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Madefire

Madefire, a digital comics startup with an eye on virtual reality, raises $6.5M

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Just in time for New York Comic Con, Madefire is announcing that it has raised $6.5 million in Series B funding.

Madefire co-founder and CEO Ben Wolstenholme said the funding — which was led by Santa Monica-based Plus Capital — will help his company build more connections with the media and entertainment world. It’s not that Madefire (which previously raised $6.3 million from investors including True Ventures) was totally lacking in those relationships before, but Wolstenholme said the company is “moving from being all about building technology” to building up a big content library as well.

The firm connected Madefire with some of the other big names who ended up investing in the Series B, including Kevin Spacey (!) and Drake (!!). Visual effects studio Framestore also participated in the round — Wolstenholme said Framestore will be building Madefire-specific content.

“I think the Madefire team are visionaries, building a platform that creates impactful ways to tell stories,” said Plus Capital founder and managing partner Adam Lilling in a statement. “At Plus, we believe Madefire has one of the best platforms for creators to introduce and experiment with their IP, and scale their audience so creators can have more control over their future.”

While Comixology (now owned by Amazon) remains the best-known platform for digital comics, Madefire is trying to do something a bit different. Instead of just bringing print comics to digital formats with minimal changes, it adds animation, sound effects and music to the mix.

The company describes the resulting product as a motion book — not exactly the same thing as the motion comics that publishers have experimented with in the past. Wolstenholme emphasized that despite the multimedia bells and whistles, Madefire’s motion books should still be an active reading experience, not a passive viewing one, the key distinction being that the text isn’t just replaced with voiceover.

“We want to be the best book, not the worst video,” he said.

Madefire started out by publishing its own titles (including Wolstenholme’s own book, Mono), but it’s now working with well-known comics publishers like DC, IDW and Kodansha — Wolstenholme said it’s on track to have more than 40,000 books in the store by the end of the year. Madefire also launched a product called the Motion Book Publisher, allowing comics publishers to create their own storefronts and apps, and it’s even worked with Apple to create a comic book explaining the new App Store review guidelines.

Wolstenholme added that the broader goal is to create a “native digital experience,” whether that’s on phones, tablets or internet-connected TVs. In fact, the new money is intended, in part, to fund an expansion into virtual reality and augmented reality, although Wolstenholme said it’s too soon to offer any details.