The private equity firm founded by Walt Disney's nephew Roy is staking a big claim in the next generation of entertainment.
Shamrock Capital put up $30 million for acquiring and improving undervalued mobile apps — the leading gateway to the Internet for many consumers today.
It's up to veteran Los Angeles entrepreneur Clark Landry and former video game executive Michael Ritter to decide how to spend the funds. Their firm, Maple Media, has bought several undisclosed mobile apps already. They are generally looking at apps with thousands of users and some small amount of revenue. But the hope is that Ritter's experience, along with cost efficiencies gained through sharing services across apps, can boost the value of each app.
Some of the steps Ritter is undertaking are simple. Many game apps created by one person or a small team don't have tailored prices for virtual goods sold in their game to the various countries in which players reside. Buying a new life in a game might cost 99 cents in the U.S. but $1.42 in New Zealand. Adjusting the New Zealand price to a round number such as $1.50 can be enough to boost sales there. Lowering the price in poorer countries such as India can lead to more play.
"There's a lot of money going into advertising these apps, but the developers don't really have the expertise" making money and managing the apps after launching, Ritter said.
Maple Media is considering apps involved in gaming, productivity, entertainment, social media and more. Sometimes, they'll retain the creators of the app on Maple Media's development team.
The short-term goal is to end up with several million daily users across the Maple Media portfolio of apps. Hitting that threshold could lead to more lucrative deals with companies seeking to advertise in those apps. So far, Ritter says Maple Media has 500,000 daily users through acquisitions.
Ritter and Landry said they haven't settled on a plan for what happens if they successfully extract more sales, usage and life out of an app they buy. Would they sell it back to the creator or another company? Would they spin it off into a separate entity?
"I think we'll be opportunistic there," Landry said.
They'll also be able to ask Shamrock for more money at any time if, for example, they show that spending more on advertising can lead to a commensurate increase in sales on the app, he said. Last year, Shamrock put together a $700-million investment fund, which is contributing to Maple Media.
Double M Partners eyes new fund
Los Angeles venture capital firm Double M Partners has pooled about $18 million toward a target of $40 million for a new investment fund, according to a regulatory filing. Double M primarily invests in software companies, including those in advertising, retail, mobile gaming and communications. Most of the companies are in Southern California, with leading names such as Scopely and Tradesy.
Mark Mullen, the veteran investment banker who's managed Double M since its founding in 2012, declined to comment.
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