Business Startups Venture

Brazil’s Newest Unicorn: Wildlife Studios Raises $60M Series A Led By Benchmark

Brazil has another new unicorn.

Wildlife Studios, a São Paulo-based mobile gaming company that claims to have over one billion players, this morning announced a $60 million Series A round of funding led by Benchmark.

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Notably, the nine-year-old company said in a statement that the investment gives it a valuation of $1.3 billion. According to Brazil Journal, the round makes Wildlife Studio “Brazil’s most valuable tech company with the widest global reach.”

In addition to San Francisco-based Benchmark, participants in the round include Bessemer Venture Partners; Javier Olivan, VP of growth at Facebook; Ric Elias, co-founder and CEO of Red Ventures; Micky Malka, partner at Ribbit Capital; Divesh Makan, partner at ICONIQ Capital; and Hugo Barra, former VP of VR at Facebook.

The round is also notable for a few reasons. One, a $60 million Series A is huge anywhere but particularly in an emerging startup scene such as Brazil’s. Secondly, becoming a unicorn at the A stage is not exactly typical. And while unicorns are not common in Brazil, they are popping up more regularly. (Check out this piece here about real estate startup QuintoAndar’s reaching that status in September). And thirdly, it is yet another example of a Latin American startup raising money from U.S.-based (and global) investors, which is becoming more common.

Growth

Founded by brothers Victor and Arthur Lazarte, Wildlife has grown to 500 employees spread out across offices in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Dublin, San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Orange County, California.

In a statement, Wildlife said it will use its new capital to “accelerate talent acquisition, further enhance game quality, as well as support new developers to bring games to market.” Specifically, CEO Victor Lazarte said the maker of popular mobile games Zooba and Tennis Clash (among others) will “significantly grow” its team as it scales its games globally to the tune of more than 800 employees by the end of 2020.

Wildlife Studios has launched more than 60 titles since 2011 and expects to reach 2 billion mobile game downloads by the end of 2019. The company operates on a “freemium” business model, notes Brazil Journal, meaning that (like Fortnite) it does not charge users to play but only to purchase things if they wish to accelerate progress.

Benchmark General Partner Peter Fenton, said the company is “well-positioned to take more than its fair share of the mobile gaming market.”

Brian Feinstein, a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, said it’s been “exciting” to watch Wildlife evolve “from a small studio with a single hit game to a global gaming studio with 60 successful titles.

Market context

Brazil has been the largest recipient of venture funding in an increasingly hot investment climate in Latin America. Earlier this year, we reported that venture funding in the region’s largest country exploded in 2018 to $1.3 billion, representing nearly two-thirds of all venture money raised in Latin America as a whole last year, according to LAVCA, the Association for Private Capital Investment in Latin America. That’s 52 percent more than the $859 million invested Brazil in 2017, and a staggering 369 percent increase from the $279 million raised in 2016, as you can see in the chart below:

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

 

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