Smith & Tinker Raises Total of $29M, Looks to Merge Online Games with Collectible Toys

In one of the Seattle area’s biggest tech financings this year, Bellevue, WA-based Smith & Tinker has raised a total of $29 million in venture funding to deliver and market a hybrid game for kids that bridges the online and offline worlds. The latest funding round was led by new investor DCM, based in Silicon Valley, with existing investors Vulcan Capital, Foundry Group, Alsop Louie Partners, and Leo Capital Holdings also participating. The amount of new funding, which closed in July, was not announced—the $29 million also includes seed and first-round funding raised by the company since its inception in 2007.

Earlier this month, Smith & Tinker launched its flagship game, Nanovor—sort of a cross between a collectible card game (like the original Pokemon) and a massively multiplayer online game, only different. I recently visited co-founders Jordan Weisman and Joe Lawandus at company headquarters (pictured above), to see the Nanovor game up-close and to talk about the 50-person company’s intriguing strategy for marketing it in the U.S. and abroad.

“This is billed originally as a hybrid, across two $21 billion industries,” says Weisman, Smith & Tinker’s CEO. “It’s targeted for ages 6-12. The idea is to merge their online lives with their face-to-face lives.”

The industries he’s referring to are video games and traditional toys—and their respective market sizes in the U.S. If anyone can penetrate and bridge those ultra-competitive worlds, it’s probably Smith & Tinker. Weisman is a renowned entrepreneur in gaming, with a long record of founding successful companies including FASA, Virtual World Entertainment, WizKids, and 42 Entertainment. He came to Seattle when Microsoft bought FASA Interactive in 1999. Lawandus, for his part, was a former executive with Cranium, Disney, and Hasbro, so he knows a thing or two about product management, sales, and marketing for toys and games. Together, they seem to have their real and virtual bases covered.

“Our vision is something that takes the best of both of those worlds,” says Lawandus, Smith & Tinker’s president. “We’re reinventing play for the connected generation. We believe there’s nothing as cool to a kid as another kid in the room.”

It’s a noble concept, at a time when kids—and adults alike—seem to spend more time looking at screens than each other. Here’s how it works, in a nutshell: On a website, you choose and create … Next Page »

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