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Mobcrush raises $11 million to get people watching others play mobile games

More than 100 million people flip on the Twitch app to watch videos of other people playing video games, devoting nearly two hours a day to the habit.

But they’re mostly watching "League of Legends,” “Call of Duty” and other computer or console games. That’s where Mobcrush and its new big-name investor see a gamble worth the risk.

Mobcrush, which moved into a bigger office in Santa Monica last week, announced Tuesday an investment of more than $11 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and several other venture capital funds. The haul adds to $4.9 million in funding announced in May.

Mobcrush’s app and website have the same functionality as Twitch, chiefly the ability to watch livestreams of gameplay and chat with fellow viewers. But the content is different. Mobcrush is focused on smartphone and tablet games such as “Vainglory,” “Boom Beach” and the pocket edition of “Minecraft.”

While mobile games are played by more people than traditional computer or console titles, the thirst to watch others play and compete in what's known as eSports is nowhere near as great. Screen-sharing mobile gameplay has been difficult, but now that Mobcrush has developed technology that simplifies the process, the big question is whether users will come.

“Do you believe the world of eSports will move to mobile? It’s early, but we have conviction that it will,” said Mike Abbott, a Kleiner general partner and now Mobcrush board member. Kleiner’s other recent Los Angeles investments include entertainment app Snapchat and online shopping service Tradesy.

Momentum is swinging in Mobcrush’s favor. Even before the new funding, it recruited top business development executives from Google, Apple and Microsoft. Mobcrush expects to use the new funds to hire engineers and designers. There are also plans for more marketing and game tournaments.

The giant in game-streaming technology -- Twitch -- also seems to be doing well in the year since Amazon.com Inc. paid $1 billion to acquire it. Twitch generates billions of dollars annually through ads and subscriptions, according to analyst estimates. The company plans to announce new features at a convention Sept. 25.

But Mobcrush backers aren’t concerned about competition from Twitch or YouTube at such an early point in the industry's development.

“Other platforms have their own space,” Mobcrush Chief Executive Royce Disini said. “Our DNA is in mobile.”

Reinvesting in Mobcrush as part of the latest funding were Raine Ventures, First Round Capital, Lowercase, Rincon Venture Partners, Crosscut Ventures and Advancit Capital.

Chat with me on Twitter @peard33

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