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David Gardner and the Skype founders the latest notch on Playfire’s investor bedpost

By on November 13, 2009
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If you wanted money to invest in games, I think you could do a lot worse than placing your bets where David Gardner places his.

The former head of EA Europe and current CEO of Atari seems to have backed most of the companies I really rate.

He was an investor in Playfish, which has just been acquired by EA for up to $400 million.

He invested alongside Sequoia Capital in Unity, the development platform for web, PC and iPhone games that just raised $5.5 million.

Playfire logo

And now he’s invested alongside Atomico Ventures (the investment fund of the founders of Skype, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis) in Playfire, which has just announced a $2.1 million fundraising.

Playfire is a gaming social network. It helps gamers stay in touch, track achievements, create a “killer profile” and generally communicate with gaming friends in the same way that Facebook lets you stay in touch with real-life friends. (If I called them “meatbag” friends, would I be betraying my gaming geekiness? 10 points for the first person to name the source of “meatbag” in the comments).

It’s a crowded space: Rupture, Raptr, GamerDNA, GameShadow and others are competing for gamer’s attention not to mention the threat from Facebook and Twitter. It’s so competitive that there have been layoffs at both Rupture (now part of EA) and GamerDNA in the last month.

However, the investors are smart (and the Skype founders have a background in companies fuelled by network effects and Moore’s Law like Skype, Joost and Kazaa, so I’m betting that Playfire has something interesting up its sleeve.

So far, the most unusual thing about Playfire’s appears to be its fundraising strategy, which has almost seemed to be one of “how many entrepreneurs can we bag?” So far, alongside David Gardner and the Skype founders, they’ve notched up on their investment bedpost:

  • Chris Deering, former head of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
  • Michael Acton Smith, founder of Firebox and CEO of MindCandy
  • Will Reeve and Alex Chesterman, cofounders of LOVEFiLM
  • James Booth, founder of TangoZebra
  • Michael Birch, former CEO of Bebo
  • Brent Hoberman, founder of Lastminute.com

Birch and Hoberman have recently set up PROFounders Capital to invest in “capital efficient, early-stage companies operating in the digital media and technology space”. It’s not clear whether they made this investment personally or via PROfounders.

Playfire CEO Kieran O’Neill is young (23), ambitious and on his third startup. He’s assembled an impressive array of talent as advisors and investors.

The trick now is to take the $2.1 million and ensure that there are enough indians to do the chiefs’ bidding.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com