Scopely, a mobile-gaming network, has raised $35 million in Series A financing led by Evolution Media Partners and Highland Capital Partners as the startup eyes expanding deals with Hollywood players.
Evolution Media Partners is a joint venture of TPG Growth, Participant Media and Evolution Media Capital (formed in partnership with CAA). Also participating in the round were Take-Two Interactive Software (publisher of “Grand Theft Auto” videogame franchise); Knoll Ventures, run by former AT&T CEO David Dorman, and existing investors Greycroft, The Chernin Group and Sands Capital Ventures. The funding brings Scopely, which has about 100 employees, to $43.5 million raised to date.
“We want to power the HBO of mobile and interactive entertainment,” said Scopely co-founder and CEO Walter Driver (pictured, above). With the Evolution Media and Highland backing, Driver hopes to “build bridges with intellectual-property holders and celebrities” to expand Scopely’s slate of games.
Other companies in the mobile gaming space include King Digital Entertainment (“Candy Crush”), Rovio (“Angry Birds”), Glu Mobile (“Kim Kardashian: Hollywood”), Electronic Arts and Zynga.
But Driver said Scopely’s model is different: The company develops games with both its internal studio and third-party game developers, and offers partners a range of services including distribution, player growth and retention, live operations and monetization. Six of Scopely’s games — including two of its first releases, “Dice with Buddies” and “Mini Golf MatchUp” — have hit the top five most-downloaded free iPhone apps in Apple’s iTunes App Store rankings and the company has more than 35 million players.
“For game developers, having access to that network and global distribution is very valuable,” Driver said.
With the funding, Rick Hess, co-founder and co-managing partner of EMC and Evolution Media Partners, Highland’s Andy Hunt (co-founder of Warby Parker) will join Scopely’s board. They’ll join Driver and Scopely co-founder and chief strategy officer Eytan Elbaz.
“Scopely is in a unique position to emerge as a leading network for touchscreen entertainment,” Hess said in a statement. “As we look at the new media space, Scopely stands out with its stellar team, successful games and ability to bring hot entertainment franchises to mobile.”
Scopely, based in Culver City, Calif., was founded in 2011. Scopely’s games are free to download; users can buy in-app currency and the startup also sells advertising.
The company’s recent executive hires include: COO Javier Ferreira (previously Disney Interactive’s SVP of worldwide publishing); chief revenue officer Tim O’Brien (former head of biz dev for Disney Interactive); Randy Sazaki, VP of engineering (previously with from Burstly and JibJab); and JC Bornaghi, VP of production and operations (from EA).