Bunch wants to make it easier for gamers to socialize. And to help it reach that goal, the startup has just raised $3.8 million in funding in a seed round led by London Venture Partners, with participation from Founders Fund, Betaworks, North Zone, Streamlined Ventures, 500 Startups, and others.
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Bunch co-founder and CEO Selcuk Atli told Crunchbase News that he came up with the idea for the company after exiting two others and then serving as a venture partner at 500 Startups.
“500 Startups gave me some seed money to explore some ideas within 500 Labs, so I recruited my two co-founders,” he said. The aim was to create an app that lets people play their “favorite games with friends over video chat,” per the company.
Atli was familiar with the gaming space, having launched an online gaming magazine at the tender age of 12 while growing up in Turkey.
“A lot of times when my friends and I had vacations, we’d take computers to each other’s homes and play video games together,” he recalled. “A lot of the fun in playing those games was the laughter and banter that went on.”
Fast forward to recent years and Atli had noted the growing popularity of apps such as Houseparty and Twitch, especially with younger users that wanted to go live with their friends “anytime, anywhere.”
Atli also saw the transition of gaming on mobile phones as well as tablets increasingly moving to “a live paradigm.”
“With the rise of live mobile games like Fortnite and Roblox, younger gamers are trading in the large screens of their PCs and consoles for smartphones so they can play with their friends anytime, anywhere,” he said. “The first time we played a simple game with friends on a video chat, we realized it was a unique experience. We could see friends even while playing on our phones. We thought it was awesome and stopped working on everything else. Now, we are building the chat application designed for them.”
The trio built out the technology over the summer of 2017 and spun out the San Francisco-based company in September 2017.
David Lau-Kee, general partner at London Venture Partners, said in a written statement that “popular mobile games are becoming live, and live games are coming to mobile devices.”
“With this massive shift happening, players need better experiences to connect with friends and play together,” he said. “Among the many companies we’ve seen tackling this problem, Selcuk and the team at Bunch have created, by far, the best user experience, and they have achieved great momentum with developer partners already. We are excited to be part of their journey and help Bunch scale.”
Bunch plans to use the new capital to provide a party functionality for before and after games, and not just during.
“We see in our data people tend to hang out twice as much as play games,” Atli told Crunchbase News.
It also is launching an Android version next month. Lastly, the now eight-person company will work on expanding its developer platform. Some of the largest game developers in the world are in the process of integrating Bunch’s technology into their platform but the only one they can currently name publicly is Spaceteam, according to Atli.
“We’re also going to ramp up partnerships,” he added. “To get us into all the best games possible as fast as possible.”
While I’m not necessarily a gamer myself, I have seen my own son FaceTiming his friend while playing Fortnite, so I personally can see how this might be appealing to gamers.