Scopely, considered by many to be one of the more promising up-and-coming companies in the LA startup ecosystem, is adding to its already impressive senior team. Already this year, the company has added former Zynga and Disney GM Andy Kleinman as its Chief Business Officer and former Viddy co-founder and head of business development Chris Ovitz as its VP of Business Development. Today the company announced the addition of former Zynga GM and Director of Product Reed Shaffner who is joining Scopely as VP of product. In the role he will oversee the Scopely Developer Network and its technology platform.
In addition to senior leadership, Scopely has been piling on developer partnerships, venture capital backing, and solid creative and engineering talent as it looks to build a dominant mobile and social game publishing, marketing, and monetization platform. Over the last two years, the company has built a proprietary technology platform to allow games to be developed in parallel across multiple mobile and social platforms and to manage marketing and analytics once the games are published.
The model has appeared successful, with Scopely’s a recent title, Bubble Galaxy With Buddies, becoming to the No. 1 free game on the iOS App store within its first five hours and crossing one million downloads within its first week. The company has seen similar success with its launch of its more recent Mini Golf Match Up title, and with the earlier releases in its Buddies franchise, which includes Dice and Jewels.
Prior to joining Scopely, Shaffner oversaw Zynga’s mobile platform and its With Friends Network. Before Zynga, he held senior roles at Microsoft, including Senior Product Manager for Microsoft’s Bing Social Search and Product Manager for Office. He has also held the title of Associate Partner at Ironfire Capital since January of this year, investing in mobile, big data, and cloud computing startups in the US and China. Shaffner is no stranger to Southern California either, having spent two years working in Zynga’s San Diego studio.
“I think you want to be in a place to provide developers with the tools to make amazing games that millions of people play,” Shaffner says. “Scopely has transformed the way people think about making mobile games. Now there are no more barriers to distribution and any developer can make a hit.
Scopely’s recruiting success has been one part a consequence of its rise in prominence within the LA startup and general gaming ecosystems, but another part a function of the irreverent culture that founders Walter Driver, Eytan Elbaz, Ankur Bulsara, and Eric Futoran have created. At one point, Scopely was grabbing headlines for offering new hires $10,000 signing bonuses wrapped in bacon. Later the offer morphed to $3,000 cash and a year of free BBQ to any refugees of the layoffs in Zyga’s Austin offices.
During another stage of the company’s growth, senior hires received custom painted portraits of themselves which are framed and hang ridiculously throughout the company’s office. And soon, the rapidly growing company will move from its undersized Hollywood offices to a new – and from what I hear, well-appointed – space in Culver City. The scenery upgrade and change of location should only enhance Driver and co’s ability to further build out their team.
“We have always attempted to add senior people who can be autonomous,” says CEO Walter Driver. “We have been looking to round out our senior product team for a while and have been hearing about Reed for a long time. The personality match has been great.”
Scopely is backed by $8.5 million in funding from Anthem Venture Partners, The Chernin Group, Greycroft Venture Partners, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), and Double M Capital, as well as several dozen prominent angel investors.
Some in the gaming industry question Scopely’s model of partnering with third-party publishers to distribute, market, and monetize their titles, suggesting that the margins are too thin to support the number of parties claiming a piece of the pie – Scopely, the third-party developer, and the platform (iOS, Android, or Facebook). Driver disputes this claim and argues that his model is the best way to create predictable and scalable success in what is typically an unpredictable hits-driven business. The CEO says his biggest challenge has been to grow his team to support the level of content creation and technological underpinning required to maintain these hits.
As the LA startup ecosystem matures, people both inside and outside the community are looking for winners to point to. Given its recent leadership buildout, it’s fair to say that many smart people have already placed Scopely on that pedestal. The company has plenty left to prove to deliver on its lofty expectations, but whatever the end result, it won’t be due to a shortage of talent.