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MinoMonsters

Andreessen-Backed MinoMonsters Follows Rovio’s Lead, Signs Book Deal, Releases Trailer As It Plans Move Into TV, Film, Toys

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MinoMonsters launched in early 2011 on a mission to become the Pokémon of social games, allowing gamers to explore a world inhabited by bite-sized, furry monsters, taking them on quests and battling their friends. For this reason — and because founders Josh Buckley and Tyler Diaz were Y Combinator’s two youngest graduates at 18 and 17-years-old, respectively — the startup found some early buzz. And big things were expected.

But, as it goes with startups, there have been some ups and downs. Last summer, when MinoMonsters released v2.0 of its iOS game, it significantly altered the gameplay, doing away with quests to focus exclusively on one-on-one battles. As a result, Buckley decided to trim down the staff and start fresh, while Diaz left the startup to work on new projects.

Since MinoMonsters re-focused last year, things have moved forward pretty quickly, Buckley tells us. The startup’s iOS app now has 2.5 million downloads (adding 1 million players since the end of September), and became one of the top 50 grossing apps in Apple’s App Store this past weekend. That is largely due to an update to its app that was released last week. Revenue has since doubled in the past week and has increased 1,000 percent since December, Buckley says.

While the founder declined to share specific numbers, he did say that revenue is now “in the millions” and growing. Buckley attributes this to a “huge gap in the market” when it comes to companies looking to create the next Pokemon; however, although they’re targeting different age groups, Mind Candy and its Moshi Monsters may beg to differ on that one.

Nonetheless, to capitalize on the growing demand among young(er) gamers, MinoMonsters has now raised $2 million in funding (led by Andreessen Horowitz) and is looking to follow the Angry Birds path — to become an entertainment company, not just a gaming company. To this end, the startup just signed with William Morris, one of the largest agencies in Hollywood to help MinoMonsters make the jump to TV and film. At present, the startup has already signed a book deal through WME, but Buckley doesn’t want to stop there.

The founder tells us that the startup’s focus now is on moving quickly into licensing and merchandizing, and this year, he expects the company to launch lines of toys, books, trading cards and even clothes.

In the meantime, MinoMonsters is taking a page from Angry Birds, and, like its predecessor, is looking to create an animated series of cartoon shorts over the next couple of months, presumably aimed at developing interest in an animated TV series. You can see the first of these cartoon trailers made by its in-house animation team below. The startup has also acquired a small HTML5 game design firm to help it beef up its monster battles on iOS.

Over the long run, Buckley says that he wants MinoMonsters to not just take on Pokemon, but become the next Disney. It’s an ambitious goal, if not a bit over the top, but the founder says that he thinks the next-gen Disney will start with a design-centric, character-focused mobile game. And given the inroads Rovio has made in becoming a cross-channel brand, it’s not impossible.

Trailer below: