Forget apps—with a fresh $2M in Series A funding, TreSensa is betting big on mobile web games
A Q&A with TreSensa co-founder and CEO Rob Grossberg. The New York City-based HTML5 development and distribution platform for mobile game makers last week announced that it has raised $2 million in Series A funding. Investors include Caribou Asset Management, Tremor Video co-founders Jason Glickman and Andrew Reis, American Media CEO David Pecker, and AdMeld founder Ben Barokas. It was founded in 2011 by Grossberg, CTO Rakesh Raju, and Vincent Obermeier, and previously raised $1.5 million in Seed funding.
SUB: Please describe TreSensa and your primary innovation.
Grossberg: TreSensa is a mobile web gaming development, distribution and monetization platform. We enable mobile game studios to distribute games across over 70 distribution endpoints, including mobile web game portals, media properties, social networks, native app stores, native apps, and carrier and browser app stores.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Grossberg: Our target market is mobile game developers and our end-users are mobile game consumers.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates TreSensa from the competition?
Grossberg: TreSensa’s biggest competition is the status quo; the perception that [the] iOS App Store and Google Play are the only viable distribution channels for mobile games. While TreSensa’s platform supports distribution to those stores, we differentiate ourselves from native development and distribution by extending the reach of games built or integrated with our platform to emerging distribution channels that have no cost-per-install or other costly marketing requirements. There are tens-of-millions of mobile game players per month available in the open mobile web, and TreSensa has built a platform to connect those players with native-quality mobile web gaming content. No marketing budget required.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve closed a Series A funding round. How much did you raise?
Grossberg: We raised $2 million in new funding and converted our $1.5 million Seed note into equity as part of this round.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Grossberg: We were somewhat insulated from the institutional funding landscape by virtue of having amazing Angel investors who funded our Seed round and then followed on to fund our A round. Overall, though, we didn’t see a ton of interest from the VC community in mobile web gaming, so from that lens it wasn’t a very hot market.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Grossberg: We acquired a creative and production team in San Francisco to support massive interest we are seeing from brands and agencies to build and distribute branded mobile web games. We are also building out our engineering and ops teams, currently looking for a PHP ninja and a QA/deployment engineer to help scale our distribution platform.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for TreSensa? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Grossberg: We believe that just as the web helped break down pre-existing content monopolies and became the democratizing force in opening up all sorts of content to the masses online, the mobile web will do the same thing for mobile devices. Our desire to make this happen is our inspiration.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Grossberg: Early on, we spent a lot of time speaking to game studios to understand the challenges of mobile game development and determine where we as a company could add value in the ecosystem. Focusing on supporting the content creators first was key for us. We realized very quickly that there was not much we could do for the game studios that would be impactful within the existing app stores, so we turned our sights on being an early pioneer of mobile web gaming. We have not looked back since.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Grossberg: When we were brainstorming names for the company in early-2011, we kept talking about cross-platform and how to ease the flow of content across multiple channels, including smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers. TreSensa means ‘three views’ in Latin. TreSensa games are supported through a single code base on smartphones, tablets and computers. The three views concept seemed like a good metaphor, the trademark looked clear and the URL was available. Done!
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Grossberg: Yes. We are looking to add a few strategic partners to our A round in the coming months.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Grossberg: TreSensa is helping to grow the mobile web as a brand new market for mobile games. In building the company there are elements of the business that are within our control and those that are not. The biggest challenge to date has been dealing with the elements we cannot control, namely how to best time our product offerings to match the market demand for mobile web gaming. The market has been growing, but not always at the pace we would like.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Grossberg: TreSensa has two main sources of revenue. First, for all games built on or integrated with our platform, TreSensa supplies advertising and in-game purchase support, and takes its share of all such game transactions for games we distribute. Second, we have seen a surge in interest in mobile web games from some major brands and media companies like Progressive Insurance, HBO, Nickelodeon, and WWE, and we have generated a revenue stream through game development and distribution services for these brands.
SUB: What are your goals for TreSensa over the next year or so?
Grossberg: We want to be the world’s leading mobile web game company. We plan to do that by providing the best, most advanced mobile web game technology, distribution, and monetization services for game studios, and supplying the best set of engaging game content to our distribution partners.