Mobile Rewards Startup Gimmie Pivots Focus to Asia, Takes Funding From Singaporean Government

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Gimmie, a startup that began with rewards for mobile gamers, has just shifted its focus to Asian markets by relocating to Singapore and taking funding from a government agency there. The company said today that it took 639,000 Singaporean dollars ($522,000) in funding from a group led by WaveMaker Labs in partnership with the Singapore National Research Foundation. Also participating in the round is Jakarta-based venture firm Ideosource.

The company pivoted both its product and its location. The company used to be based in Silicon Valley and had raised $200,000 from mobile incubator Tandem. Originally it let gamers earn special points that could be redeemed for discounts on products like iPad cases and pillows.

But now it’s more of a white-label solution that big platforms like MOL Friendster use for giving users localized rewards. Gimmie creates custom campaigns for big publishers in Asia to give rewards like discounts on local restaurants or Uniqlo gift cards. Publishers get an online dashboard to manage their programs and they can also use the platform to create incentivized surveys for data collection (like questionnaires that award virtual currency if players fill them out).

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Changing the company this way was a controversial decision with both Gimmie’s Silicon Valley investors and its co-founder Roy Liu, admits David Ng. Liu, who used to be lead developer on EA Popcap’s popular Plants vs. Zombies game, recently left to go join Chartboost, which just announced a $19 million round led by Sequoia Capital this week. The company also let go of much of its U.S.-based staff; it has eight employees today.

“I felt an opportunity based on what I was hearing. Nothing was being addressed for the Asian market and we had some strategic advantages because of the personal connections I have. At the same time, there were many companies trying to do the same thing with rewards in the U.S.,” Ng said. “I had to basically go against the wishes of our stakeholders.”

Many larger companies like Kiip and Tapjoy experiment with various forms of offering virtual or real-world rewards to mobile gamers.

“I want to be the market leader,” Ng said. “I don’t want to be one of many companies trying to do the same thing.” Ng took funding from a government-tied entity because he felt it would provide the company with more connections to the local market. He also said they were a more reputable funding source compared to many of the upstart firms and funds in the region.

Ng said the company will be enabling others to resell the platform and launching new product features for different types of mobile devices in one to two months. They’re currently looking for publishers in Asia with large numbers of users.