Fred Wilson – my friend and co-investor in Zynga – titled his post on Zynga’s $29 million financing Raising The Stakes so I couldn’t resist titling my post Doubling Down. And I’ll echo what Fred said – I’m amazed with the hand that Mark Pincus (Zynga’s CEO and founder) has and am delighted to be sitting at the table playing it with him.
Zynga just announced that Kleiner Perkins has led a $29 million round that includes new investor Institutional Venture Partners and the old investors (Union Square Ventures, Foundry Group, and Avalon Ventures.) Bing Gordon from KPCB has joined the board – Bing recently joined KPCB and was previously the chief creative officer at Electronic Arts where he had been a key executive since 1982. The TechCrunch article has some good info in it including the news that Zynga has acquired Yoville.
When we made our initial investment in Zynga last November, the idea of "social gaming" was just starting to emerge. Mark and the team at Zynga started with Texas HoldEm Poker (hence the poker theme in the first paragraph) but rapidly expanded into a number of other socially-oriented games on Facebook that you could play with your friends. When I wrote about some of these games in my post Wanna Play Zynga Games With Me? I was just starting to understand the potential power of social gaming. Over the past six months, I’ve become an incredible believer in the appeal of social gaming as a broad idea and see it as a disrupting force in the overall gaming industry. Oh – and as a user it’s also a ton of fun to play these games with people I know all over the world.
While gaming is nothing new (and continues to be a fantastic business), the science of social gaming – figuring out how it works, making the games compelling, and dealing with the broad platform issues that come with massive scale – is really hard. While the popularity of Facebook seeded the social gaming phenomenon, it is now rapidly evolving onto new platforms such as other social networks like MySpace as well as connected devices like the iPhone via the iPhone AppStore.
While I’ve had a bunch of fantastic experiences as an investor, the tempo, pacing, quality of the people, and success of Zynga has exceeded anything I’ve ever experienced. I attribute it all to the genius of Mark and the fantastic people that he’s surrounded himself with. And it’s cool to be doubling down with investors like Bing, IVP, my friends Fred Wilson and Rich Levandov, and the entire team at Zynga that are the real folks making this happen.