March 10, 2011, 12:31 PM — The Finnish game company that brought the world Angry Birds is getting $42 million in venture financing.
Leading the funding round for Rovio Mobile are U.S. venture capital firm Accel Partners and London-based Atomico Ventures. Felicis Ventures also is kicking in some money as part of the financing deal.
For those of you who aren't among the 40 million monthly active users of Angry Birds, it's a cartoonish puzzle video game in which -- and I'm not making this up -- players use a slingshot to fire justifiably angry birds at thieving green pigs who stole their eggs. There are many more details, apparently, but does it really matter?
Rovio said in a press release that the money will allow the company to increase "its reach internationally, and across markets including mobile, social media and other platforms, and via merchandising and media production and partnerships."
Company co-founder and chief executive Mikael Hed, in a prepared statement, said, "Angry Birds will continue to grow, and we aim to create more similar success stories. We will strengthen the position of Rovio and continue building our franchises in gaming, merchandising and broadcast media."
Investors believe Rovio is well-suited to capitalize on the explosion of mobile devices.
“The proliferation of touchscreen smartphones and tablets has lead to a huge growth in demand for mobile entertainment,” said Rich Wong, Partner at Accel Partners. “These growth trends are changing the entire media field, and Rovio is perfectly positioned to drive this change. We believe this is just the beginning.”
Launched in December 2009 for Apple's iOS mobile operating system, Angry Birds has racked up 12 million sales from Apple's App Store. Versions also have been released for Google's Android mobile OS, Palm's WebOS, Nokia's Symbian^3, PSP/PlayStation 3, Windows and Mac OS X.
The game also has spawned a healthy business for Rovio licensing Angry Bird toys and even Halloween costumes.
Of course, figuring out what will catch on with the public is a mysterious art, and there's a chance Rovio will be unable to repeat the success of Angry Birds. However, Richard Wong of Accel Partners told the New York Times' Dealbook he's bullish on the company's prospects:
“Mario brothers started as a very specific arcade game and then moved across a lot of different platforms,” Mr. Wong said in an interview with DealBook on Thursday. “Once you have a huge audience, you can start to develop new pieces of intellectual property.”
Good point, though an initial big hit hardly guarantees you can do it again and again. It's like a movie franchise that counts on the popularity of the original to sustain sequels. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
As part of the deal, Niklas Zennstrom, who co-founded Internet VoIP company Skype and Atomico, will join Rovio’s board of directors.
Say what? Hey Rovio, if you read the Tech Business Today blog, you'd realize you don't have to put up with that. Venture capitalists are for pushing around these days, or at least for targeting with Angry Birds. Dance, VCs, dance!
Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.