BigDoor Raises $5M Led by Foundry Group, Looks to Bring Game Mechanics to All the Web

Score another one for the “gamification” of websites. Seattle-based BigDoor Media said today it has raised $5 million in Series B funding led by new investor Foundry Group, the Boulder, CO-based venture firm co-founded by Brad Feld. Feld led his firm’s investment in this financing round, and is joining BigDoor’s board of directors.

What do techies mean when they talk about gamification? In BigDoor’s case, the company has developed a software platform that helps website publishers and developers build videogame-like mechanics into their sites and mobile applications. That means adding things like virtual currencies, virtual goods, points, badges, and leader boards—all with the goal of driving more people and visits to a website, and strengthening a company’s bond with its customers.

The idea is that by rewarding loyal consumers who contribute comments to a site, say, or upload content such as photos, websites can create “virtual economies” that to this point have been seen mostly in video games (Café World by Zynga) and game-like applications (Foursquare). What’s more, when people are more tightly connected to a site, the thinking goes, they are more likely to buy something from it.

It’s part of a growing trend that seems to be sweeping the tech startup and VC land. Some companies, like Seattle’s Bobber Interactive, are “gamifying” a particular niche sector like financial services for teens. Other companies, like BigDoor, are trying to become the general platform on which game-like mechanics get built across different kinds of websites. “There is big opportunity for gamification delivered as a platform. It’s especially interesting coming from a team so focused on the customer experience,” says Scott Dodson, a game design expert and co-founder of Bobber Interactive.

The deeper idea here is to add a layer of social competition to any given website. This is being tried by fan sites, humor blogs, user-generated content networks, and more traditional media sites. By spending more time on a site, individual consumers can earn rewards, like virtual gifts and access to premium content. “Users have a track record of what they’ve done. We all like to keep score, we like to know how we’re doing,” says Keith Smith, the co-founder and CEO of BigDoor.

Some of BigDoor’s early customers include BuddyTV and Cheezburger Network, a couple of popular Internet companies in Seattle. But already, some 40-odd Web publishers and developers are in the process of implementing BigDoor’s platform, or building applications on top of it, Smith says.

BigDoor previously raised more than $700,000 in seed funding from Seattle-based Founder’s Co-op and angel investors last year, Smith says. The company has a half-dozen employees, and is looking to double in size (or a little more) in the next couple of months. “BigDoor should become the standard platform used by companies to implement game mechanics,” said Foundry Group’s Feld … Next Page »

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