Serious Business, Inc., makers of popular Facebook social game Friends For Sale, has raised a $4 million Series A venture round from Lightspeed Venture Partners at an undisclosed “healthy double-digit” valuation. The investment will be announced by Lightspeed’s Jeremy Liew, who is becoming a board member, and Siqi Chen, co-founder of Serious Business, at this morning’s Games 2.0 panel at Web 2.0 Expo.
Along with SGN (through parent company Freewebs) and Zynga, Serious Business becomes the third Facebook game developer to raise a solid round of venture financing. As social gaming has proven its potential to keep users engaged on social networks more than almost all other applications, investors have taken notice. Friends For Sale alone has over 600,000 daily active users on Facebook.
Inside Facebook had the opportunity to speak with Siqi Chen, fellow co-founder Alex Le, and Jeremy Liew about the investment and vision for the company.
Inside Facebook: Siqi, what is your vision for Serious Business?
Siqi Chen: We’re building social games. While most games on social networks use the platforms merely for user acquisition, we’re more interested in creating original game play experiences native to the social networking environment.
If you know what you’re doing, building games that get distribution on social networks is not a problem. If you’re good at designing games, engagement is not a problem. And if you have a good team, monetization is not a problem.
Inside Facebook: Who’s on your team, and what were you doing before?
Siqi Chen: Right now, we’re just a small team of engineers. Friends For Sale was just built by me and Alex. Ryan Ferrier is our COO, and he’s handling all of our operations and biz dev. We’re just focused on scaling and building a world class engineering team.
Alex Le: We’ve hired 3 people in the last week – all Ruby developers. We’re building one of the, if not the, largest Ruby clusters in the world. We’re already profitable, and the investment is going to help us get a head start.
Siqi Chen: Before Friends For Sale, Alex and I built the Facebook game Mafia. It’s a very social game and perfect for the social networking world, but it wasn’t very viral, so we switched and built Friends For Sale instead.
Inside Facebook: So do you think of Serious Business as a developer or a publisher?
Alex Le: We don’t plan to help other games get distribution. The idea of being a publisher is a little outdated in this world.
Inside Facebook: Jeremy, you’ve been speaking about your interest in social games for quite a while now. What originally got you interested in Siqi and Alex?
Jeremy Liew: Siqi and Alex have created a native game mechanic for social networks. They have done a fantastic job of transferring the social context into the game mechanic. It’s not just about inviting 10 friends and getting X thousands of dollars, though that’s a component. They’ve also created viral mechanisms into the game play itself.
By taking advantage of people’s existing relationships – for example, wanting to own your girlfriend or your wife, being peeved that some random dude buys that person away from you, buying nicknames for people, and baking that into the core app – I think it’s interesting.
I think there’s plenty more where that came from with this team. They’re well positioned to take advantage of the digital goods economy. And the growth speaks for itself.