Raising The Stakes

It always amuses me that our portfolio company Zynga got its start with Poker. Because as I always tell Mark Pincus, founder and CEO of Zynga, he’s playing this hand pretty well.

And Mark seems to like the hand he’s got right now because Zynga has just raised the stakes in the social games category with the announcement of a $29mm financing round, the addition of Bing Gordon to Zynga’s board, the addition of Kleiner Perkins and IVP to the investor base, and the acquisition of YoVille.

As Erick Schonfeld says about Mark in Techcrunch:

he [Mark] feels the stakes are about to get higher as the worlds of casual
social gaming and online video games collide. That means he will have
to spend more money on both production values and marketing.

Of all the things that Zynga is doing, I think the most impactful is the addition of Bing Gordon to the Board and effectively to the Company. Bing joined EA in 1982 and brings 26 years of videogame experience to Zynga. That’s more years than many of Zynga’s awesome employees have spent on planet earth! Mark says this about Bing in the Techcrunch post:

He is super-involved in product strategy, brings the
gaming DNA to us, and is an amazing CEO coach. He’s already stopped us
from doing stupid things.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Bing pretty well through his involvement with Zynga which started late last year. And I am thrilled that he and his partners at Kleiner and also IVP is involved in Zynga. This poker hand just got a lot more interesting.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. stevenloi

    This is awesome! Congratulations. Two of my buddies just started working there two months ago working away building the awesome games. =)

  2. ErikSchwartz

    Congrats.This is a space I’ve done some fun stuff in (I’m pretty sure the playing cards in Y! Games still have my initials on the cardbacks).My only advice is to keep focused on the communities you’ve created. The key here is you’ve created many communities around specific game categories, NOT one big community of gamers. Word game players are not card game players. Gambling based card gamers are not the same crowd who play hearts, spades and rummy (hearts and spades are huge, you should add them). Chess players mostly stick with chess.IMO Y! has done a terrible job of this at Y! games. The site has become incredibly cluttered with cross marketing between online games, offline games, demo downloads, sales links. It’s just a mess.

    1. fredwilson

      Good advice Erik. Thanks!

  3. GetReal

    Too much money is bad. They now need to have $1B for the new investors to call this a success. So they will do stupid things to make it happen. We have seen this story before.I am sceptical of facebook/myspace apps (even games) companies supporting a $1B market cap company.

    1. fredwilson

      I generally agree but there are certain characteristics of this one that might change your opinion. But those facts are confidential and will remain so

      1. GetReal

        I hope you are right that they really need this money and you hit a home run with this.As you said bringing someone like Bing will be a big help. Best of luck.

  4. Ben Longstaff

    I think that theres the potential for Zynga to do really well if they are able to data mine users behavior and interests, using it to provide adverts that are relevant to the individual.For example if I play their Attack! game everyday and my birthday is coming up and it where to send a message to my immediate family members showing some special edition of risk and a comment about how i play risk every day i think that would have value to users as opposed to the generic spam style ads that are currently on Facebook.I looked into the Facebook game space a little while back …. I took a peek at the Zynga source code (it only takes 10 minutes to access as its completely unsecured), you might advise them to put some security in place especially as their aps have just been hacked together from example code that came with their server (quite poorly i might add as the way its done prevents scalability and limits usability).I think it poses quite a risk to the venture seeing as it provides a complete road map for anyone that wanted to enter the games network space or worse anyone that wanted to add hacks to cheat in the games on the network, ruining the experience of others or crash the game server/s. No doubt Bing Gordon will bring about such guidance.I think that eventually Facebook apps will have alot of value for generating user specific ads but it does seem to still be quite a way off, not to mention the need to continue mending aps the constant facebook api redesigns keep breaking them (Attack! is down right now).Im very curious as to how Zynga plans to monetize its massive user base, im quite curious as to what percentage of the install this app for 1000 more chips get installed straight after the chips arrive, I think its a great strategy for get high installs on paper but if ppl dont actually use the apps it doesnt seem very sustainable in the long run as eventually the ppl paying for the installs will wise up. I look forward to following their progress and seeing it developAwesome blog btw I thoroughly enjoy reading it 🙂

    1. Ben Longstaff

      “im quite curious as to what percentage of the install this app for 1000 more chips get installed straight after the chips arrive”should be im quite curious as to what percentage of the install this app for 1000 more chips get UNinstalled straight after the chips arrive