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Amid pandemic boom, gaming gets another nod with $750 million new fund

March 7, 2022, 4:46 PM UTC

Shut in at home for stints, oftentimes with little or no face-to-face interaction with the outside world, everyone has needed a little fun over the last two years to distract themselves from isolation and a dire news cycle.

Sales of the board game Catan surged 144% within the first five months of 2020 as people began exchanging sheep for bricks en masse. Around 10 million individuals made a Sim in The Sim’s 4. Josh Wardle invented a word game with a bunch of squares in an act of quarantine love that boomed into widespread popularity.

It’s a rather opportune moment to go to market for a new fund, and Griffin Gaming Partners, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based venture capital firm, has done just that. This morning, the firm said it had closed $750 million solely focused on the gaming industry. Yes, just games. With this second fund, Griffin now manages more than $1 billion in assets.

There’s a handful of other firms out there, Konvoy Ventures or Play Ventures for example, that focus on this sector alone. Then there’s the investment arms of companies like mobile game publisher Animoca Brands, as well. But a hyper-specialty in just one niche market is relatively rare.

With the sheer amount of activity and innovation happening in this sector—not to mention the saturation of venture capital funds—it’s not all that surprising. Just as quickly as industry behemoths are signing multi-billion-dollar deals, a slew of entrepreneurs are trying to reinvent gaming as we know it with the new technologies now available to them. Web3 and the metaverse are the more obvious targets: With experiments in play-to-earn, like the now-well-known Axie Infinity, or an example in beta testing I find fascinating: Genopets, which hopes to merge a player’s day-to-day activity with play-to-earn.

Web3 will be an area of focus for the new fund, Griffin said in its announcement this morning. The firm—founded by Peter Levin, Phil Sanderson, and Nick Tuosto (who is an investment banker at LionTree, a strategic partner to the fund)—says it reviews more than 1,300 investment opportunities each year and analyzes “enormous amounts of data” to select its investments. Its funding goes towards recruiting and business development costs. 

Some of Griffin’s investments have been rather large, considering how early the firm is investing. Earlier this year, it led a $55 million seed round for Spyke Games, an Istanbul, Turkey-based social mobile games company. And last May, Griffin led a whopping $185 million Series A round for Forte, a gaming infrastructure startup using blockchain that went on to raise a $725 million Series B in November. Griffin partnered up with Forte and Solana Ventures late last year to commit $150 million into blockchain games developed on Solana, the decentralized network many new Web3 gaming companies favor. 

Speaking of games… Bobby Kotick, the CEO of games publisher Activision Blizzard, said at the end of last week that he wouldn’t seek re-election to the board of Coca-Cola after serving 10 years as a director. He said in a statement that he will “focus my full attention on Activision Blizzard at this pivotal time as we prepare for our merger with Microsoft.” Kotick has come under fire over a workplace of alleged widespread harassment against women. He has also drawn scrutiny for investing in Republican campaigns via secret companies, per CNBC.

See you tomorrow,

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
Email: jessica.mathews@fortune.com
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Jackson Fordyce curated the deals section of today’s newsletter.

VENTURE DEALS

- Immutable, a Surry Hills, Australia-based NFT trading platform, raised $200 million in Series C funding led by Temasek and was joined by investors including Animoca Brands, Tencent, ParaFi Capital, Princeville Capital, Arrington Capital, Mirae Asset, Liberty Global, King River Capital, Prosus Ventures, AirTree Ventures, Declaration Partners, Fabric Ventures, Possible Ventures, and Alameda Research

- thatgamecompany, a Los Angeles-based video game developer, raised $160 million in funding from TPG and Sequoia.

- AutoFi, a San Francisco-based digital commerce platform for automotive sales and financing, raised $85 million in funding from investors including Santander Holdings, SVB Financial Group, and Crosslink Capital

- Reforge, a San Francisco-based career development platform, raised $60 million in Series B funding led by Insight Partners and was joined by investors including Andreessen Horowitz, True Ventures, NextView Ventures, TCV, Long Journey Ventures, and others.

- Cider Security, a Tel Aviv, Israel-based security platform for engineering, raised $32 million in Series A funding led by Tiger Global Management and was joined by investors including Glilot Capital Partners and Glilot+.

- Convelio, a Paris-based fine art shipping company, raised $35 million in Series B funding led by Forestay and Mundi Ventures and was joined by investors including the European Investment Fund, Acton Capital, Global Founders Capital.

- Flume Health, a New York-based digital health plan administration platform, raised $30 million in Series A funding led by Optum Ventures and was joined by investors including Cigna Ventures, Route 66 Ventures, Accomplice, Founder Collective, Primary Venture Partners, and Remarkable Ventures Fund.

- Homeward, a San Francisco-based health care provider to rural communities, raised $20 million in funding from General Catalyst.

- Lynx, a Wellesley, Mass.-based health care payments, banking, and e-commerce platform, raised $15 million in Series A funding. Obvious Ventures and .406 Ventures co-led the round and were joined by investors including Frist Cressey Ventures.

- Owner.com, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based digital marketing and automation platform for independent restaurants, raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Altman Capital and was joined by investors including Redpoint Ventures, Day One Ventures, SaaStr Fund, Browder Capital, Max Mullen, Sam Bankman-Fried, Parker Conrad, Ryan Petersen, Immad Akhund, and Niranjan Sabharwal.

- LifeScore, a Salisbury, U.K.-based A.I. music technology company, raised £11 million ($14.5 million) in funding led by Octopus Ventures and was joined by investors including Warner Music Group, IDEO, 4 Good Ventures, Metaplanet Holdings OÜ

- Legal.io, a San Francisco-based enterprise marketplace for legal talent and technology, raised  $11.6 million in Series A funding led by Tiger Global.

- SteadyPay, a London-based financial services app for gig-workers, raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Digital Horizon.

- Zaapi, a Singapore-based e-commerce launching app for small businesses, raised $3 million in seed funding led by GFC, Flourish Ventures, and Partech.

- Popchew, a New York-based platform for creators to launch and grow food brands, raised $3.6 million in seed funding led by Long Journey Ventures and was joined by investors including Anti Fund, Flybridge, WndrCo, and more. 

- Credo, a Denver-based automated patient medical record retrieval, raised $3 million in seed funding led by FirstMile and was joined by investors including Hannah Grey Ventures, SpringTime Ventures, and Headwater Ventures.      

- Glassette, a London-based online homeware curation platform, raised £1.2 million ($1.58 million) in seed funding led by Nigel Wray and was joined by investors including Farfetch chief customer officer Stephanie Phair, Peanut co-founder and CEO Michelle Kennedy, FLOWERBX founder and CEO Whitney Hawkings, Peter Hawkings, HERO founder Adam Levine, and Tribe Impact Capital Chief Investment Officer Fred Kooij.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Accel-KKR acquired a minority stake in Masabi, a London-based mobile ticketing fare platform. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Pritzker Private Capital acquired Bardstown Bourbon Company, a Bardstown, Ky.-based distiller, producer and bottler of bourbon and rye whiskey brands. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Solace Capital Partners acquired Sun Mountain Sports, a Missoula, Mont.-based producer of golf equipment and apparel. Financial terms were not disclosed.

EXITS

- Limelight Networks agreed to acquire Edgecast, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based digital media company, from Yahoo, which is owned by LionTree Partners and Apollo Global Management. The deal values Edgecast at approximately $300 million. 

- System1 acquired CouponFollow, a New York-based coupon destination company for online shoppers, from NextGen Shopping for $115 million. 

IPOS 

- Alopexx, a Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech company developing immune therapeutics for certain bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections, filed for an IPO. The company reported a net loss of nearly $1 million in 2021 and has yet to post revenue. 

SPAC

- Tomorrow.io, a Boston-based weather intelligence platform, terminated its planned merger with Pine Technology Acquisition Corp., a SPAC, due to market conditions. A deal would have valued the company at $1.2 billion.  

FUNDS + FUNDS OF FUNDS

- M13, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based venture capital firm, raised $400 million for a third fund focused on seed to Series B startups in the future of work, commerce, health, and Web3 industries.

- Foresite Capital, a San Francisco-based private equity firm, raised $173 million for a fund focused on its incubated life science companies. 

PEOPLE

- EQT, a Stockholm, Sweden-based private equity firm, hired Alex Greenbaum as partner to co-lead the firm's active core infrastructure fund. Formerly, he was with GIC.

- GV, the Mountain View, Calif.-based venture capital arm of Alphabet, hired Kieran English network development partner. Formerly, she was with Spencer Stuart and Russell Reynolds Associates.

- SK Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm, hired Michael Gilbert as head of portfolio operations. Formerly, he was with Aristech Surfaces

- Riata Capital Group, a Dallas-based private equity firm, hired Blake Battaglia as managing partner. Formerly, he was with ABRY Partners.

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