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April Venture Round Up: Kongregate Turbine and MOG

fresh fundingWhile Kleiner Perkins is out raising a 13th fund, two gaming companies and one music discovery engine closed out April with fresh rounds of funding.

TURBINE:  Leading the April rounds was game publisher Turbine.  The Westwood, Massachusetts based game developer closed on a massive Series C to fuel their Massively Multi-Player Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) business.  According to regulatory filings, the company took an installment of $25million out of a possible $40m in the round. Granite Global Ventures led the financing and took a seat on the board to represent the Series C stockholders.  Prior investors Highland Capital, Polaris, Tudor Ventures and Columbia Capital all participated as well.

Turbine, which was founded more than a decade ago, is a mature company by most startup standards.  With a staff of more than 200, they are among the largest private online gaming studios in North America.  All of the current titles are subscription-based PC MMOG titles.  The award winning catalog includes titles Asheron’s Call, Lord of the Rings Online, and Dungeons & Dragons Online.

So far, Turbine has raised more than $90m in venture funding including a $30m round in February 2005.  That round coincided with securing the license to build the Lord of the Rings title.

It’s been widely reported that Turbine is in the process of revamping their strategy and expanding in to other areas of gaming.  Some, including a report at Venture Beat, speculate the move may be include redeveloping existing franchises into console games, or otherwise developing console titles.

An alternate theory, which seems comparably, if not more, plausible, is that they will apply their gaming know-how toward mobile based offerings. Lending credibility to that concept, Turbine’s CEO Jeff Anderson left in the fall to start a sport themed MMOG Company called Play Hard Sports (funded by New Enterprise).   Turbine’s board recruited  Jim Crowley to fill the void in October.  Prior to taking the helm, Crowley was COO of m-Qube (VeriSign), a mobile media company, and before that, COO of Network Plus, a telecom and data provider. That mobile background could prove relevant

The new financing is likely to fuel any change of strategy.  News on a change of direction is expected within two to three weeks. 


KONGREGATE:  Founded in June 2006 by a brother and sister team, San Francisco based Kongregate is an online hub for user-submitted games, sort of a YouTube for casual games.

Wednesday, the company acknowledged they are taking a $3million investment from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ personal investment fund, Bezos Expeditions.    The round will add to a $5million Series A led by Greylock capital in August.

According to Kongregate founder and CEO Jeff Greer, Bezos approached them.  Kongregate still has more than half the $6 million so far raised in the bank and wasn’t looking for money.  When the offer came, they decided to take it as an insurance policy of sorts.  “A rainy day recession fund,” he said.

Kongregate recently hired Lee Uniacke to serve as Chief Revenue Officer.  Lee’s past experience includes heading up sales at MTV networks.  In the coming weeks, they hope to build a direct sales force for increase advertising revenue for the site.   The company is also planning to extend some of their gaming platform to Facebook.  At least seven titles are earmarked for debut on the social network. 

Currently, Kongregate’s own site is home to about 4,000 flash or Shockwave based games viewed by about 3million unique visitors a month.  Average usage times are running upwards of 59 minutes a day according to some metrics.  Developers submitting titles into the mix share in revenue.

In addition to Kongregtate, Bezos Expeditions also has a stake in Linden Lab the maker of the Second Life virtual world.


MOG:  Music community and discovery service MOG completes the trio of new financings.  Based in Berkeley, California, the company was founded in 2005 by David Hyman, former executive of music database service (and soon to be Sony asset) Gracenote(Sony is buying the database service that helps pair band and CD disk information for $260m).

In the latest round, MOG is drawing $2.8m.  The financing, interestingly, was led by the investment arms of music labels Universal Music and Sony BMG.  Angels Forum 74 also participated.  Mog previously raised $3.2m in angel rounds.

Like music social net iMeem, and Internet radio service Pandora, MOG’s service aims to match music fans with music paired to their tastes.   The site also provides a forum (another social network) for them to interact and share news, likes, dislikes, or whatever other musical elements they wish.  MOG’s web pages boast more than 100 artists including members of bands like The Roots, Death Cab for Cutie and Gomez are participating users of the site.

The money will be used for expansion.  MOGs website currently attracts about 1m unique visitors per month.


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Open iMeem: Music Service Gives Programmers Catalog to Play with
iPhone Fund Gets $100m from KPCB
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