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Scopely Picks Up ‘Wheel of Fortune Slots’ and More Free-to-Play Games for $1 Billion
As major publishers bet big on free-to-play games, Sony Pictures Entertainment is taking a step back with the $1 billion sale of GSN Games to Scopely, one of Los Angeles' most valuable startups.
The cash-and-stock deal narrowly surpasses the total amount of funding that Scopely has raised to date ($998.5 million). Through the acquisition, Sony Pictures will become a minority shareholder in Scopely, and the startup will take control of mobile titles like "Wheel of Fortune Slots" and "Solitaire TriPeaks."
Culver City-based Scopely was valued at $3.4 billion about a year ago, according to Pitchbook.
"We hope to take what is already a strong business and accelerate it through our publishing and technology infrastructure, unlocking even more value," said Scopely chief revenue officer Tim O'Brien in a statement to press. "Through this acquisition, we will continue to cultivate a loyal player base as part of our mission to inspire play, every day."
Launched in 1999 as the online games site WorldWinner.com, a series of acquisitions eventually led to the creation of GSN Games, a subsidiary of Santa Monica-based Games Show Network — which itself became wholly owned by Sony Pictures after a series of yet more acquisitions.
The billion-dollar-deal follows Sony Pictures' sale of the WorldWinner brand to Game Taco, a San Francisco-based publisher, earlier this year.
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One of the largest influencer marketing companies, a Culver City-based startup that's helping Disney, AirBnB and Amazon build social media campaigns, is getting larger as demand for data on social media stars grows.
CreatorIQ, a marketing analytics company, is acquiring a similar company called Tribe Dynamics for roughly $70 million.
The cash and stock deal announced Sept. 21 comes less than a week after CreatorIQ raised $40 million to scale its operations and invest in fine-tuning the artificial intelligence systems it uses to get precise measurements of a brand's digital footprint.
Both companies use artificial intelligence to analyze market trends and gauge if marketing is working. As influencers become the default spokespeople for big-box brands, companies are shelling out to predict who's the best voice to sell specific products.
CreatorIQ CEO Igor Vaks
CreatorIQ CEO Igor Vaks said each company prioritizes measuring a different subset of influencer marketing campaigns, which is why combining them made sense.
San Francisco-based Tribe Dynamics tracks what co-founder Conor Begley calls "earned media," a term to describe advertising that the company doesn't pay for, like people flexing their Tesla on Instagram.
The car owner isn't paid by Tesla for the ad, but posting about it does usually benefit the brand anyway, and this sort of shadow advertising is a key metric in helping brands to truly determine how they're viewed online.
On the other hand, CreatorIQ focuses on paid interactions where brands enlist influencers to sell their products and prioritizes data on direct activations.
"The companies are very complementary. Together, this will enable us to give brands and agencies a 360-degree look at both paid and earned influencer marketing programs," Vaks said in an email.
Begley said the company was looking to raise funding but instead opted to take the buyout, because it'll give Tribe Dynamics access to areas of marketing intelligence it wasn't previously tracking, as well as support to grow.
Tribe Dynamics tracks the metrics of fashion and beauty campaigns, but it doesn't have a hold on other industries like automotive, publishing, entertainment and gaming.
Tribe Dynamics will operate under its existing brand, as will CreatorIQ, but going forward the teams will share technology and staff as they continue working remotely. The two have about 500 customers combined, Vaks noted. CreatorIQ's database of influencers is about 23 million strong.
"Looking at CreatorIQ, and specifically its position in the market, I believe that right now, it is the biggest both by revenue and by headcount," Begley said. "That was, frankly, part of the motivation, because as these things start to scale up, you get significant advantages around being number one… additional access to capital (and) better access to partnerships."
Grand View Research estimates the global influencer marketing industry this year is valued at $7.68 billion, and noted it expects the market to grow roughly 30% by 2028.
Begley argued that figure seems low and pointed to valuations of influencer-created brands that Tribe Dynamics tracks – like Kylie Jenner's Kylie Cosmetics, which was valued at $1.2 billion two years ago. Anastasia Beverly Hills, another influencer-helmed brand that Tribe Dynamics analyzes, was valued at $2.5 billion in 2018.
"If you actually think about the amount of value that's getting created by the businesses that are being counted," the overall industry valuation should be more, Begley posited. "I think it's actually much, much bigger… If you start to bake in the brands that these people are creating, it gets really big really fast."
CreatorIQ has raised roughly $80 million since its launch in 2014, and its biggest clients include Unilever, Disney and Sephora, which it'll add to Tribe Dynamics' growing portfolio of luxury retailers like Gucci, Coach and Dior and fast fashion brands like FashionNova and Gymshark.
Vaks said the deal gives CreatorIQ access to even more data, which positions it to become a more well-rounded player in the influencer analytics space.
"We're also looking forward to bringing Tribe's capabilities to a wider cross-section of industries like gaming and entertainment," Vaks said. "Influencer marketing measurement is something that will benefit every category, not just beauty and fashion."
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Sweetgreen CEO Walks Back Coronavirus Claims: 'The Words I Chose Were Insensitive'
In a new LinkedIn post, Sweetgreen co-founder and CEO Jonathan Neman walked back his earlier comments on the coronavirus a week after he proclaimed that "no vaccine nor mask will save us" from the pandemic.
"My intention was not to be discriminatory or to discount the importance of getting vaccinated and wearing masks to combat COVID-19," he said in the new post. "Wearing masks and getting vaccinated works to protect against COVID-19. Full stop."
Earlier, Neman claimed that "our best bet is to learn how to best live with [the virus] and focus on overall health vs preventing infection." His comments came as the Culver City salad chain gears up for an initial public offering.
The startup best known for selling $14 salads confirmed in June it confidentially filed for an IPO. Earlier this year the company was valued at $1.8 billion.
Neman wrote in the original post, "What if we made the food that is making us sick illegal? What if we taxed processed food and refined sugar to pay for the impact of the pandemic?"
The first post, which went up on Sept. 1, immediately attracted attention, with Motherboard first reporting on it and other media piling on.
In the latest post, Neman said in a near-apology that he intended to "start a conversation around the systemic healthcare issues in the country." The executive added, "Words matter and the words I chose were insensitive and oversimplified a very complex issue that is impacted by larger socioeconomic factors."
Neman reportedly stuck a different tone In an internal meeting with staff. The executive said he stands "behind the intent" of his earlier comments, and that the lesson he learned was to consult with his PR team, Motherboard reports. "We have a great team that could have helped craft that message in a way to not be so divisive and to be more effective," he said.
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