As a rule, you'd best avoid peering behind the scenes of your favorite online pastime; you probably won't like what you find. Drill into the backstory of "Mafia Wars" creator Zynga, for example, and you'll find a sweatshop where ruthless managers closely monitor the performance of even cafeteria workers, and where employees are pitted against one another and bullied into emotional breakdowns.
Hey! Looks like exploiting the weaknesses of addicts and kids does pay off: Investors are considering pouring another $250 million into gaming company Zynga, Inc. "in a deal that could value the three-year-old start-up at between $7 billion and $9 billion," according to The Wall Street Journal. That's right, the company behind Farmville is worth—according to always-rational investors—seven billion dollars. Time to short the human race. [WSJ]
From right to left, Sutter Hill Ventures's Greg Sands, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus, Barack Obama, Pincus's new wife Alison Gelb Pincus, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and "the girlfriend," Eileen Whelply. We know you can do better, so crack wise in the comments and we'll make the best one the new title. Friday's winner was sample032 for "Who killed my electric car?" (And not just because he showed up to the happy hour in Mountain View.) (Photo by Steve Jurvetson)
Today at Facebook's developer's conference, social games widgetmaker Zynga will announce a $29 million round of funding — the company's second — led by Kleiner Perkins, the VC firm that backed Amazon.com and Google. Zynga has also acquired virtual world app YoVille and added former Electronic Arts creative exec Bing Gordon to its board. The company makes games like Poker and Attack, a Risk clone, for Facebook and other social networks. Zynga founder Mark Pincus told the Wall Street Journal that Zynga has 18 million monthly visitors and adds another 450,000 users a day. Kleiner Perkins partner John Doeer said his firm went ahead with the Zynga deal because of that kind of growth, telling the Journal Zynga has "cracked the code" on how to develop games that go viral fast. But really, how Zynga adds new users isn't all that complicated, clever or sustainable.
Union Square Ventures funded Mark Pincus's casual games maker Zynga with $10 million not long after Max Levchin-founded widgetmaker Slide raised $50 million. Competitor RockYou wants a round of funding that would value it at $400 million. We like to scoff at these purveyors of online sheep-throwing tools, but that's serious scratch, people. In this excerpt from a longer interview with Kara Swisher, Zynga's Mark Pincus explains what widgetmakers see in our future — and shows us exactly what kind of pitch VCs are going for these days.
Failed social networking entrepreneur Mark Pincus, the force that brought the Internet both Tribe.net and Acebucks, now hopes to dominate the Facebook application market with his new casual games company Zynga. He claims he hasn't touched his $10 million in VC funding because he's in the lucrative business of selling application referrals within Zynga's Facebook games — a pyramid scheme if there ever was one.
The first gold-rush miners to make any money during the 1840s were the ones who stopped digging and started selling shovels, according to Timesman Brad Stone. Today a similar operation from Mark Pincus, Tribe.net founder and early Facebook investor, announced $10 million in funding from Union Square Ventures, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, and Bob Pittman.
According to Mike Lazerow, the founder of Buddy Media, creator of Facebook application AceBucks, his company's virtual-currency service is just misunderstood. The "boo birds" just don't get it. Lazerow & Co. aren't competing with PayPal, Facebook's own rumored micropayment system, Beenz, or Flooz. Acebucks is not a payment processor and its not an online currency that translates into real goods or real money. So what the hell is it? It's a "loyalty program." In other words, it's a frequent-flier program — without the free plane trips, though. Remind us why Peter Thiel, Mark Pincus, Howard Lindzon, and other net bigwigs invested $1.5 million in this company?