Hidden City Games, worldwide distributor of Bella Sara™ trading cards and online world for girls, has raised $15 million in strategic venture capital from Rustic Canyon Partners and Trinity Ventures. The funds will be used to expand the Bella Sara website and for marketing and new product development.
“With more than 30 million trading cards sold worldwide and more than 1 million registered website users, Bella Sara is the first trading card game to capture the hearts and minds of girls,” said Michael Song, a partner at Rustic Canyon Partners, an $800 million venture fund focused on supporting early-stage technology companies. Mr. Song joins the Hidden City Games board of directors.
“As the online casual games market continues to demonstrate unprecedented growth, Bella Sara has a distinct advantage with 65,000 retail points of sale worldwide, all driving traffic to www.bellasara.com,” said Gus Tai, general partner at Trinity Ventures, which was one of the first institutional investors in Starbucks and which recently sold its portfolio company Photobucket, a web 2.0 darling, to News Corporation. “Peter Adkison understands how to build a global retail footprint, and we are bullish on his plans to leverage Bella Sara’s in-store presence to grow its registered-user base,” continued Mr. Tai, who joins Mr. Song on Hidden City’s board of directors.
Rustic Canyon Partners and Trinity Ventures also funded casual game publisher PlayFirst, Inc. and game publisher/developer Trion World Network.
Hidden City Games CEO Peter Adkison founded Wizards of the Coast in 1990 and built it to 2,000 employees before selling it to Hasbro in 1999 for nearly $500 million. While under Mr. Adkison’s leadership, Wizards of the Coast published two of the most successful trading card games of all time: P
Bella Sara trading cards are available throughout North America at Barnes & Noble, Blockbuster, Borders, Kmart, Target, Toys “R” Us and Wal-Mart stores, as well as at regional chains, booksellers, and toy, hobby and equestrian shops. Bella Sara trading cards feature self-esteem-boosting messages and fantastic, imaginative illustrations of horses inspired by both fantasy and nature. The most recent Bella Sara card sets, Northern Lights and Ancient Lights, also feature horses based on Norse, Celtic, Greek and Roman mythology. Each Bella Sara horse-themed trading card can be activated in a magical online world for girls at http://www.bellasara.com, a virtual playground that features horse grooming, jumping, and riding games, plus puzzles, coloring books, interactive storybooks and more.
Inspired by her daughter’s love for horses, Danish social worker Gitte Odder Braendgaard developed Bella Sara to encourage young girls to acknowledge and express their feelings rather than invest too much of their identities in their physical appearance. Since their U.S. debut last year, Bella Sara trading cards and online world for girls have received numerous awards from child development and parenting authorities, including the “Seal of Approval” from the National Parenting Center, the “Seal of Excellence” from Creative Child magazine, the “2007 Excellent Product” and “2007 Outstanding Product” designations from iParenting Media and the “Best Products — Spring 2007” award from Dr. Toy.
A runaway hit in its native Scandinavia and brought to the rest of the world by Hidden City Games, Bella Sara is one of the hottest new games for girls. Club Penguin, another virtual world for kids, was acquired by Disney for $350 million in cash with a possible additional $350 million earnout.
About Hidden City Games, Inc.
Hidden City Games, Inc., a venture-backed game publisher headquartered in Seattle, develops and markets tabletop and online games to interactively engage players and collectors of all ages. The company is best known as the exclusive licensor of Bella Sara, the inspirational, horse-themed trading cards and magical online world launched nationwide in the United States in March of 2007. Bella Sara, the most successful trading card product ever developed for girls, links to a safe, fun-filled virtual world for kids at www.bellasara.com. Founder and CEO Peter D. Adkison formerly founded Wizards of the Coast, Inc., which created the world’s first trading card game, Magic: The Gathering, and introduced the Pokemon trading card phenomenon to North America.
About Rustic Canyon Partners
With over $800 million under management, Rustic Canyon Partners invests in early-stage and middle-market companies positioned for strong growth. Rustic Canyon Partners typically invests in companies that capitalize on opportunities created by technology change, market evolution, regulatory shifts or other factors. To date, it has invested in a broad array of technology-driven companies in sectors such as digital media, clean technology, technology-enabled process out-sourcing, business and information services and wireless and wireline broadband. Rustic Canyon Partners has offices in Santa Monica, Silicon Valley and Seattle. For more information, visit www.rusticcanyon.com.
About Trinity Ventures
Trinity Ventures (http://www.trinityventures.com/), a 21-year veteran in the venture business with more than $1 billion under management, partners with exceptional entrepreneurs to build great companies. Trinity Ventures focuses on early-stage technology investment opportunities with a particular emphasis on the digital media, Internet services, mobility, security and software markets. Trinity has invested in well over 100 ventures, including such leading companies as Aruba Networks (NASDAQ: ARUN), Blue Nile (NASDAQ: NILE), Crescendo Communications, Extreme Networks (NASDAQ: EXTR), Forte Software, Illustra, LoopNet (NASDAQ: LOOP), Photobucket (acquired by News Corporation: NWS), Speedera Networks (acquired by Akamai Technologies: AKAM), Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) and Sygate Technologies (acquired by Symantec: SYMC).
© 2007 Hidden City Games, Inc. BELLA SARA is a trademark of conceptcard and used by Hidden City Games under license. HIDDEN CITY GAMES is a trademark of Hidden City Games, Inc., in the U.S.A. and elsewhere. www.hiddencitygames.com