Palo Alto-based startup Booyah has announced it has secured $4.5 million in early financing from noted investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and will release its first product, a "playful life companion" for iPhone, this spring.
The funding is part of Kleiner's $100 million iFund, which specifically focuses on companies targeting the iPhone and iPod Touch. iPhone-exclusive publisher ngmoco, founded by former EA exec Neil Young, is also funded by the initiative.
Behind Booyah are three game industry veterans who most recently served in key lead roles on Diablo III
, but co-founding CEO Keith Lee told Gamasutra in a pre-announcement interview that the still-unannounced product is "not a game in the traditional sense."
Lee and fellow co-founders Brian Morrisroe, CCO, and Sam Christiansen, CTO, are hoping to use skills learned from tapping into player motivation on games like World of Warcraft
and Diablo III
to "create an innovative life companion, to allow you to unlock and pursue your passions."
Booyah hasn't yet explained what exactly the software is, but it is intended to work towards such lofty goals as to "catalyze mass action for causes and other activities."
"Imagine that you could play life by pursuing and sharing your passions," Lee said in a statement. "Booyah motivates you and others through a mobile companion, everywhere you go."
is one of the most played games of all time, so we've spent a lot of time understanding the internal motivators to play it or another activity, as well as the external factors like social recognition and community building. We wanted to take that and apply it to a new industry and a new audience -- a much broader audience."
The trio actually presented its concept to Blizzard before departing to form Booyah. Said Lee, "We left Blizzard on amazing terms. We're still in very close contact." Blizzard game design executive VP Rob Pardo now serves on Booyah's advisory board, alongside Nexon America VP of marketing for North America Min Kim.
Currently, the company has only 16 employees, but Lee says it's diverse. As well as claiming experience from Electronic Arts, Activision, LucasArts, and the social gaming world, members of Booyah's staff have "been a Buddhist monk, have dug archaeological digs in Peru, have explored new species of birds in Galapagos, and one person was an executive editor of Sunset magazine for more than a decade."
With the initial product release, which Lee calls a "kernel miniproduct...of what we want to build upon," he isn't discussing Booyah's long-term plans: "Our long term might focus on other platforms, but I can't comment on other products yet," he said.
"It's a little bit high-level," admits Lee of the company's still publicly-vague software concept, "but the way we're evolving this product is going to be revealed very quickly."