Gamemaker Zeebo Raises Additional Capital in Major Strategy Change

8/31/11Follow @bvbigelow

San Diego-based Zeebo, founded in 2007 to build a business around a new wireless game console, apparently is making a significant change in its strategy, and has raised additional equity funding, according to a recent regulatory filing.

Zeebo discloses in the document submitted to the SEC that it’s raising $17 million in equity financing, but the company’s investors are not identified and it’s unclear if the $17 million represents just a $3.5 million extension of the $13.5 million the company raised in mid-2010—or if Zeebo has raised an additional $17 million in new money.

Zeebo was formed as the result of a partnership between Brazilian video-game company Tectoy S.A., and Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM), with the San Diego wireless chipmaker holding a minority stake, at least as of 2009.

When I called the Zeebo phone number listed on the form, I got the mobile phone of former Zeebo CEO John Rizzo, who says he left the company in February. He later joined Palo Alto, CA-based Jive Software as chief marketing officer. Qualcomm referred my query about the company’s financing to Zeebo’s new CEO, Mike Yuen, who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Mike Freeman of the San Diego Union-Tribune notes in a story this morning that Zeebo’s website shows the company is changing its strategy to focus on education, “with a reduced emphasis on gaming.” Critical comments posted beneath a story about Zeebo’s latest financing on the Gamasutra website suggest that the console maker wasn’t entirely successful in penetrating the video game markets in Brazil and Mexico.

Indeed, Zeebo’s website includes this statement: “As a result of the realignment, business and studio operations in Brazil and Mexico will be discontinued, and the current Zeebo system is no longer available for purchase in retail stores. Zeebo Inc. appreciates the tremendous support by customers in Brazil and Mexico who have enjoyed the system’s content and service offering. The product warranty, call center, and repair services will continue to be available for Zeebo customers.”

Zeebo’s website says the company now sees a vast opportunity to bring interactive education to emerging markets around the world, “with near-term operations and business interests centered on India.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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