Grantoo started as a game platform that enabled college students to play games and raise money for their education. But it never quite caught on, so the company has rebranded itself as Fuel. It has raised $3.5 million and is now focused on providing social multiplayer gaming for mobile-game developers.
The funding for the San Francisco company comes from Middle East Venture Partners and Rising Tide Fund. Mikhael Naayem, the founder of Fuel, told GamesBeat that the company hopes to offload the task of building a multiplayer platform from game developers so they can concentrate on making their games. Fuel believes it can help developers make more money by improving the engagement of users, which results in longer retention and better monetization.
“We want to create a seamless experience for the users,” Naayem said.
The company has brought on new executives, including Shrikant Latkar, the chief revenue officer of Fuel and former chief marketing officer at InMobi; Jeremy Nusser, the senior vice president of Fuel and former executive at Playspan; and Mike Upton, the executive producer at Fuel and former producer at Electronic Arts and Sega.
Grantoo was started in 2011 with its aforementioned focus on enabling college students to earn their tuition by playing games. About a year into that, the startup figured out it wasn’t getting enough traction.
“Before, it was not a very scalable opportunity,” said Naayem.
Naayem found that he was sharing a lot of mobile game experiences with friends but didn’t really have a good way to do it in a competitive way.
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“The solutions that were out there weren’t right for the best game developers,” Naayem said. “Games are immersive experiences. The second you take them out of that immersive world, people will be shocked. You don’t want to bolt on something that delivers a completely different experience for the users.”
Fuel competes with rivals such as Nextpeer and hopes to set itself apart by focusing on working with larger mobile-game publishers. Several big companies like Miniclip, Spry Fox, and Huuuge Games have chosen Fuel as their strategic partner for multiplayer, live events, and social experiences.
“Only a handful of mobile games have capitalized on the true, enormous potential offered by today’s smartphones — an always-on, connected device,” said Naayem. “By unleashing players’ social and competitive nature, free-to-play publishers can create a large segment of passionate gamers who play more frequently and play longer. Our vision is to enable developers to continuously delight their gamers through personalized experiences based on our deep insights into player behavior. I am very excited to be working with our top-notch investors and team members to bring this to life.”
The Fuel platform includes the PropellerSDK that enables developers to customize the multiplayer experience to suit their games. Naayem said that Miniclip was able to increase in-game sessions by 26.5 percent for the mobile game Rail Rush. It also increased in-app purchases by 5 percent. Meanwhile, Spry Fox was able to increase seven-day retention (the number of users who keeps playing a game beyond one week) by 2.26 times. It increased daily active users by 4 percent.
“Fuel has a very strategic position in the market as it is at the intersection of social and mobile gaming,” said Walid Hanna, the founder and managing partner of Middle East Venture Partners. “We are very excited for our partnership and strongly believe Fuel has great potential of high growth.”
Alan Price, former tech guru at Electronic Arts, is cofounder alongside Naayem.
“I have had the good fortune of being close to Fuel as it has grown from concept to reality,” said Tamer Hassanein, a general partner of Rising Tide Fund. “Under Alan and Mik’s leadership, the team has come together beautifully, and the product continues to blow away expectations of game developers and users alike.”
Fuel currently has 15 employees.