By Lizette Chapman
Striking a rare win in the male-dominated gaming sector, female-focused mobile gaming startup Nix Hydra Inc. has raised $5 million from Foundry Group to expand its hit game “Egg Baby” and launch new ones.
Co-founded in 2012 by former Yale classmates and startup vets Naomi Ladizinsky and Lina Chen, the Los Angeles-based startup is unapologetically focused on creating games by women and for women.
“This [mobile gaming] market is new, but so far we’ve seen a lot of repeats with the same ideas iterated on over and over again,” said Ms. Ladizinsky, referring to so-called runner, quest, battle and other genres. “It’s a tech dude’s perspective.”
To that end, Nix Hydra will use the fresh funding to build new games based on strong characters with complexity and consequences for irresponsibility, similar to “Egg Baby.”
The game launched last year, inspired by a school experiment entrusting students with a raw egg to experience the responsibilities of parenthood. The initial version of the game was rough, but it quickly gained favor among teenage girls and women despite no marketing.
With just one other employee to help, Ms. Ladizinsky and Ms. Chen scrambled to add more content and continue improving the game or risk losing momentum. The two had experience at startups–Ms. Li previously negotiated international mobile deals for streaming music startup Grooveshark Inc. while Ms. Ladizinsky directed, produced and edited digital content for gaming channel Machinima Inc.–but scaling a mobile game was new.
“We didn’t think it was going to be that popular,” said Ms. Chen of the game that has now been downloaded nine million times.
In “Egg Baby,” players each get an egg, which hatches into a unique gift-giving creature based on how the game-players wash, feed, tickle, dress, and otherwise interact with the eggs. Players like to show off the results of their work, with most new users finding the game because a friend shared their creature. If players forget to put their egg to bed or feed it, it dies.
Roughly 85% of players are women and most are under the age of 25, Ms. Chen said.
Raising the round happened fast and came following an introduction by the startup’s angel investors to Foundry Group.
“It was two phone calls and one in person,” said Ms. Chen of the 10-day process. “Foundry Group really got us.”
Nix Hydra expects to hire another 20 people during the next year, and it will use the funding to build a franchise around “Egg Baby” and launch two still-unnamed games.
Foundry Group led the Series A round with participation from Buddy Media co-founder Mike Lazerow and other individuals, at a valuation around $20 million.
Individual investors including Gyft Inc. co-founder Vinny Lingham, Mry Inc. co-founder Matt Britton and Riot Games investor Brad Schwartz previously invested around $600,000.
Write to Lizette Chapman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at@zettewil