Viddy co-founder Chris Ovitz has landed at another buzzed-about Los Angeles startup, the mobile gaming platform Scopely. He used to head up business development at the mobile video startup Viddy, which shot up like a star on the Facebook platform and iOS charts only to later come back down just as dramatically.
At Scopely, he’ll be a vice president of business development, where he’ll work on external opportunities (presumably deals with third-party game makers) to grow the network and the business. Scopely is pursuing a playbook that many other mobile game developers are following. They’re trying to grow the biggest network of gamers possible using apps built both in-house and by outside studios.
With an eight-figure number of monthly actives, Scopely is still smaller than other larger competitors that have publishing programs like Zynga and Sequoia-backed Pocket Gems and the Japanese giants like DeNA and GREE. But they say they’ve been able to get all of their games into the top five free apps on the iOS charts.
After Ovitz left Viddy a few months ago, he and Driver started talking about what was next.
“I’ve had the privilege of watching his entrepreneurial career,” said Scopely CEO Walter Driver. “Honestly, I never thought we’d have a chance to join forces, but we recently started having casual conversations about his future and thought there might be a potential fit.”
Ovitz declined to go into a lot of detail about what happened at Viddy, except to say that the company has to be inward-focused right now.
“I obviously got to see the entire spectrum of a startup’s life. It was an incredible learning experience,” he said. “They really need to focus internally on product and technology, so there’s not a lot of business development for me to do there.”
Viddy skyrocketed up the charts as a short video-sharing app last year in the wake of Instagram’s massive $1 billion buy from Facebook. On that momentum and Instagram’s buzz, the startup raised $30 million at a $370 million valuation.
But it and its direct competitor Socialcam started hemorrhaging users after Facebook cut off the viral fuel that was helping both apps up the charts. Socialcam, in contrast to Viddy, took a more conservative route with venture capital, instead leaning on friends and family from Y Combinator for a giant party round. They parlayed that and their momentum into a $60 million sale to Autodesk.
Meanwhile, Viddy’s level of funding has complicated its options. The company recently had layoffs and saw another co-founder and CEO Brett O’Brien leave.
“I’ve been a gamer my whole life,” Ovitz said. “I grew up interning at Activision and tried to start my own gaming company in business school. I’ve always admired Walter as an entrepreneur and I wanted to hop on this rocket ship.”
Scopely has $8.5 million in seed funding from firms like NEA, Anthem Venture Partners, The Chernin Group, Greycroft Partners, Lerer Ventures, The Collaborative Fund, Yahoo’s former CEO Terry Semel, Felicis Ventures’ Aydin Senkut, ShoeDazzle co-founder Brian Lee, Auren Hoffman, Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow, TechStars’ David Cohen and David Tisch.