Jawfish Games has snapped up $2.6 million, money that the fast-growing 7-month-old company will use to continue developing its online gaming tournament platform.
The Founders Fund, the venture capital firm led by former PayPal CEO Peter Thiel, participated in the round along with several undisclosed angel investors. The deal follows an $885,000 seed round that closed earlier this year, and it comes on the heels of Jawfish opening a new headquarters in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood.
Jawfish is led by computer scientist and former Netsys exec Phil Gordon, perhaps best known as a professional poker player and commentator. According to Gordon, Jawfish earlier this month landed a contract with “one of the biggest gaming companies in the world.” Gordon declined to name the company, though he said they plan to use Jawfish’s tournament back-end on their multiplayer games. He said other partnership opportunities are percolating.
“Everything is coming together at exactly the right time,” Gordon tells GeekWire. “We’ve got a great partnership in place; we have enough money to execute and we are ramping up very rapidly.”
In addition to putting real-time online gaming tournaments in place for other companies, Jawfish also is developing its own games. Its first, Word Rack, is a Facebook game that allows players to compete in real-time tournaments. A second game, whose title was not disclosed, is currently in the works.
What makes Jawfish unique?
While multiplayer games are growing in popularity, Gordon said that no one has built an online tournament platform that works at scale.
“The types of engineers that are required to do this at scale and handle hundreds of thousands of simultaneous users are not the types of engineers that gaming companies typically employ,” he said. “Our founding engineering team built a large portion of the services that ran Full Tilt Poker, and so they have done this at scale before, and they’ve done it again.”
Gordon boasts that the engagement and retention rates with Word Rack are triple the industry average. Asked why that is, he bluntly responds: “Real time tournaments are more fun than single player games.”
Gordon said they plan to announce several key hires in the gaming industry in the coming weeks. Jawfish currently employs 14 people, with plans to reach 20 folks in the coming weeks. As part of the new funding round, Gordon has relocated temporarily to the Seattle area, though he retains a home in Newport, Washington.
“It has been a pretty incredible ride so far, and it looks like it is straight up from here,” he said.
Previously on GeekWire: Poker pro Phil Gordon’s 6 steps to startup (and gambling) success