Kiwi, an Android-focused gaming studio from an experienced team that made titles at Playdom, just raised $9 million in a round led by Sequoia Capital.
The company is run by Omar Siddiqui, who oversaw games like Gardens of Time and City of Wonder at Playdom, the social game maker that Disney bought for around $750 million including earnouts back in 2010. Siddiqui, who has had stints at McKinsey and Bain Capital, joined Playdom after he and his co-founder Shvetank Jain built and sold their startup Trippert Labs to the company.
Kiwi is their next gaming company and it is laser-focused on the Android platform with casual simulation titles like Shipwrecked. Siddiqui has quietly built up a 160-person company with employees in both Bangalore and Palo Alto. They have five titles on Google Play’s top-grossing charts for the U.S. right now.
They decided to focus on Android back in 2011, when it wasn’t clear at all that the platform could or would close the monetization gap with iOS. But that gap is gradually closing, as Google has stepped up efforts to get Android users to register with credit cards. Siddiqui said that the amount of revenue a top-10 grossing game makes on the platform appears to have doubled in the last year.
While I’ve written that venture capitalists are a little more skeptical than they used to be about gaming investments, it looks like Sequoia made this bet on the strength of Siddiqui’s track record and their relationship with him.
Sequoia’s Alfred Lin, who was the COO of Zappos before joining the firm, is leading this deal, while another investment partner, AdMob founder Omar Hamoui, also already sits on the board as an earlier personal investor. Guitar Hero co-creator Charles Huang and SV Angel also participated.
“Everyone likes to pick on Zynga,” Siddiqui said. “But the reality is that there are very few kinds of companies that can go from 0 to $1 billion in revenue inside of five years. We’ve been doing games and game-related stuff for years and we thought — if we had a chance to do it all over again, what could we do to create the best of what a games company could be?”
Sequoia has one other bet in a first-party mobile game developer through Pocket Gems, which also competes with Kiwi on Android through titles like Tap Paradise Cove.