Israel/California based Gizmoz, a veteran startup developing animated talking 3D avatars, had two major achievements yesterday. Gizmoz announced a pretty significant cash injection in a round B series and also integrated its avatars into AOL’s Instant Messanger (AIM), catering to a broader audience in the US.
The $6.5 million B round was led by DoCoMo Capital, a subsidiary of Japan’s largest cell phone operator – NTT DoCoMo. Previous investors Benchmark Capital and Columbia Capital also participated in the round, as well as ngi Capital, another Japan based fund. This round puts Gizmoz at $12.8 million of venture capital raised to date, including the previous round in May.
In the official press release, Gizmoz CEO and founder Eyal Gever said that this strategic investment will pave the road for Gizmoz to provide a variety of mobile services including web-to-mobile messaging, mobile-to-mobile messaging, and a various consumer applications like animated talking greetings, video tones, wallpapers, and screensavers. Interesting to note that 53.6 million Japanese use mobile phones to access the Internet, roughly 42 percent of the total population, according to comScore.
Eyal sees Asia, “a world-leader in mobile adoption”, as a key ingredient in Gizmoz’s mobile strategy:
“Gizmoz has enjoyed widespread adoption by consumers, advertisers and media partners over the last year, and with a number of exciting new products, programs and partnerships underway, the company is poised for significant expansion in 2008. As we move forward on a number of key initiatives, building cross platform synergies into our service is at the top of the list. To pursue our strategy, Asia will be key. This financing will play an important role in helping us develop unique offerings for this market.”
The integration of Gizmoz in AIM is also a major milestone. Through Gizmoz Expressions, users of America’s largest instant messaging client can now upload their own photos to create animated 3D avatars. Some chat abreviations like ttyl, brb are pre coded into the library, creating a cool animated effect in the chat window.
Founded in 2003, Gizmoz is based in Menlo Park, CA and Ramat Gan Israel.