Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Zynga’s Mark Pincus Talks About Big Funding, “Offer Ad” Controversies and More!


Just days after selling $180 million in private stock to a group of investors, including Facebook funder Digital Sky Technologies of Russia, Zynga’s Mark Pincus came to visit the BoomTown Worldwide HQ for a video interview.

The San Franisco-based Zynga creates and distributes online games, including Mafia Wars and FarmVille, which are played on social networking sites like Facebook. It claims 60 million active daily users.

While playing, users can also buy virtual goods with real dollars.

Zynga took the pile of money, Pincus explained to me, so it would not have to do what everyone thought it was set to do soon: Go public.

But with 700 employees and a reported annual revenue “run rate” of $300 million, the fast-growing start-up needed more options, he added.

Thus, rather than selling out or going public, Pincus went for megafunding, a path similar to the one Facebook took.

Along with DST, which accounted for the majority of the funding, investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Tiger Global and Institutional Ventures Partners.

Previous investors in Zynga are Union Square Ventures, Clarium Capital, Foundry Group, Avalon Ventures, Pilot Group, Kleiner Perkins, along with personal investments from Silicon Valley players such as Reid Hoffman.

Pincus will need all that cash given that the arena is heating up and consolidating fast.

Playfish, a competitor, was recently snapped up by Electronic Arts (ERTS) for $275 million in cash and $125 million more in stock and earn-outs, for example.

This is not a fate Pincus says he wants for Zynga, instead insisting he would rather create a powerful and innovative standalone gaming company of the future.

Obviously, Zynga is the big shot at that prize for the longtime entrepreneur, whom I met way back when I was a reporter in Washington, D.C., in the early 1990s, when Pincus co-founded another start-up, called Freeloader.

In our interview, Pincus talks about the new infusion of cash, controversies around questionable “offer” advertisements that appeared on Zynga’s site and more.

Here’s the longish video:

And here is a video interview I did with Pincus, back in May of last year: