Connect with us

Uncategorized

The creator movement is entering primetime, and so is Circle with a fresh $4M

Published

on

The creator movement has exploded in the last few years as platforms ranging from Substack to Clubhouse have made it easier than ever to reach an audience of willing readers and listeners. Yet the key to building sustainable creator businesses is the economics of these enterprises themselves. Get enough subscribers, and what often starts as a side hobby can quickly become a full-time job.

Circle was founded in January 2020 to make engaging with paying customers and thus building creator businesses as effortless as possible. We profiled the NYC-based startup last year when it announced its $1.5 million seed round in August, discussing how its founder DNA originates in the online course platform Teachable. Since then, all signs point to very strong early growth.

The company surpassed $1 million ARR last month, and it already has 1,000 paying customers and is heading toward 2,000 paying communities. Usage is also growing rapidly, expanding 40-50% per month for both DAUs and MAUs, according to the company. It also brought its iOS app out of beta last month.

CEO and co-founder Sid Yadav said that “we happened to catch the tide at the right time [with] the creator movement, the community movement.” So far, paying communities have been largely centered around “a lot of YouTubers, course creators, Twitch streamers, Patreon personalities” with Yadav estimating that 60% of the platform’s communities are “personality-led.” That said, “a lot of brands are starting to think of this creatively.”

All that positive news can’t be ignored by VCs too long. The company announced today that it has raised a $4 million seed round at a valuation “north of” $40 million, which closed late last year. The round was officially led by Notation Capital, which led the company’s pre-seed round last year, but the firm only took a quarter of a round according to Yadav.

Circle’s team has grown to 20 across multiple continents. Photo via Circle.

Instead, much of the round’s allocations were handed out to the entrepreneurs building on the platform. “We had all of these offers from top-tier firms, but for the kind of product that we are — which is a creator platform — it made sense to allocate the round as much as possible to our customers,” Yadav said. According to the company, a majority of the round went to individual angels and community builders on the platform, among them Anne-Laure Le Cunff, David Perell, Tiago Forte and Nat Eliason.

Given the company’s early stage, product development remains the highest priority. “Our approach is like a Notion,” Yadav said, describing how Circle allows its communities to stitch together “building blocks” to lay out pages. Circle’s primary mode is through a Space, where community members can discuss topics with each other and the creator as well. Communities built on Circle can be white-labeled, with their own custom domains.

Circle’s community platform allows creators to publish content and engage with their community. Photo via Circle.

Circle’s ultimate goal is to integrate every tool a creator needs to engage with a customer under one roof, from publishing newsletters and podcasts to setting up streaming, event ticket sales, merchandise, and event calendars — all buttressed by a payments layer. Many of those features remain to be built on top of the company’s core community platform, but Yadav and his team are certainly ambitious in their expansive scope.

Circle’s team is now 20 people, with team members in Europe, India, Australia, and across the United States.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

Continue Reading
Comments

Uncategorized

Lime unveils new ebike as part of $50 million investment to expand to more 25 cities

Published

on

Lime said Monday it has allocated $50 million towards its bike-share operation, an investment that has been used to develop a new ebike and will fund its expansion this year to another 25 cities in North America, Europe, and Australia and New Zealand. 

If the company hits its goal, Lime’s bike-share service will be operational in 50 cities globally by the end of 2021.

The latest generation e-bike, known internally as 6.0, has a swappable battery that is interchangeable with Lime’s newest scooter. Additional upgrades to the e-bike include increased motor power, a phone holder, a new handlebar display, an electric lock that replaces the former generation’s cable lock and an automatic two-speed transmission. The new bikes are expected to launch and scale this summer. 

The hardware upgrade builds off of the 5.8, a bike developed by Jump that was supposed to be deployed in 2020. That never happened at scale because Uber, which owned Jump, offloaded the unit to Lime as part of a complex $170 million investment round announced in May.

“Jump made great hardware,” Lime President Joe Kraus said in a recent interview. “And we made some further improvements on top with the new bike.”

The hardware upgrades and expansion were funded from its own operational funds, not new financing from outside investors, Kraus said. The funding was possible as a result of Lime achieving its first full quarter of profitability in 2020, according to the company.

“We have figured out how to be profitable and we are funding this,” Kraus said.

Lime not only added a new motor to the bike, it moved its location in an aim to make it easier to handle at low speeds and enough power to climb hills, Kraus said. The swappable battery was perhaps its most important upgrade directly tied to its drive towards profitability, Kraus added.

“When our operations teams is roaming around the city, they take can care of bikes and the scooter fleet, which allows us to both operate profitably and continue to have affordable pricing,” he added.

Lime’s investment in its ebike operation comes a month after it announced plans to add electric mopeds to its micromobility platform as the startup aims to own the spectrum of inner city travel from jaunts to the corner store to longer distance trips up to five miles. Lime is launching the effort by deploying 600 electric mopeds on its platform this spring in Washington D.C. The company is also working with officials to pilot the mopeds in Paris. Eventually, the mopeds will be offered in a “handful of cities” over the next several months.

“This idea of how to service more trips five miles within a city is part of why we continue to do multi modality,” Kraus said. “When we add a new modality like bikes into a scooter city, or when we add scooters to a bike city both modalities go up in usage.”

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

Istanbul’s Dream Games snaps up $50M and launches its first game, the puzzle-based Royal Match

Published

on

On the back of Zynga acquiring Turkey’s Peak Games for $1.8 billion last year and then following it up with another gaming acquisition in the country, Turkey has been making a name for itself as a hub for mobile gaming startups, and specifically those building casual puzzle games, the wildly popular and very sticky format that takes players through successive graphic challenges that test their logic, memory and ability to think under time pressure.

Today, one of the more promising of those startups, Istanbul-based, Peak alum-founded Dream Games, is announcing the GA launch of its first title, Royal Match (on both iOS and Android), along with $50 million in funding to double down on the opportunity ahead — the largest Series A raised by a startup in Turkey to date.

While Dream Games will focus for the moment on building out the audience for puzzle games with more innovative ideas, it also has its sights set on a bigger goal.

“We’re building this as an entertainment company,” CEO Soner Aydemir said in an interview, where he described Pixar as a key inspiration not just for size but for quality in its category. “What they did for animated movies, we want to do for mobile gaming. We are focusing on casual puzzle games first because everyone plays these, but we will also move forward with other genres. We want to be a huge interactive entertainment company that builds high quality games.”

The Series A is being led by Index Ventures, with participation also from Balderton Capital and Makers Fund. The latter two backed Dream Games previously, in a $7.5 million seed round in 2019. Index, meanwhile, is a notable VC to have on board: other successful gaming startups it has backed include Discord, King, Roblox and Supercell.

Interestingly, this is not Index’s first investment in a gaming startup founded by Peak Games alums: in December it led a $6 million round for another Istanbul mobile casual puzzle gaming startup founded by ex-Peak employees: Bigger Games.

Dream Games is not disclosing its valuation with this round.

Dream Games raising $57.5 million ahead of launching any games — or proving whether they get any traction — may sound like a risky bet, but there is some context to the story that sets up the odds in this startup’s favor.

The founding team all come from Peak Games, the Istanbul gaming startup that was so nice, Zynga bought it twice — first, in the form of one small acquisition of some specific titles, and then the whole company some years later.

CEO Soner Aydemir is Peak’s former director of product who built the company’s two biggest hits, Toy Blast and Toon Blast. Ikbal Namli and Hakan Saglam were Peak’s former engineering leads. And Peak product manager Eren Sengul and an ex-Peak 3D artist Serdar Yilmaz round out the rest of the founding team.

(Aydemir notes that the team left and formed Dream Games in 2019, about a year before Zynga’s full acquisition.)

The other indicators that Dream Games is on to something are its metrics for its limited test run of Royal Match.

Royal Match — in which players are tasked with helping King Robert restore his royal castle “to its former glory” by rebuilding it through a series of match-3 levels and obstacles, with new rooms, royal chambers and gardens making up the different levels of the game — was launched first as a limited test on iOS and Android in the U.K. and Canada in July leading up to this launch. In that time, Aydemir said it saw 1 million downloads and 200,000 daily average users.

“We think the numbers are very promising compared to previous experiences,” he said.

While Aydemir likes to describe Dream as an “entertainment” company, there is a lot of technology going into the product, from the graphics and the mechanics of the puzzles themselves through to the data science behind them.

“If you want to create an iconic game, you need to combine engineering, art and data science together with high quality user acquisition and a strong marketing approach,” he said.

And he believes that when you focus on these it will inevitably lead to quality, which means you no longer have to focus on simply trying to find a hit.

“We don’t like that approach,” he said. “We don’t want to find a hit.”

That was also the mix that Index also wanted to back.

“Building iconic titles requires a harmonious mix of craft, science and flawless execution,” said Index Ventures partner Stephane Kurgan, who led the round together with Index’s Sofia Dolfe. “The Dream Games team has perfected this mix over many years of working together, and has put it on full display in Royal Match. We could not be more excited to work with them in their journey to build the next global casual champion.”

While Dream Games’ long-term ambition is to build out interactive experiences around different audiences and genres, Aydemir said that casual games, and puzzles in particular, have proven to be a huge hit with consumers.

The strength of that trend has up to now meant that puzzle games generally have proven to have more staying power than other genres in mobile games, which have soared in popularity but also somewhat fizzled out.

“Every year we see the bigger market of users growing by 20%,” he said. “It will remain for decades.”

Interestingly, the focus on casual gaming startups in Turkey seems like a perfect storm of sorts. Undeniably, the proven success of Peak has brought in more punters, but it has also shown the way to developers: you can build a successful and global consumer tech startup out of Turkey, and perhaps puzzles — which focus on shapes — are especially good at transcending different language barriers.. Alongside that, Aydemir pointed out that the country is strong on engineers and developers but slim on opportunities with bigger tech companies.

“Mobile gaming is a younger industry, so that presents an opportunity,” he said.

Updated to correct that Index is not an investor in Rovio, and that the limited test had 200,000, not 200, DAUs.

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

Qualcomm veteran to replace Alain Crozier as Microsoft Greater China boss

Published

on

Microsoft gets a new leader for its Greater China business. Yang Hou, a former executive at Qualcomm, will take over Alain Crozier as the chairman and chief executive officer for Microsoft Greater China Region, according to a company announcement released Monday.

More to come…

Continue Reading

Trending