Technology

New venture funds, new game publishers among week's L.A. tech highlights

AMC Networks and Lionsgate were among existing investors that put a combined total of $10 million into Next Games, a Finnish game maker, the company announced last week.

Next Games has produced two mobile games: “The Walking Dead: No Man's Land,” based on the AMC show, and “Compass Point: West.” A third game is in the works, and the new cash will help pay for marketing for the first two and for speeding up development of the third.

The new investment comes on top of a previous round of about $8 million and highlights the deepening interest among Hollywood studios for extending their hits to new forms of entertainment. Smartphone games have become an easy choice because of affordable development costs and an incredibly broad potential audience.

Next Games said “The Walking Dead” has been downloaded about 10 million times since being released in October.

“Compass Point” went live nearly a year ago, but the company didn't release download figures for the Wild West frontier game.

Other investors include Finnish angel investor Jari Ovaskainen, IDG Ventures and Lowercase Capital.

Hardware start-ups: Make in LA, a Chatsworth mentorship program for small hardware companies, announced its second class.

The companies include Canviz, which produces a 22-inch wood-framed digital photo frame; Emerge, which is developing an unspecified communication tool that re-creates the sensation of touching someone; Luma Legacy, a digital bracelet maker; and Rufus Labs, which makes an Android-software-based smartwatch. The four companies were selected out of 112 applications, and they each receive $150,000 in capital.

Their run in the program will end with a showcase event June 28.

New fund No. 1: Los Angeles venture capital firm Susa Ventures is raising a second $25-million investment fund, according to a regulatory filing. Susa has invested in more than 35 start-ups using its initial fund, with cash left over to invest in more.

The group so far, which includes anonymous social media app Whisper as its only Los Angeles company, is mostly start-ups collecting vast amounts of data or building information analysis tools.

One of the four partners on the initial fund, Eva Ho, isn't listed on the latest filing. She declined to comment when asked if she'd still be involved.

New fund No. 2: Hong Kong-based Steamboat Ventures also is raising a new fund, this one for $100 million. Such a fund would be Steamboat’s sixth, according to regulatory filings. The venture capital fund, connected to Walt Disney Co., has an office in Burbank but also invests heavily in Asia.

Med money: SnapMD Inc. raised $5.3 million from Shea Ventures, TYLT Labs and Whittier Ventures to increase its sales workforce and develop additional telemedicine technology. The company’s software allows doctors and patients to connect over the Internet rather than in-office.

Elsewhere on the Web: Los Angeles-based Love Goodly is taking on companies such as Honest Co. by developing an online shop for beauty and wellness products that are free of toxic chemicals and other shunned ingredients, according to Forbes.

Investor and “Shark Tank” judge Chris Sacca defended the ABC reality TV show after another prominent California investor said it was a waste of time for entrepreneurs to go on it, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Seattle and Los Angeles appear to be the key hubs for virtual reality technology, an investor tells GeekWire.

Los Angeles gaming entertainment start-up 3BlackDot has struck a content partnership with film studio Legendary Entertainment, with the first project being a forthcoming movie, according to L.A. Business Journal

USC’s game design program will begin distributing and marketing student games to the broader public, but doesn’t expect to make a profit from the publishing push, according to Wired.

USC isn’t the only one getting in the game publishing business. GameStop announced last week it would become the exclusive bricks-and-mortar retailer for a new game from Burbank-based Insomniac Games, according to CNBC. GameStop will get a cut of online sales too. It’s part of an effort by GameStop to diversify as more game sales move online.

Cosmopolitan magazine editor-in-chief Joanna Coles became a board member at Snapchat in December, according to Women’s Wear Daily.

In case you missed it: Anyone can begin investing in start-ups more freely, regardless of wealth, under rules that went into effect last week. SpaceX held a hyperloop pod design competition for students across the world, and many big benefactors stepped up to fund teams.

Blizzard Entertainment’s Heroes of the Dorm video game tournament is returning to ESPN2. Snapchat-focused marketing company Naritiv raised $3 million. E-sports online team-building service FaceIt raised $15 million and opened an office in Santa Monica. Google has shipped 5 million Cardboard virtual reality viewers. Uber is tracking speeding drivers. And a look at the past, present and future of emojis.

Coming up: Investors and corporate executives are expected to gather at the Dolby Theatre on Thursday for the Upfront Summit. Upfront Ventures, the most active Southern California venture firm, hosts the annual event. It’s one of the conferences in L.A. that brings in tech investors from around the country. Thursday’s speakers include Fred Wilson of New York City-based Union Square Ventures, entrepreneur coach Steve Blank and former NBA star Magic Johnson.

Chat with me on Twitter @peard33

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