Big Dog Takes VC Bite

Earlier today, I was interrupted from my daily Madden ‘06 break by word that a Silicon Valley gaming publisher had received its first round of institutional funding. Since the company is run by Madden architect Scott Orr, it seemed appropriate that I put down my controller.

Now I know what some of you are thinking: “Ummm, didn’t Orr’s company [Sorrent] raise VC a while ago, rename itself Glu Mobile and just file for an IPO?” Or, if you’re my boss, you might be wondering why I take a daily Madden break…

Anyway, you would be correct about the Glu Mobile stuff, but that isn’t the company I’m talking about. Instead, Orr’s latest effort is called D2C Games (a.k.a. Big Dog Games), and is focused on casual games for a variety of platforms. It also is a licensed Sony publisher, and should have at least two games out by next holiday shopping season.

D2C was originally seeded with a $1 million angel round that included Jerry Newman, and was arranged by a fledgling firm called Rubicon Venture Partners. Rubicon now has ponied up $1.5 million for the Series A round, thus bringing the sorta grand total to $2.5 million.

Rubicon has a history with Orr, as one of its co-founders – Mark Wilson – was an initial backer of Sorrent/Glu, alongside angels Dick Kramlich (New Enterprise Associates) and Gil Amelio (Sienna Ventures). Both NEA and Sienna came in soon after as institutional backers, but Orr left in 2004. Wilson says that NEA would be a logical choice to lead a possible Series B round for D2C in six to eight months, but adds that Orr might just fund the company himself if the Glu Mobile IPO is a hit (he is the largest individual shareholder with a 5.8% stake).

Orr’s partner at D2C is former Electronic Arts colleague Bart Besseling, who would have become CTO of Sorrent had he not been contractually obligated to continue work on a Lord of the Rings project for EA.

D2C represents the first deal for Rubicon, which is in the process of raising between $30 million and $40 million for its inaugural fund. Wilson and partner Paul Sherer (who also holds posts with PodTech, GKM and Osprey Ventures) failed in their initial fundraising foray due to a lack of VC track record, and for a while relied on family trusts of folks like Jerry Newman. Wilson says it now has around $10 million in commitments from both the trusts and institutions, and soon may bring on former Charter Ventures pro Ravi Chiruvolu as its third partner.