PlaySpan, run 12-year-old founder, gets $6.5M in venture capital

[Updated: The father, Karl, has responded to an inquiry. We've updated below. See comments too.]A Silicon Valley company co-founded by a 12-year-old has just raised $6.5 million in venture capital.

PlaySpan, based in Santa Clara, Calif. says it offers game publishers a technology that lets users make payments and shop for other items. It calls itself the first “publisher-sponsored in-game commerce network.”

Arjun Mehta, a 6th grader, says on his Web site that he is passionate about software that can make the game experience more “rewarding,” and that he started the company last year in his garage. He paid for it from earnings made from selling online game items he won from quests he fought.

This has got to be downright depressing for most budding entrepreneurs, most of whom strike out while pitching investors for funds, even in their 30s or 40s.

This is the second company led by a middle-schooler of south Asian heritage. In May we wrote about 13-year old founder and chief executive, Anshul Samar, who runs an educational gaming company.

The difference is that PlaySpan is making all the sounds of a traditional silicon valley company, right down to the slick web site and a press release manufactured by a PR firm that is barely decipherable. Mehta will probably learn to write his own press releases within a year. While the “company” section of the site profiles only Arjun, however, a closer look at the press release reveals that the actual CEO is Karl Mehta, which we presume is an older relative — so there’s adult supervision at least.

[Update: Rafat has some thoughts about this in comments below, suggesting this is a gimmick. We're awaiting response to questions we've posed to the company, and should note that the PR person who responded to us stressed that Arjun prefers email correspondence.]

[Update II: Arjun's father, Karl, responds: "Arjun does not work full-time on PlaySpan business. As a gamer he has a great deal of input in PlaySpan's product and technology, but his primary focus is on his academics and his mom doesn't want much media attention for him.... I am the Co-Founder and CEO and I run the company"]

New York based Easton Capital led the funding round, along with Silicon Valley based Menlo Ventures, South Korea based STIC International and Hong Kong based Novel TMT Ventures.

The release said the market for “in-game commerce” has surpassed $2 billion this year and continues its rapid growth as more publishers adopt micro-transaction based revenue models.

Shawn Carolan, of Menlo Ventures, has some experience with gaming, as a board member of virtual world game, IMVU. The young Mehta even knows how to pick his VCs.

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