Every week, the team at Free Agency picks four recent startup financing announcements and tells you why they piqued our interest. Check them out:
The Last Gameboard raises $4M from TheVentureCity, SOSV, Riot Games, Conscience VC, Corner3 VC, and more.
What is it: It’s a 16x16 touchscreen device (rendered above) with a custom operating system that lets you play digital games with 3D touch, network play, and a full-on glass screen. It’s currently available for preorder.
Why is it notable:
- They claim and showcase 3D-touch technology that can reliably detect hand movements and physical pieces on and above the device. If the product lives up to the promise, it’s not just a tablet that lays flat — you’ll be able to use dice, cards, and figures on top of the board, enabling an attractive middle ground between the tactile feel of a board game and the convenience of a video game.
- It’s notable that Riot Games is an investor — you may know them as the developers behind some of the most popular games in the world, including League of Legends and Valorant. Riot is also owned by Tencent, the behemoth Chinese holding company that runs WeChat and QQ. They hold major equity positions in video game giants like Epic, Supercell, Activision Blizzard, and Ubisoft, and are investors in Discord, the major communication platform for gamers worldwide. Needless to say, they know gaming, and if they’re making this bet, they see something interesting on the table.
Minnow raises $2.2M from Branded Strategic Hospitality, Elevate Capital, Portland Seed Fund, and LPC Ventures.
What is it: Minnow makes connected, contact-free “Pickup Pods” that enable streamlined food delivery and pickup at residential and office buildings. Couriers scan a QR code to open a cubby, insert the food, and customers can retrieve it securely and at their convenience through an app.
- The idea of a dedicated food locker seems only obvious after the success of Amazon’s Locker program, enabling customers to pick up and return Amazon orders in secure drop boxes located in convenient locations (including Whole Foods). Because Minnow is dedicated to food, it has the added feature of insulation, keeping things warm or cold as needed.
- Sweetgreen has been a major innovator and proof point in this space with its Outpost program, enabling residential and office buildings to have a standard drop-off location at which lunch is delivered at the same time each day. Like Minnow, you don’t have to meet the courier. The improved logistics make for a more flexible experience and likely a significant reduction in cost for the food makers-and-movers.
Blind raises $37M from Mainstreet Investment, Cisco Investments, and Pavilion Capital.
What is it: Blind is the pseudonymous platform for professionals to discuss all things compensation, jobs, companies, and gossip. It’s a major go-to for tech professionals to ask about offers & salaries, discuss rumors inside their own companies, and share behind-the-curtain advice with other users.
Why is it notable:
- Platforms with anonymity at the core of their value proposition often struggle to survive past their sophomore phase. Look no further than the scandals surrounding attempts like Secret, Yik Yak, and Whisper. Blind has thus far avoided similar scrutiny about bullying and harassment, and in the meantime provided refuge for people to speak on issues they don’t feel comfortable discussing at work or directly with colleagues.
- Professional networks like Blind and Fishbowl ($31.8M raised) are part of a new class of contenders building novel social graphs focused on work. That makes them the likeliest teams capable of creating recruiting products that compete with LinkedIn, which has an overwhelmingly dominant position with its Recruiter product suite.
Metafy raises $5.5M from Forerunner Ventures, DCM, and Seven Seven Six.
What is it: Metafy is a marketplace that connects gamers to coaches, currently in the format of 1:1, private sessions that help people climb the ranks in competitive video games.
Why is it notable:
- Video games have undeniably taken on a more competitive bend in the past 10 years, with the rise of esports, online multiplayer as the primary feature rather than the add-on, and new modes like Battle Royale making it all about queueing up to compete and climb the leaderboard. Companies like Metafy are building the same basis for learning that already exists in traditional sports and skill-based games.
- Metafy joins what is a growing industry — estimated by some to already exceed $1 billion — with companies like GamerCoach, Gamer Sensei, and others meeting escalating demand as video games continue their dominance as the largest and fastest-growing entertainment category. This coaching market is yet another way for people to make money playing video games, proving all of our parents wrong about how close we got to the television as children.