We’ve been kiiping an eye on Kiip — a platform that replaces straight display ads with rewards and contests from brands in mobile apps to offer a less annonying experience for users — and it looks like we might not be the only ones. The company, which now serves its rewards-based ads into 400 apps across iOS and Android, and has inventory served totalling 100 million moments every month in the U.S., has raised another $8-10 million for what may be an equity stake of up to 20 percent in the company, TechCrunch understands.
We’re still trying to track down more details for this most recent investment; but up to now Kiip has attracted a strong list of backers. Co-founded in 2010 by ex-Digg employees Brian Wong, Courtney Guertin and Amadeus Demarzi, when Wong was still a teenager, its Series A of $4 million last year came from Hummer Winblad, Path’s Dave Morin, True Ventures and Crosslink Capital.
When Kiip emerged out of stealth mode just over a year ago, it based its business around rewards in games — “Game mechanics are what makes games, and there has not been an ad network so far that leverages those mechanics to engage users at the same time,” Wong told TechCrunch last year.
But more recently, it has broadened its reach beyond that with the launch of a self-serve platform in March, which has seen some strong pick-up from non-gaming brands like Pepsi, MapMyRun, and 1-800-Flowers, American Apparel, Procter & Gamble and Dr Pepper, which are incorporating gaming elements into their apps. “This has opened our minds to doing more than just games,” Wong said in an interview this week.
So where would new investment get used? One area might be in international expansion.
Wong this week returned from a visit to Singapore, Hong Kong and China to explore the market, on encouragement from some of the company’s angel investors. He is well aware of the concept of introducing an American company into the market and seems interested in partnering with established, bigger players — the Baidu’s, Shanda’s, and Tencent’s — whenever it does decide to make a move.
“It’s exciting to be a company based around gaming and rewards in China, because gaming is part of the culture, and so are coupons. We combined the two and we can potentially penetrate into that,” he said.
But he also pointed out a significant challenge that has stymied others. “Many American companies take the American approach, and they jam through solutions, using money to buy adoption,” he said. “But in China when you have a market of over 1 billion people, it’s very hard to change internet consumption habits. It can be futile.” Partnering with bigger players is a way to “open up a billion-dollar market.”
The company has also been hard at work courting developers in the last few months, with its $100,000 Build Fund offering independent developers rewards of $5,000, plus pro-bono services from Amazon Web Services ($2,000 worth), Urban Airship, Stackmob, Localytics and Crittercism.
Recipients also get access to advisors connected to the well-connected Kiip, such as Dave Jones (Lemmings, Grand Theft Auto creator); Phil Black from True Ventures; Lee Linden (Tapjoy and KarmaScience co-founder); Roy Bahat (IGN Entertianment president); Lars Leckie (MD of Hummer Winblad); among many others.
Out of hundreds of applicants, Kiip has now announced 20 winners for this first round of the fund (there will be more to come). It’s telling that the list is not only international, and that it contains more than games, with Tinygram (a picture-making app); Discoverful (social travel) and Kahnoodle (date night planner) among the list (the full list is below).
|Studio Name||Title of App||Location||Team Size||Brief Description|
|Massive Finger||Pinball Maniacs||Montreal, Canada||3||An original mix of Pinball and Breakout, Pinball Maniacs is a pinball-inspired adventure game.|
|Tiny Hearts||Instamatch||Toronto, Canada||3||InstaMatch is a clever twist on the traditional card matching game. Using the popular iPhone Instagram app, your goal is to match two similar photos of the same kind.|
|Mutant Games||JetBee||Palma de Mallorca, Spain||4||JetBee is a casual arcade game, where players take control of a bee by tilting the device.|
|Pictorious||Pictorious||New York, NY||6||Pictorious is a photo-sharing app with a twist – users can create competitions and challenge friends to take awesome photos.|
|Fufu Labs||Tinygram||Davao City, Philippines||4||Tinygram lets anyone create 8×8 tile art, with limited color tiles, which they replenish by gifting their artwork to friends, creating a viral loop.|
|LOCQL||Discoverful||Redmond, WA||2||Discoverful is a social travel discovery app. Using geo-tagged and community-rated photos with comments, users can decide on their next travel destinations through browsing photos uploaded by the community.|
|LVL6||Lost Nations||Palo Alto, CA||5||Lost Nations is a fantasy-based MMORPG, where two warring factions are destined to fight for dominance in a post-apocalyptic world.|
|Kahnoodle||Kahnoodle||New York, NY||5||Khanoodle is a part game, part date night planner, and part relationship tool to build intimacy between couples. Couples can earn “kudos” for showing their partner love to get inspired to try new experiences.|
|LovblGames||Unnamed||Arad, Romania||2||Asteroids are falling and your hero is a pterodactyl whose mission is dodge objects, survive volcano eruptions, and fly over fields of magma to safety.|
|Zeenoh Games||Balloon Teaser||Mandaluyong City, Philippines||6||Balloon Getaway is a flying game, where an aviator named Jetro must flee from the bandits who intend to keep him captive.|
|Estudio256||Iron Jack||La Caruna, Spain||5||Iron Jack is a space pilot who is in charge of harvesting and delivering valuable fuel from outer space to the world. Wearing only his emergency jetpack and space suit, Jack flies around the arena, collecting dispersed valuables over unfriendly territory.|
|Alphanoize||CheeseMan||Hennigsdorf, Germany||2||Inspired by Super Meat Boy, CheeseMan is an action platformer game where the player must guide Cheeseman through blades, spikes, and cannon balls to defeat the evil Professor Mousky.|
|Boiled Goose||Merlin’s Marble||Minneapolis, MN||1||Merlin’s Marble is a visually appealing medieval marble roller game featuring 18 levels of ledges, bridges, twists, turns, moving platforms, and elevators.|
|EnsenaSoft||Mahjong Deluxe||Mazatlan, Mexico||9||Mahjong Deluxe is based on a classic Chinese game where your goal is to eliminate all the tiles from the board.|
|Mobuku||Monpon||Los Angeles, CA||4||MonPon is a freemium social game that allows users to grow, nurture, and battle their unique monsters. Players can earn virtual currency for buying different armory, tonics, and potions for their monsters.|
|int13||ARDefender||Paris, France||6||ARDefender is an augmented reality game where your goal is to defend your tower on your desk from nasty opponents. The game uses your phone’s camera to imprint an imaginary “tower” on your desk.|
|Lab 927||Toy Adventures||Natick, MA||1||Toy Adventures is a 2D endless runner type game, where a toy is trying to escape a toy store.|
|Zone 5 Interactive||Tiny Nova||Rego Park, NY||1||Tiny Nova is a face-paced, arcade type game in which the player’s goal is to combine nova seeds, make as many tiny explosions (novas) as you can before the screen is full of nova seeds.|
|Floppy Entertainment||Lil Sherman||Orange Park, FL||7||In Lil Sherman, the player controls a WWII tank that must protect its Command Center and the incoming Convoy of Supplies. It’s a twist on the classic tower defense type game.|
|Sealman Studio||VelociBoard||Budapest, Hungary||5||VelociBoard is an endless runner mobile game, in which the player takes the role of a velociraptor named El Mariachi who plays a guitar while riding on his skateboard.|