RockYou wins over Philadelphia's online bingo game developer Ryzing

RockYou acquired Philadelphia online bingo developer Ryzing for an undisclosed amount.
RockYou acquired Philadelphia online bingo developer Ryzing for an undisclosed amount.
Posted: June 18, 2012

Whoever thought a little game of bingo might interest a venture-backed San Francisco social media company?

Well, RockYou Inc. liked the online growth of Bingo by Ryzing enough to buy the Center City social gaming developer Ryzing L.L.C. for an undisclosed amount last week.

A statement released by one of Ryzing's investors indicated that Ryzing's team, headed by Manu Gambhir, will join RockYou, which intends to maintain and expand the Philadelphia office.

Wayne Kimmel, a partner in the Artists & Instigators venture fund, said Ryzing currently has 10 full-time equivalent employees, including six in Philadelphia. Kimmel will join the board of directors of RockYou, the company behind the Zoo World line of games on Facebook.

Founded in 2005, RockYou has raised about $125 million from investors including SoftBank, Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Partech International, and DCM, according to TechCrunch and other tech websites.

Ryzing was launched in 2009 by Gambhir, who'd previously developed an online casino site. Since its founding, Ryzing had raised about $3 million in venture capital, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Bingo by Ryzing is available on Facebook and has about 80,000 daily active users, according to AppData, which tracks the daily and monthly traffic of Facebook apps.

RockYou bought Ryzing less than six months after the two firms struck up a publishing relationship for the bingo game. But it's not as though bingo is Halo or Madden. Anyone can make a version, and many have, including publicly traded social game giant Zynga Inc.

Zynga Bingo has 1.4 million daily active users on Facebook, according to AppData. GamePoint, another developer, has 30,000 daily users for its version.

What differentiates Ryzing's version is that Facebook users enter bingo tournaments for a chance to win real-world prizes through free sweepstakes drawings. Those prizes can be cash, charity contributions, or luxury vacations.

RockYou chief executive Lisa Marino likened how Bingo by Ryzing works to McDonald's popular Monopoly game, where no purchase is necessary to get game pieces. Thus, there is no cost to play bingo, and playing gives the user the chance to win prizes, including cash. And bingo, with its simple rules, has "high replay value," she said.

Ryzing's "rewards-based gaming platform" could be used in games other than bingo, Marino said.

RockYou, which generates revenue from selling advertising and digital goods on its games and other content, employs about 70 people. Marino said the company is a big believer in keeping development teams intact, and that's why it's maintaining the Philadelphia office as RockYou had previously done with acquisitions in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Marino declined to disclose the privately held company's sales.

RockYou has produced a number of apps for Facebook, including the game Zoo World with 160,000 daily active users, and a daily horoscope that has 840,000 users.

Like other online firms, it has also stumbled when it comes to consumer privacy. In March, RockYou agreed to pay $250,000 to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission that it had failed to protect the privacy of users of its online games. Security flaws on the RockYou site allowed hackers access to the personal information of 32 million users, the agency said. Crunch Time

TechCrunch, the AOL-owned technology blog, is a must-read for many in the tech business, but, truth to tell, it can read like "all California, all the time."

That's why the site decided to do a bit of East Coast scouting this year, sending editors and writers for "mini-meetups" Washington (April 9), Norfolk, Va. (April 10), Richmond, Va. (April 11), and New York (May 8).

Anthony Coombs, the Philadelphia developer of the mobile app Interact, said he "pleasantly but persistently" bugged the TechCrunch crew to come to town to attract national exposure for some of the region's tech companies.

It worked, and TechCrunch will hold its free mini-meetup at the Field House, 1150 Filbert St., from 6 to 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Coombs expects more than 300 to attend, including appearances by sponsors (and tech firms) AppRenaissance L.L.C., an Old City mobile app developer; Monetate Inc., a Conshohocken online retail technology developer; OneTwoSee, a Center City interactive television technology developer; and the business incubators Novotorium and Seed Philly.

Contact Mike Armstrong at 215-854-2980, marmstrong@phillynews.com, or @PhillyInc on Twitter. Read his blog, "PhillyInc," at www.phillyinc.biz.

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