Архив метки: Benchmark Capital

A $12-Million-A-Month iOS Game? NaturalMotion Has It With CSR Racing


As the iOS platform has gradually amassed more than 365 million units in cumulative device sales, it has created a rising tide for all mobile app developers, who have seen increasing monthly revenue run-rates with each year.

Now comes a new high point from Benchmark Capital-backed NaturalMotion, which said its highly hyped title CSR Racing passed $12 million in monthly revenue. That’s a big jump up from previously reported high water marks like the roughly $5 million or so Infinity Blade apparently pulled in during the very lucrative holiday month of December. The game had quite a bit of an advantage though as it was featured during an Apple keynote at the last Worldwide Developers Conference — an extremely rare feat for a game developer.

CSR Racing is, as it eponymously suggests, a drag racing title. There are partnerships with Ford, Mini and so on to provide customized cars. The game monetizes through in-app purchases where players can spend either earned or paid currency they buy in the game.

“We tried to monetize many parts of the game, but not too aggressively,” said chief executive Torsten Reil. “We think this is a more sustainable and defensible approach that’s ended up working.”

Boss Alien, the Brighton, U.K.-based development shop that worked on CSR Racing, is also joining NaturalMotion through an acquisition. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

NaturalMotion was started more than a decade ago and specializes in doing realistic 3D animation of human bodies. Its technology has been licensed out to studios like Rockstar Games, which used it in Grand Theft Auto 4 and movies like Troy, which starred Brad Pitt.

The company initially raised funding from Balderton Capital, but just tacked on an additional $11 million in funding from Benchmark Capital. That round put gaming veteran Mitch Lasky, who sold JAMDAT to EA more than five years ago, on the company’s board.

The company’s previous big hit before CSR Racing was an uber-realistic animal care-taking game called My Horse. The company differentiates itself from other freemium developers with very photo-realistic 3D animation, instead of 2D art that resembles titles from the social gaming world.

“What’s happening overall is that Wave One of mobile-social games is coming to an end,” Reil sad. “Two-dimensional resource management games, like clickfests, are fading.”

The company is working on six games simultaneously at the moment and is up to 160 people with offices in the U.K. and the U.S.

A $12-Million-A-Month iOS Game? NaturalMotion Has It With CSR Racing

Andreessen Horowitz Made $78M Off $250,000 Investment in Instagram

instagram logo

Andreessen Horowitz revealed that it made $78 million off its $250,000 seed investment in Instagram’s billion-dollar acquisition in a post that was meant to quell criticism that it “fumbled” its involvement with the company.

“Ordinarily, when someone criticizes me for only making 312 times my money, I let the logic of their statement speak for itself,” wrote general partner Ben Horowitz. “However, in this case, the narrative that some critics put forth has the nasty side effect of casting two outstanding entrepreneurs—Kevin and Dalton Caldwell—in an unfair light and glosses over an important ethical issue that we faced.”

While Andreessen Horowitz was one of Instagram’s very earlier investors, it said it didn’t follow-on because of a conflict of interest with another company it funded. The firm had supported Picplz, another photo-sharing concept that didn’t end up having as much momentum as Instagram. The company behind it eventually changed changed course and turned into App.net, which gives other mobile developers landing pages and other tools for acquiring users.

Dalton Caldwell, who was chief executive of the company behind Picplz, was already working on photo concepts in April 2010, a month after Kevin Systrom raised $500,000 in funding for Burbn, a location-sharing concept that would eventually morph into InstagramInstagram launched in early October 2010 and Caldwell’s company said it had closed funding in early NovemberInstagram later went on to take funding in a round led by a rival top-tier firm, Benchmark Capital.

Last week, The New York Times ran a story saying that Andreessen Horowitz had basically screwed up its investment in the company. The decision to fund Picplz “was a calculated bet against Instagram and it left Mr. Systrom livid,” the Times reported.

But Horowitz is framing the choice as an ethical issue:

After speaking with both entrepreneurs and much internal discussion, we concluded that funding Kevin to compete with Dalton would be a violation of the original implicit commitment we made to Dalton—to not fund competitors to PicPlz. On the other hand, funding Dalton did not violate our implicit agreement with Kevin because he changed his business—we’d funded Burbn not Instagram.

So our choices were: a) invest in Dalton b) invest in neither or c) invest in Kevin and violate our commitment to Dalton. As soon as we fully recognized those were the choices, we ruled out option c and elected option a.

However, we still had a problem: because we had invested in Kevin’s seed round, we had both information rights and pro rata rights to the series B. These are important and valuable rights, but it seemed completely unethical to us to exercise them since we funded a competitor. As a result, we unilaterally and without compensation or consideration gave Kevin back those rights and did not invest further in Instagram.

And note to future founders: Horowitz emphasized that what Instagram did in selling to Facebook for $1 billion is exceedingly rare. For every company like that, there are literally thousands of failures.

He added, “News to world: it generally takes longer than two years to create a billion dollars in value. What Kevin and team did was special and unique.”

This story is developing….

Andreessen Horowitz Made $78M Off $250,000 Investment in Instagram

Picture Messaging App Zlango Hits 1 Million Android Users Four Months After Launch


Zlango, a goofy but fun icon-based text messaging app, just hit one million U.S. users on the Android platform only four months after launching. Backed by Accel and Benchmark Capital, the app originally arrived in the U.S. market in October 2011, following the opening of its San Francisco-based offices. In total, Zlango now boasts over 5 million users worldwide, the company reports.

The fact that Zlango is achieving this level of popularity on Android in such a short timeframe, is indicative of the type of apps Android users still seem to prefer – apps that replace Android’s core components. In Zlango’s case, the app offers an admittedly silly take on the concept of text messaging, offering packs of icons that let you replace words with emoticons and pictograms. It clearly seems aimed at a younger audience, because, let’s face it – no self-respecting 30-year old is going to send out picture messages like this. But that fact, too, is interesting. Many of Android’s success stories to date have been ports of popular iPhone apps, general purposes apps (like Any.DO) or utilities – not those aimed at such a specific, younger demographic.

For comparison purposes, Any.DO reached half a million downloads in just 30 days. Meanwhile, Evernote’s Skitch app for Android, an arguably more well-known brand, saw 3.5 million downloads in just 3 and half months post-launch. So hitting a million in four months, while not quite on those levels, is still indicative of some relatively decent traction. Even more so given its limited appeal to older users.

Zlango now supports over 25 languages, is available in over 20 countries, and has delivered more than 9 billion Zlango icons worldwide. It’s currently seeing the most traction in Europe, Asia and the U.S. The app, which is also available for BlackBerry, Nokia and J2ME, is available here on the Android Market.

Picture Messaging App Zlango Hits 1 Million Android Users Four Months After Launch

Mobile App Highlight Gives You A 6th Sense About Who’s Nearby

Highlight Featured Image

Checkins are not the future. They interrupt the moment and quickly become outdated. Highlight, a mobile app launching today, offers a better gateway to serendipitous meetups. All you do is download Highlight, turn it on, and let it run passively in the background. Then when you come within a few blocks of another Highlight user who’s your Facebook friend or that you have friends or interests in common with, Highlight sends you a push notification and lets you message them.

Highlight’s founder Paul Davison excitedly explains, “Nothing effects our lives and happiness more than the people we’re closest to, but the way we learn about them is totally random.” When his sister moved to the US from London and needed to meet new people, Davison got the idea for Highlight. Davison previously worked for Benchmark Capital and at Metaweb through its acquisition by Google, but is now half of the extra-lean bootstrapped two-man team behind Highlight.

The iOS app’s home screen shows a reverse chronological list of all the people you’ve crossed paths with. Clicking through to someone reveals basic information they’ve added, mutual friends and interests, Highlight status updates, and a log of every time you’ve been nearby them. The app can drain battery life as it runs GPS in the background. However, Davison says he hasn’t heard many complaints from users, and it should become even less of an issue as the app is further optimized and mobile tech improves.

Highlight’s internal message feature can help you meetup with friends who might be in the coffee shop next door, or introduce yourself to potential business contacts, buddies, or romantic interests. A pause button lets you go off the radar until you next open the app if you don’t want to share your location.

By default your profile can appear to anyone you cross paths with, but a privacy option lets you restrict visibility to friends of friends only. Some people are still sure to think Highlight is creepy right now. Like many great social technologies, though, Highlight may be ahead of the curve. Davison insists creating a safe, trusted network where both men and women feel comfortable is a priority.

“Whether we do it or someone else does it, I know this 6th sense is going to exist and it’s going to change the world”, Davison believes. “In the future we’ll look back and say ‘I can’t believe we didn’t have it and walked around blind.’”

Highlight could disrupt existing location services like Foursquare and Facebook Places, or at least spur them to evolve. Those companies may attempt to copy its passive functionality, so Highlight needs to establish traction now. But really, Highlight does something new. The way Instagram makes you see art everywhere you look, Highlight makes you feel connected where you were once surrounded by strangers.

Highlight is now available for iOS to anyone in the US.

Mobile App Highlight Gives You A 6th Sense About Who’s Nearby

Bret Taylor: “A Few Years From Now, Most Every Single Person At Facebook Is Going To Be Working On Mobile”

Bret Taylor

How important is mobile to Facebook? Already, 350 million of its 800 million monthly active users are on mobile devices, and that number is just going to get bigger. “Fundamentally we view it as a really big shift for our company, as fundamental as the shift from desktop apps to the Internet,” Facebook CTO Bret Taylor tells me in the TCTV interview above (which was shot at the Web 2.0 Summit earlier this week). “Companies really need to redefine themselves in this world of devices rather than browsers on people’s laptops.”

Taylor goes even further with this stunning prediction: “A few years from now, most every single person at Facebook who works there is going to be working on mobile almost exclusively.” Mobile and social go hand in hand. Facebook wants to create a seamless experience across the desktop and mobile, as well as between mobile devices.

Here is where Project Spartan may come in. Project Spartan is the unofficial name given to Facebook’s mobile HTML5 efforts. “I am not sure what Project Spartan was,” demurs Taylor before proceeding to explain how the mobile web it fits into Facebook’s overall mobile strategy. Facebook wants to be available everywhere on any device. If that means native mobile apps, that’s fine. But if someone doesn’t have a Facebook mobile app on their device, there will always be a mobile web version as well.

“Where we can play a role in mobile is just helping app discovery and engagement,” says Taylor. That ambition is actually quite large. App discovery is like search for mobile. Whoever controls it, controls what people can do on their phones.

Here are links to Mary Meeker’s mobile slides I mention at the beginning, and the first video with Taylor from this interview.

In the video below, we talk about the interest graph and how there is an opening for startups to explore it. At the end, I also ask Taylor what he thinks about Google+.

Launch Date:
January 2, 2004

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 500 million users.

Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 weeks, half of the schools in the Boston area began demanding a Facebook network. Zuckerberg immediately recruited his friends Dustin Moskowitz and Chris Hughes to help build Facebook, and within four months, Facebook added 30 more college networks.

The original idea for the term…

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Bret Taylor

Bret Taylor is the CTO of Facebook. He joined Facebook as the head of platform in August 2009, after serving as the co-founder and CEO of the social network aggregator FriendFeed. He most recently worked as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Benchmark Capital, where he began to develop FriendFeed with Jim Norris.

During his four years at Google, he led more than 25 successful product launches, including Google Maps, Google Local, Google Web Toolkit, the Google Maps API, and…

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Bret Taylor: “A Few Years From Now, Most Every Single Person At Facebook Is Going To Be Working On Mobile”