Startups

Gaming Monetization Startup Playhaven Nabs Rovio’s SVP of Brand Marketing Ville Heijari

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Playhaven, a startup that had to do three major pivots before finding traction in helping other mobile gaming studios monetize their existing players, just scored another major hire.

They just poached Rovio’s senior vice president of brand marketing Ville Heijari, who joined the Finnish game developer when it had just 15 employees. He grew Rovio’s marketing team as the entire company ballooned to 540 people and began dabbling in branded sodas, plush toys, cookbooks, animated shorts and feature films.

Last week, Rovio said that it hired a few new advertising executives from Apple, Millennial Media and inMobi.

“I basically led marketing activities for the whole Angry Birds brand. We saw really amazing growth and really, it was a once in a lifetime experience,” said Heijari, who will now be Playhaven’s general manager for Europe.

He’ll recruit developers to work with the company, which already counts big developers in the region like Supercell and NaturalMotion among its clients.

Playhaven started out as a social network for gaming, then became a way for developers to build player communities. Neither of those strategies particularly worked.

But after they tried helping developers manage real-time messaging and monetization of their players, something clicked.

Playhaven launched an HTML5-powered platform last year that let mobile developers quickly publish a variety of overlays through which they could serve rewards, virtual goods and promotions on the fly. These overlays are targeted based on different user behaviors.

The company now reaches about 115 million monthly active users and 460 million uniques through games on its platform.

With that momentum, they recently hired Charles Yim, who oversaw Google AdMob’s relationships with top-tier game developers, as COO. They also closed an $8 million round led by Granite Global Ventures last fall.

They have a two-part business model with cost-per-install ad campaigns throughout 4,000 mobile games. Then they have another monetization platform that helps developers understand how and when to target different groups of players — whether they’re big spenders or whales, or users that progress more slowly through a game for free.

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