Watercooler Fills Up With Second Round Of Funding

  • October 27, 2009
Sports application developer Watercooler has raised $5.5 million in a second round of funding led by British online betting site Betfair, the company said Monday. Existing investor Canaan Partners also participated in the round.

Founded in 2006, Mountain View, Calif.-based Watercooler operates online communities that connect fans around sports and TV entertainment, as well as fantasy sports games.

Watercooler says its platform -- which now includes hundreds of sports and TV-related fan apps on social networks -- presently reaches over 26 million users.

"We've already achieved fantastic momentum in the social gaming space on Facebook," said Kevin Chou, CEO of Watercooler. Chou said the company plans to use the funds to further develop its fantasy sports and social games on Facebook and other platforms.

The startup has so far developed several popular social games, including 2009 Bracket Challenge, which it says was the largest basketball tournament game on Facebook this year. In total, the Watercooler 2009 Bracket Challenge application on Facebook counted over 1.7 million active users.

It also recently launched a fantasy football game, FanSection Fantasy Football 2009, a commissioner-style fantasy football game available on Facebook.

In January, Betfair entered the US online gaming market when it bought TVG, a company that runs a large horse-race gambling site and television network, for $50 million.

"Betfair believes the fantasy sports market is a tremendous opportunity in the U.S. and around the world," said Gerard Cunningham, president of Betfair US.

There are an estimated 30 million people in North America playing fantasy sports and that market is predominately owned by three key players -- Yahoo, ESPN and CBS Sports. All three companies have solid products and large user bases, which makes it difficult for new companies to break into the mainstream.

Facebook, meanwhile, has nearly 30 million users playing social games monthly, while new fantasy platforms are also starting to mirror monetization models similar to other successful social games on Facebook such as Zynga and Playdom. --Gavin O'Malley

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