Booyah $20 Million in the Black, Friended by Accel’s Jim Breyer



Booyah, the location-based game firm that’s big on virtual goods, is earning real-time fans–and backers. The Palo Alto startup, led by Keith Lee, has amassed a not-to-be-sniffed-at $20 million from Accel Partners, whose Jim Breyer now has a seat on the Booyah board. Should Foursquare and Gowalla be worried over Booyah? Hellyah.

The firm’s MyTown app, rather like the aforementioned location-based apps, is gaining 100,000 new users per week, and now boasts 2 million. That’s eight times as much as Gowalla, and almost twice as much as Foursquare, which is on 1.1 million. What has attracted the extra cash is this: MyTown has worked out how it’s going to make money, whereas its two, more established rivals will have to rely, it seems, on advertising.

Lee, typically, plays down the money aspect of MyTown, preferring instead to concentrate on his app’s users. “Six to 12 months from now, no one’s going to own the check-in,” he said, claiming that battling over this is merely “myopic…. What is going to be most important is how you create an experience that people are loyal to.”

This is how MyTown works: It’s two parts location-based game, one part Monopoly, and one part product placement/user discount, served with a large twist of Second Life. Accel’s Jim Breyer, who describes Lee as “a gifted and extraordinarily high-potential leader and entrepreneur” is on the board of Facebook–’cause isn’t Facebook trying to get into the location-based arena courtesy of Foursquare?

Some people in the industry are speculating that Jim Breyer may step back from Facebook to avoid a conflict of interest, if Zuckerberg does go location-based, although Lee is the first to rubbish this. “It only makes sense that we’d be working with Facebook and these larger guys. It was much more about our connection with Accel and the mentorship they could bring.”

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My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.