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Hiro Capital invests $6.4M in Twin Suns and FRVR game startups

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Hiro Capital invests $6.4M in Twin Suns and FRVR game startups

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Hiro Capital has led investments totaling $6.4 million in Twin Suns and FRVR. They’re both part of Hiro Capital’s push to invest in a variety of game studios.

Seattle-based triple-A game studio Twin Suns gets part of that money, and Lisbon, Portugal-based FRVR, a maker of a platform for instant games, gets the rest.

London-based Hiro Capital, named after the protagonist in the novel Snow Crash, is investing in game creators across video games, esports, gamified fitness, and the metaverse (the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One). It was founded by former Eidos chairman Ian Livingstone and Luke Alvarez. Livingstone spoke at our GamesBeat Summit: Into the Metaverse event in January.

Hiro Capital has also funded teams such as Polyarc (Seattle), Snowprint (Stockholm/Berlin), Lightfox (Seattle), Double Loop Games (San Francisco), Flavourworks (London), and Happy Volcano (Belgium). It has also funded companies in games streaming and gamified fitness, including LIV.tv (Prague), FitXR (London), Zwift, and Nurvv (London).

Twin Suns

Above: Hiro Capital has invested in Twin Suns.

Image Credit: Twin Suns

Twin Suns is a new game studio founded by Tim Longo, Forest Swartout Large, and Jeff Morris. Longo worked on games such as Star Wars: Republic Commando, Halo, and Tomb Raider; Swartout Large worked on Hitman and Tomb Braider; and Morris worked on Gears of War and Unreal Tournament. They have more than 20 years experience in games.

They’re building an unannounced triple-A cross-platform title that will debut with an original game franchise. The team has 13 people and plans on hiring more people over the summer. Those team members will be revealed later, but they have experience in games such as Star Wars, Tomb Raider, Hitman, Halo, Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Gears of War, Unreal Tournament, and Avengers.

“I had the pleasure of working with Tim Longo on the Tomb Raider reboot before he went on to become Creative Director at 343 Industries to develop Halo 5,” said Ian Livingstone, cofounder of Hiro Capital, in a statement. “Tim is hugely talented and has assembled a fantastic team at Twin Suns. We are delighted to be partnering with Tim and his team and are incredibly excited by the potential of their creative vision and their ability to develop groundbreaking new titles in the triple-A space.”

Ed Fries’ 1UP Ventures also participated in the funding for Twin Suns. Longo, who is CEO of Twin Suns, said in a statement that the team will make “amazing action games.”

FRVR

hiro capital 2

Above: Hiro Capital has invested in FRVR and Twin Suns.

Image Credit: Hiro Capital

FRVR is an instant games ecosystem platform powering frictionless gameplay on any device, and it claims to have already reached a billion players. It was founded by Chris Benjaminsen (formerly of Yahoo and PlayerScale)) and Brian Meidell (formerly of Cape and GameAnalytics). The company has been in business for five years and it has a team of 45 people. It has revenue coming in from games like FRVR Basketball and it is profitable.

FRVR has signed partnerships that could put their tech and games onto billions of devices. Luke Alvarez, cofounder of Hiro Capital, said in a statement that the founders have but a scaleable and inherently social platform.

FRVR has developed an instant games technology platform that allows universal publishing of games on any platform, application, or device, bringing the games to the players, anywhere they are already spending their time. Using frictionless technology to deliver a smooth experience, players can join games right away from inside their favorite social apps.

Other investors in FRVR include David Helgason (founder of Unity), Accel, Makers Fund, and other investors.

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Incorta nabs $120M to power business data analytics

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Incorta

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Incorta, an analytics platform designed to speed up data ingestion, this week announced that it raised $120 million in funding contributed by Prysm Capital, with participation from National Grid Ventures, GV, Kleiner Perkins, M12, Sorenson Capital, Telstra Ventures, Ron Wohl, and Silicon Valley Bank (in the form of a credit facility). CEO Scott Jones says that the capital, which brings Incorta’s total raised to $195 million, will be used to expand go-to-market operations and meet demand for Incorta’s analytics products.

According to a recent IDC study, 70% of CEOs acknowledge that their organization needs to become more data-driven, with 87% saying that becoming more agile and integrated is a top priority over the next five years. Meanwhile, new research from Ventana Research highlights where companies struggle most with data analytics. Fifty-five percent of organizations report that the most time-consuming task in analytics is preparing the data. According to Ventana, 25% of organizations combine more than 20 data sources in their data preparation activities and 39% uses more than 104.

Incorta, which was founded in 2014 by Oracle veterans Hichem Sellami, Klaus Fabian, Matthew Halliday, and Osama Elkady, offers a solution that aims to help companies to acquire, enrich, analyze, and act upon business data. It can make upwards of tens of billions of rows of data “analytics-ready” without the need to pre-aggregate, reshape or transform the data in any way, connecting to enterprise apps, data streams, and data files via over 240 integrations.

Above: Incorta’s management dashboard.

Image Credit: Incorta

“The unprecedented events of the past year highlight the importance of modern data analytics in today’s business environment — platforms and tools like Incorta that deliver data to users directly without costly systems and processes like data warehousing … severely limiting speed and agility,” Jones said in a press release. “After hitting a major inflection point in 2020, Incorta is now scaling fast to meet global demand for modern data analytics in the cloud.”

Data transformation

Ninety-five percent of businesses cite the need to manage unstructured data as a problem for their business. Problematically, 80% to 90% of the data companies generate today is unstructured, according to CIO.

Incorta addresses this by offering an enriched metadata map combined with smart query routing. The result is a repository for analytics and machine learning — one that can be run on-premises, hosted by a cloud provider, or delivered as a fully-managed cloud service. Incorta can run as a complete standalone data and analytics pipeline or as a component within a larger analytics and business intelligence tech portfolio, depending on an organization’s data analytics needs.

“Companies have an increasing need to gain insight and make decisions from data with speed and agility, and Incorta provides this mission-critical solution with a differentiated offering,” Muhammad Mian, cofounder and partner at Prysm Capital, said in a statement. “Prysm is excited to partner with an exceptional management team to support the growth of a product that is at the intersection of attractive long-term trends: the explosion of data, digital and cloud transformation, and business intelligence modernization.”

Incorta’s latest round of fundraising, a series D, comes after a year in which nearly 60% of the company’s new revenue came from organic expansion with existing customers across media and entertainment, social, high tech, ecommerce, and retail markets. Incorta recently launched Incorta Mobile, a data analytics experience for mobile devices, as well as partnerships with Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, eCapital, and and Tableau. And it established a footprint North America, the Middle East, U.K., and Japan.

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Magic: The Gathering’s Adventures in the Forgotten Realms delves into Dungeons

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Magic: The Gathering's Adventures in the Forgotten Realms delves into Dungeons

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I once feared Magic: The Gathering would kill Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast ended up saving it, and now, the granddaddy of trading card games is heading to the Forgotten Realms of Faerûn — and its Dungeons.

Today, Wizards of the Coast is showing off more cards from the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set, which launches July 8 on Magic: The Gathering — Arena and July 23 in paper. In addition to bringing the likes of Drizzt Do’Urden, Tiamat, and Lolth the Spider Queen to Magic, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms introduces Dungeons to the card game.

Senior game designer James Wyatt (who also worked on two of my favorite D&D books, the 3rd Edition City of the Spider Queen and Draconomicon) and worldbuilding designer Meris Mullaley showed off a handful of the set’s cards to the press last week. And the three Dungeons and their Venture mechanic showed how the Magic team is approaching fitting Realmslore into the set.

Dungeon delving

Above: The dungeons of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

The Dungeons are adaptations of existing D&D modules and campaigns that have appeared in 5th Edition (among others):

“Whenever you have a card that tells you to Venture into the Dungeon, what you do is you pick one of these Dungeons, and you put a marker at the very top room. And every time you Venture, then you can move down a level — farther into the Dungeon — by one room,” Wyatt said in a video briefing.

Each player has their own Dungeons, so they could be exploring the Lost Mine of Phandelver at the same time (so, two people could be doing so in a 1-on-1 game, or three of four players could be in a Commander match). You can have one, two, or all three active at once. When you Venture, you could either go deeper into one or begin exploring another.

These Dungeons offer choices. You choose which one you want to delve into and which path you take. The Tomb of Annihilation has you sacrificing cards, artifacts, and life to gain a horrific benefit (which fits the theme of the lich Acererak’s deathtrap). I also find adding this dungeon interesting because Acererak was a card in Spellfire, which was D&D‘s failed answer to Magic back in the 1990s.

Halaster’s dungeon gives you more choices, but it takes longer to get through it (as befits the numerous levels of Undermountain).

“If you choose Dungeon of the Mad Mage, you’re really in this dungeon for a long time exploring the holes of Undermountain,” Wyatt said. “You need seven Ventures to get all the way through, but you have lots of choices to make as you go along the way.”

Dungeons are a neat way to capture the flavor of D&D within Magic. Undermountain has been a mainstay of the Realms since The Ruins of Undermountain boxed set in 1991; since then, TSR or Wizards of the Coast has published several campaign sets, adventures, game books, and even a board game about these halls.

The Magic team is using its existing combination of creatures, artifacts, and spells to take advantage of these Dungeons.

FR Venture Dungeon cards

Above: These cards work with Dungeons, giving you benefits or helping you get through them.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

“There are a variety of cards that interact with Venture in interesting ways, including all the way down to Common [rarity] with things like Shortcut Seeker, hitting that classic trope of ‘look, there’s a trapdoor under the rug,’” Wyatt said. “Venture is a strong theme across all rarities, so there’s lots of opportunity for players to experience the thrill of exploring Dungeons.”

I asked if the Dungeons had special loot attached to them, such as a Sphere of Annihilation for the Tomb of Annihilation. A Wizards spokesperson on the call said we’d have to wait and see on that.

Give me land, lots of land

Another way to capture the flavor of the Forgotten Realms is with lands. The Basic lands all have some art or text reference to Faerûn, even if it’s not obvious at first glance.

What’s really interesting are some of the alternate land cards. One example is Evolving Wilds, a Magic staple. This treatment captures the style of classic D&D modules such as The Keep on the Borderlands (it even has the lavender-ish coloring).

FR lands

Above: The Basic lands reference the Realms in their art and their text.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

The set will have nine of these lands, eight of them with new names.

“We’re calling this the Classic Module land frame. These are borderless module lands featuring art that is reminiscent of the cover art from classic Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules,” Mullaley said. “They’re all lands. There’s nine of them. This one is Evolving Wilds, but the other lands are new, with names that were created to sound like adventures.”

Seeing some of the Basic lands did raise a concern. The Forest doesn’t scream Forgotten Realms to me, and the text doesn’t add any flavor; it looks like it could fit into any other Magic set.

“We did a full concept push for this set, like we do for any Magic set. Obviously there’s already a ton of art exploring what the Forgotten Realms looks like. There’s not necessarily a ton of of art or color art establishing the look of specific geographical regions like the Evermoors, or the Spine of the World, or the High Forest,” Wyatt said. “So all of these lands — almost all of these lands — do actually point to specific places that we developed in the world guide, though I think that forest right there is an example of elven architecture, rather than a specific place, so that was also one of the areas we explored in the world guide.

“If I’m remembering right, the cycles of lands include one of each land type in the Underdark, one that shows a settlement of various peoples of the Realms, one that is just a wilderness area, and one that includes some ruins of ancient civilizations. So there’s definitely a lot of Realms flavor, sometimes not obvious in there, but in there.”

Who’s the set for?

FR card treatments

Above: Card treatments for Adventures in the Forgotten Realms include borderless art cards, special art cards that look like D&D stat blocks, and illustrations that hark back to 1st and 2nd Edition styles.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

As Mullaley and Wyatt showed off this batch of cards, I wondered (as did others on the briefing) who this set was for. Is it for Magic players, enticing them into something new? Is it for Realms fans who Wizards wants to push into Magic? Or folks like me, who enjoy both of Wizards’ big properties?

“I think that for someone who is familiar with Magic and not familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, it will be like encountering a completely new plane that we’ve created for the first time for a Magic set,” Mullaley said. “It’s for Standard play, so it’s built to work with all of the other sets in Standard. And while we created a few new mechanics that were kind of inspired by Dungeons & Dragons play for this set, for the most part, it plays like a Magic set, and it’s got the creature types you’ve come to expect and be the Standard exciting Magic gameplay, and the flavor of the world happens to be Dungeons & Dragons.

“So we’re hoping that, as you’re playing this, what might be a deep cut reference for a friend of yours might be something that sparks a bit of curiosity for you.”

One card that worries me is a Legendary character, the Dragonborn knight Nadaar, Selfless Paladin. They’re a character created for this set. But why would you need to make characters when you have official material going back to the “Grey Box” set of 1987 and Realms fans want characters they’ve come to love over the years, such as The Simbul, the dastardly wizard Manshoon, or even gods such as Bhaal?

“Hopefully, we can do both,” Wyatt said on mixing known and new characters together. “We have a lot of goals, putting Legends into a set, including hitting nostalgia, but also hitting various diversity milestones, trying to make sure that that we’re reflecting our audience and the game as it is now, not as it was 25 years ago. So, yeah, we definitely trying to do both.”

Yesterday, Magic head designer Mark Rosewater posted a blog with a number of hints and teases that addresses my concerns. These include:

  • a Legendary creature that makes a Legendary Hamster creature token (this must be Minsc & Boo, the beloved duo from the Baldur’s Gate games)
  • a card that creates a Legendary creature token named Vecna (while Vecna is more associated with Greyhawk than the Realms, the lich is a popular figure in the D&D community and was part of Critical Role’s story)
  • a creature with a death trigger that makes an equipment token (this could be a Gelatinous Cube, with the remains of an adventurer inside it)
  • Spend this mana only to cast Dragon spells or activate abilities of Dragons (this could be from an Orb of Dragonkind)
  • Creature — Bird Bear (this must be an Owlbear)
  • Creature — Elf Spider (this must be a Drider, the drow that Lolth curses to be part elf, part spider, and all horror)
  • Legendary Creature — Devil God (this must be Asmodeus, who’s been playing with the Realms for some time now)
  • Legendary Creature — Beholder

Also yesterday, Wizards of the Coast put out a list of folks who will have card previews and the date they’re showing them off.

GamesBeat

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

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Tonkean raises $50M to expand its workflow automation platform

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Tonkean

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Tonkean, a software startup developing a no-code workflow automation platform, today announced that it nabbed $50 million in a series B round led by Accel with participation from Lightspeed Ventures and Foundation Capital. CEO Sagi Eliyahu says that the proceeds will be put toward scaling up the company’s hiring efforts across engineering and go-to-market teams.

San Francisco, California-based Tonkean was founded in 2015 by Eliyahu and Offir Talmor. At age 18, Eliyahu and Talmor met in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), where they spent four years working on software technologies and challenges. Before founding Tonkean, Eliyahu was the VP of engineering at Jive Software, but many of Tonkean’s R&D early hires in Israel came from Eliyahu’s and Talmor’s IDF unit.

Eliyahu argues that the value proposition of Tonkean’s platform is twofold. It gives businesses and teams within those businesses the ability to tailor workflows to systems, employees, and processes. At the same time, it solves challenges in a way that doesn’t require many customizations.

“As [Jive] scaled, [we] encountered problems that large businesses often see as inevitable: a tech stack that balloons to include hundreds if not thousands of applications and inefficiency that ran rampant throughout the organization,” Eliyahu told VentureBeat via email. “Tonkean was built to solve the fundamental challenges of enterprise software to allow department and operational experts to actually deliver software with the flexibility to streamline business processes without introducing yet more apps.”

Workflow automation

Tonkean’s workflow designer features adaptive modules that can be added or removed in a drag-and-drop fashion. Customers can use it to proactively reach out and follow people via email, Slack, or Microsoft Teams to deliver data and actions to them or to keep track and manage performance across processes, people, and systems. Moreover, they can automate manual steps such as triaging finance requests, routing items to team members, and chasing status updates. Or they can dive into live details of individual jobs and see aggregate views of metrics and KPIs like turnaround time, turnover rate, and cycle times for tasks.

“In many cases, Tonkean is reducing the need for internal custom development by IT and business technology teams or the need to purchase multiple packaged solutions to support needs from various business units,” Eliyahu said. “Tonkean operates at the cross-section of automation platforms like robotic process automation, integration platform as a service, and business process automation, often replacing but also often extending the value of these platforms by allowing enterprises to orchestrate more complex, human-centric processes and reducing the technical skill sets needed to leverage capabilities provided by technology platforms.”

Above: A screenshot of Tonkean’s workflow automation platform.

Image Credit: Tonkean

Tonkean says it already has “a few dozen” customers, mostly at the Fortune 1000 level — including Grubhub and Crypto.com.

“Tonkean’s AI-powered coordination engine can intelligently and proactively reach people by learning individual or team preferences, like what communication medium is preferred, and route alerts, data, or actions to the right place at the right time,” Eliyahu said. “Tonkean is the operating system for business operations, and as such can be used to deliver use cases in any business operations function including revenue operations, legal operations, HR operations, finance operations, IT operations, and more.”

Tonkean has raised $81 million in venture capital to date with this latest funding round, which also had contributions from Zoom CEO Eric Yuan, Atlassian co-CEO Scott Farquhar, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and executives from UiPath. The company, which has over 60 employees, plans to expand the size of its workforce to over 100 within the next year.

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