they’ve all provided the foundation for individuals to rally around businesses that they believe in.
These people are as much in the business to business community as they are in the consumer world.
With Influitive, clients initially set up an “AdvocateHub,” which serves as a branded portal that advocates visit to learn how they can market the company and help build an ecosystem that drives referrals.
In exchange, advocates receive rewards from the sponsor companies. This may be a bottle of wine or free access to a user conference. The goal is to get the advocates interacting with the company.
The service has a certain degree of gamification involved. Fill out a survey and you get some points. Follow the company on Twitter you get some more points.
Organ said Eloqua did three institutional rounds of investment. With Influitive, the first round is yet to come.
Venture capitalists are willing to put in a lot less money and not take a board seat. Instead, venture capitalists are sitting in board meetings as observers.
This reflects the realities of the new economy. It takes a lot less money to take a company to scale.Distribution is affordable. VCs have to get in early and build a tiht relationship so they can later do the $50 million round they dream of.
Cindy Padnos is the founder and managing partner at Illuminate Ventures. Her firm invested in Illuminate. She says her firm liks to work with companies that have raised $1 million but are not quite ready for a Series A round.
“I am seeing more entrepreneurs who are doing that,” Padnos said.
The competitors Influitive faces will come from the social CRM space. The challenge will be attracting the right advocates who are doing it for the love of the business more than the excitement of rewards.
About six weeks ago, I wrote about Avocado, a new mobile app that lets couples share photos, to-do lists, and exchange messages with each other. The app was created by a couple of ex-Googlers, who had raised a $1.3 million seed round from Baseline Ventures, General Catalyst, Lightspeed Ventures, and others to further develop the app.
Avocado is one of the latest in a string of apps focused on mobile sharing between couples: There’s also Pair, Cupple, and SimplyUs, among others. But the team fully expects more to pop up — which is why they’ve just released Guacamole, an API and toolkit for building cross-platform apps and services for couples.
According to Avocado founder Chris Wetherell, the idea behind making the API available is to enable any developer to quickly and easily create up new services for couples, without having to rebuild its code from scratch. It’s early days for couples apps, and it’s not really clear which features will most resonate with users, so opening up its toolkit will allow different developers to experiment and determine what works and what doesn’t.
It could also help expand apps to new platforms that the Avocado team doesn’t necessarily have the resources to build on their own. Avocado has three clients right now — an iPhone app, an Android app, and a web app. But if somebody wanted to build a Mac app for the Avocado service, Wetherell said they’d be more than welcome to do so.
But what about security? One of the key issues facing these types of apps is the private information shared between couples. How does Avocado plan to ensure that third-party developers will be as careful with private messaging and photos as it is? Well, for one thing, Avocado isn’t passing out API keys willy-nilly — it’s asking developers to tell it what they’re building and how they plan to use its tools before they grant access, according to Wetherell. And if they find any developer doing anything nefarious with its API, they’ll revoke access.
Developers who wish to use the Guacamole toolkit can go to avocado.io/guacamole, where they’ll get API documentation, utilities for managing multiple asnyc callbacks through Node.js, an http wrapper for native functions, and the team’s own canonical guacamole recipe. Wetherell said he fully expects developers to argue over the recipe — just hopefully not the API or tools.
Gaming company Funium took $1.8 million in seed money to spur the completion of its latest game, Family Village.
In Family Village, players create a virtual world with members of their actual family. Players input the names of their family members and can upload relevant documents and photos. From there, players then design avatars based on their ancestors’ physical attributes and the time period in which they lived. These characters can then build businesses and homes, move across country, change jobs, get married, have children etc…
The game adapts to each era and generation. Avatars in the 1920s sport flapper dresses, while ancestors from the colonial era will wear breeches and tricorner hats. The scenarios in the game aim to be historically accurate and uphold the apparel, architecture, and social mores of any given time period. The players, on the other hand, can stick to documented events or rewrite history as they choose.
It’s like the Sims hacked your family tree.
The game is also a way to discover more about your ancestry. Family Village is integrated with FamilyLink, a geneology search engine with over 3.6 billion records in its database. Players can earn historical documents about their family as rewards.
“Our objective was to create games with a social objective outside of the game environment,” said CEO Jeff Wells. “ “It is a feel good game that brings the family together. One of the biggest issues in our society is that the family unit is dissolving. We are connecting people with their past and bringing families together.”
The game has taken 18 months to build because it involves researching and implementing a tremendous amount of historical data. Funium raised $1.2 million in 2011 to build the game, which became available in pilot mode in June. Today’s injection will help bring the game into full availability. It is designed to be played by gamers and grandmas alike.
The investment was led by Family Odyssey with participation from angel investors. Funium is based in Utah.
Hey, what are you doing reading TechCrunch at work? Unless, of course, reading TechCrunch is your job. I know, you’re on a break, right? Okay, continue as you were…
ShiftPlanning, which offers a web-based platform to help employers schedule and co-ordinate their workforce, has raised a $1 million Series A round led by Berlin-based Point Nine Capital. This follows an undisclosed seed round last September, which we pegged at around $500k, bringing the startup’s total funding to just shy of $1.5m.
Along with Point Nine Capital, existing investors Philip Gude, Ken Fyfe, Josh Billesberger, Amos Billesberger, and Jason Morrison, also participated in this new round. In addition, Point Nine Capital partner Christoph Janz, also a previous investor, co-invested, while David Charron, VP of Sales at Clio, participated too.
The new capital will be used to “fuel the company’s growth”, says ShiftPlanning. To that end, it says that its workforce scheduling software is used by companies in more than 60 countries, seeing a “700 percent year-over-year increase in clients” since its launch in 2010, as meaningless as that is without raw numbers.
However, putting a little more meat on the bone, ShiftPlanning can certainly boast an impressive client win. It recently won a contract to be the platform used to coordinate scheduling of volunteers at the 2012 Olympic Games taking place in London right now.
Available via the web or dedicated apps for iOS, Android and BlackBerry, ShiftPlanning’s features include file sharing, extensive reporting options, real-time schedule conflict avoidance, third-party integration, employee shift swapping and online time-clocking.
In other ShiftPlanning news: The startup has opened a new headquarters in San Francisco, and announced that Philip Gude has joined as VP of sales. He previously built the sales teams at Arkadin Global and Business Wire.
Okay, now get back to work.
Today’s guest post is written by Bhaskar Sarma.
In 1969 and 1970, a large part of Iraq was hit by a severe drought and famine causing a shortage of wheat.
With seed reserves running low, the Iraqi government imported nearly one hundred thousand tons of high yielding Mexipak wheat from Mexico and the United States.
The wheat, however, was laced with a fungicide called methylmercury, which was to prevent spoilage during shipping.
Methylmercury is a nasty chemical and can damage the central nervous system of humans and animals. It causes symptoms such as paralysis, brain damage, and blindness. In higher doses, it can be fatal.
Anatomy of a Disaster
All the bags in that shipment were stamped with clear instructions on how to handle the lethal contents. To underline the dangers, the suppliers even emblazoned a skull and crossbones on each bag.
That should have be enough, right? It wasn’t.
- The warnings were in Spanish and English – pure gobbledygook to an average Iraqi villager.
- The skull and crossbones meant the same thing to them as a QR code means to human eyes.
- The wheat arrived too late in the planting season to be of any use, but was distributed to the farmers anyway.
With their previous stock of wheat planted, thousands of villagers who had no clue about the toxicity of the foreign wheat, used it as food and feed.
And within a month, disaster struck.
I won’t get into the gory details but the Iraqi incident was one of history’s largest cases of mass mercury poisoning.
And to think all this could have been averted if they had added a line in Arabic.
Challenges of Cross-Cultural Communication
Here’s another, less darker take on the cross-cultural communication.
A soda marketer was glumly sitting at the bar. His friend approaches and asks, “Why so serious?”
He replies, “I created this left to right comic strip for a campaign. It showed a famished man crawling across the desert who finds a bottle of soda, chugs it down, and walks away with a cheerful smile. Sales tanked after it ran in the Middle East.”
“Everyone read it from right to left!”
Avoid Cross-Cultural Miscommunication
While the Internet ensures your products and services can be sold all over the world, it does not make your customers and prospects react to your message in lockstep.
If you are selling to multiple countries or cultures consider the following:
- Have localized versions of your website (if you have the resources). Don’t just have a literal, word-by-word translation of the copy from English to, say, German.
- If you can’t afford multiple versions of collateral, avoid slang and clichés. It gets lost in translation.
- Pay particular attention to your marketing channels. For instance, streaming video won’t be a hit in large parts of Asia and Africa where Internet speeds suck.
- Subject lines in emails that might be marked as spam in the West could get a higher response rate in Asia. Experiment and test.
Cross-cultural miscommunication can have far reaching consequences. It was one of the reasons Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. It was also a major reason why the Israeli Army was beaten back by the Hezbollah in 2006.
Do you have any “lost in translation” war stories? What would be your prescription to avoid such situations?
Bhaskar Sarma is a B2B tech copywriter and content marketer. He blogs at Pixels and Clicks and helps his clients create content that establishes them as a trusted solution provider. You can follow him on Twitter at bhas.
Golden age returns? Seamus Blackley’s Innovative Leisure mobile game startup raises seed round (exclusive)
Seamus Blackley, co-creator of the Xbox (which has become a multibillion-dollar business for Microsoft), has crossed over in his career from console games to mobile apps. The proof for that is an announcement today that his startup, Innovative Leisure, has raised a round of seed funding from prestigious venture capital firm Hummer Winblad.
The deal reinforces the notion that mobile gaming has become the most exciting part of the game business, and everybody wants to participate in it in some significant way. Blackley started Innovative Leisure last year with partner chief executive Van Burnham as part of a retro movement. They have recruited a team of veteran game designers from the “golden age” of Atari in the 1980s and 1970s. Their plan is to create games for the “new arcade” on iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch) devices. The veterans have been coupled with younger game programmers who have a fresh perspective on making mobile games. The calculation is that gameplay (something the veterans are great at creating), not distribution power or brands, will triumph in mobile games.
“This enables us to publish our own games, and to do all sorts of other interesting stuff that we will be talking about soon,” Blackley said. “It’s great news because it lets us be even more creative and innovative in our thinking. Stay tuned.”
They include Ed Rotberg, creator of the classic Atari game Battlezone; Owen Rubin, creator of Major Havoc and Space Duel; Rich Adam, creator of Gravitar and co-developer of Missile Command; Ed Logg, co-creator of Asteroids and Centipede; Dennis Koble, creator of Touch Me and Shooting Gallery; Tim Skelly, the only non-Atari veteran arcade game designer who worked for Cinematronics and created games such as Rip-Off; and Bruce Merrit, creator of Black Widow.
Hummer Winblad has been investing in software companies since 1989. It was founded by managing directors John Hummer and Ann Winblad. Its portfolio of other game-related companies includes mobile rewards firm Kiip.
“It’s a dream team of the guys who built the games I grew up on and I fell in love with the early prototypes…a pretty easy decision,” said Lars Leckie, managing director at Hummer Winblad.
Innovative Leisure had previously said that it had obtained financing from THQ and would publish games through that video game company. But Blackley said that Innovative Leisure is going to self-publish its games now. Blackley recently spoke at our GamesBeat 2012 conference in July. The company has 20 or so employees, plus contractors, with more being hired.
Here’s an excerpt from that conversation:
“It’s to go and find those designers who initiated the whole thing in the first cycle of casual games in the industry, which was the explosion of the arcade business. We got together all of these people from Atari to make new games. Every classic arcade game you can think of, every style of gameplay that you can think of, were more or less all of them, at one point, at Atari….
Well, there’s the retro urge, but I don’t think that’s the important factor. The important factor is that you have this whole audience of people who are lapsed gamers, who stopped playing games when they turned into movies. They want to have a game experience on whatever device is in front of them. In fact, when you look at what’s going on with Blackberry today, Blackberry failed to have games. And devices that fail to have games fail in the marketplace.
It’s a very interesting thing. People expect to be entertained, and they expect to be entertained in a way that’s very seamless with life. It’s very low friction. It’s a moment that’s identical to what happened when video games first showed up in arcades. It’s a moment that’s also identical to when home consoles started to take off. The people who wanted to play games, they wanted to play them in a way that integrated into their lives. I think that the main emphasis for this company, these are the guys who first came to that idea…. To a modern audience it’s very new. Games that fulfill that same need to play a game right now for a little bit before I go back to work, before I go on with whatever I’m going to do.”