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As social games boom, Spark Capital hires former Zynga exec as first venture partner

Zynga’s rise to a social gaming juggernaut traded on the public markets—which now boasts a market cap roughly equal to long-established companies like Electronic Arts—highlights the rapid transformation of the gaming industry.

Boston’s Spark Capital, eager to tap the next wave of startups in that space, has added Nabeel Hyatt, a general manager who helped founded Zynga Boston, as their first venture partner.

Hyatt has a long history as a tech entrepreneur. He trained as a designer and engineer, and spent the early part of his career as vice president of product development for Ambient Devices, an MIT Media Lab startup creating glanceable technology, embedding Internet information in everyday objects such as light bulbs, mirrors, refrigerators and umbrellas to make the physical environment an interface to digital media.

Ambient was named in Ideas of the Year by The New York Times in 2002, and Hyatt was a nominee for the Top Innovators Under 30 by MIT Technology Review.

During the heady days of the dot-com boom, Nabeel was COO of Teamtalk, a publicly traded online sports content and technology company. He worked at the Cambridge based Conduit Labs, which started out making Flash based games for the web, and transitioned to building for the Facebook platform before being acquired by Zynga and becoming the centerpiece of their Boston operations.

“As you could imagine I thought about this decision rather carefully. I’ve been an entrepreneur as long as I’ve been anything, and I still have boundless energy to work in startups. For me it felt like time to see if I could shift my focus from building a single company to impacting the broader ecosystem,” Hyatt wrote on his blog. “Anyone who knows me knows I’m a deep believer in startup culture. Not the “startup scene” – who cares about that really – but the engine of learning, risk, and ownership culture that draws so many of us in. Thankfully that ecosystem feels really healthy right now, with more companies starting, and more angels supporting them, in those early days.”


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