The Tap Lab Raises $550K To Seed Some Hits in Location-Based Mobile Gaming

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While there have been a few sizable funding rounds for location-based mobile games, the field is still wide open. Today it gets a new contender with The Tap Lab, a Cambridge-based startup and alum of the TechStars incubator, that lets players compete to take over real-world venues.

The company is raising $550,000 funding from Harmonix co-founders Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy, Google’s Don Dodge, Mike Dornbrook of Common Angels and other angel investors. They’re using it to fund a sequel called Tap City 2.

In the upcoming game, players will be able to do jobs at real-world places like serve virtual coffee at their Starbucks. They’ll also be able to buy virtual versions of real-world products, which will earn them points. The previous version of the game let players take over local venues, challenge others for ownership and earn virtual income and rent.

Co-founders Dave Bisceglia and Ralph Shao met while in college at Boston University and have built the company up to five people. Back in 2009, they started experimenting with prototypes for a location-based game.

“With no marketing expense, we turned Boston into a war zone with thousands of players,” Bisceglia said.

The company faces a landscape with a few well-funded competitors. Booyah raised more than $24.5 million from top-tier venture firms like Kleiner Perkins and Accel but it pivoted back and forth between Facebook and mobile platforms with varying success. It had an early Monopoly-like hit called MyTown that let players compete over real-world venues too, but the game didn’t really have staying power. So the company re-released it as a city-building sim with deep location features.

Then there’s Red Robot Labs, which is backed with more than $8.5 million from Benchmark Capital and angels like Playdom co-founder Rick Thompson. The company has been more successful on Android with its mafia-themed RPG Life is Crime and isn’t ranked as prominently on iOS, which is more competitive.

Like Red Robot Labs, Bisceglia says The Tap Lab is also building a gaming engine for the real-world. There are some successful titles in this space, but it’s hard to say that there’s an outright winner yet.