Betable, a San Francisco-based startup that makes it easier for casino-style game developers to offer players real money bets instead of virtual currency ones, just nabbed Jonathan Flesher. He was the vice president of business development that orchestrated Zynga’s recent partnership with bwin.party, an online gambling operator in the U.K.
He’ll become Betable’s executive vice president of business development, where he’ll do everything from sign developers, push licensing forward in other territories and sign other strategic partnerships. Before Zynga, he was a director of business development at EA after several years of working in banking and private equity.
“We’re seeing a convergence between the free-to-play social gaming world and online gambling world,” Flesher said. He said that developers that stick purely to virtual currencies may get left behind as studios that implement real-money gaming suddenly acquire a more lucrative player base and get more money at their disposal for marketing.
“If you incorporate real-money gaming, you’ll get a higher lifetime value from your players, and then you’ll be able to outspend other companies in the space that aren’t doing real money gaming,” he said.
Flesher did not directly leave Zynga for Betable. He took a few months off to spend time with family and then re-engaged with Betable later. While working at Zynga, he came across the company, but he declined to say whether Zynga had explored a formal partnership with the startup. That said, Bwin.party makes logical sense at a partner because it is the world’s largest publicly traded online gambling firm.
Betable, which has real-money gaming licenses in the U.K., lets casino-style game developers add real money betting to their titles. They won’t be able to reach players in the U.S. because of current state and federal regulations. But they will be able to reach U.K. players on iOS and players in most jurisdictions abroad on Android. Betable’s platform identifies which players they can legally show gambling-like features to based on their location or jurisdiction. So a developer that integrates Betable shouldn’t be concerned with exposing gambling mechanics to U.S.-based players, for example.
The company is pursuing licenses in other countries as well.
They’re already live in several games including Big Fish Casino, but they haven’t disclosed how many games or players are in the total network.
Betable is actually a re-start of an older company, that was “a stock exchange for betting where the odds were user-generated,” according to CEO Chris Griffin. That concept didn’t work out but in the process of building it, Betable acquired real-money gaming licenses. Through this, Griffin said he discovered this opportunity to be a platform for social games that integrate gambling. He pivoted, bought the old investors out and recapped the company.
The company has 20 employees and has raised funding from Greylock, CrunchFund, Yuri Milner’s Start Fund, Founders Fund, True Ventures, Path co-founder Dave Morin, former Wikia CEO Gil Penchina, Delicious’ Josh Schachter, StockTwits’ Howard Lindzon and LOLApps former CEO Arjun Sethi