A small mobile game publishing start-up that was backed in part by Creative Artists Agency has been acquired in whole by the maker of what's been the most popular iPad app for the last week.
Hitcents' acquisition of Moonshark, announced Friday, is expected to lead to better collaboration between the talent agency and software programmers as they work on at least a dozen more celebrity-inspired apps, said Ed Mills, co-founder and chief financial officer of Hitcents.
The Bowling Green, Ky. company has been in the headlines since it launched Hanx Writer a week ago.
The brainchild of CAA client Tom Hanks, the app presents users with a digital typewriter that they can tap away on. It was the most downloaded app in 16 countries, including the U.S., the tracking firm App Annie said Thursday. Hanks, a self-professed lover of typewriters, wanted to create the experience of the old-fashioned tool without the bulky machinery. Users can sync the app with external keyboards and buy different faux typewriters through the app.
Hitcents reached a deal to build the app after Mills met a CAA agent at the Webby Awards. Mills' two sons started Hitcents in 1999, first building technology to load online ads. They later started building software for large companies. It's more recent focus has been on apps, including one for the band One Direction. Now, 38% of Hitcents' sales come from mobile apps, compared with 1% in 2011.
Two years ago, CAA and Qualcomm Inc. invested in and incubated Moonshark to act as a liaison between app makers and celebrities, such as singer Jennifer Lopez, comic book writer Stan Lee, author Neil Gaiman and hockey star Patrick Kane.
But as Moonshark, Hitcents and CAA worked on Hanx Writer, Mills realized that bringing the three-person start-up in-house would improve the relationship. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
"We've garnered a lot of expertise over the last couple of years," said Andrew Chan, who is transitioning from Moonshark's chief executive to Hitcents' vice president of business development. "How to structure these deals, how to make money in the apps, how to temper the expectations of talent and building relationships – all of that is the value-add we bring."
Chan, Mills and a growing team will continue to work out of CAA's headquarters in Century City. That base in Los Angeles will be key to landing more Hollywood partnerships, Mills said.
"There's nothing better than sitting across from each other in a conference room," he said.
And there are plenty of stars interested in making apps.
"They see what happened to Tom and Kim," Mills said, referring to the hit app Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.