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Jam City

bile game maker SGN renamed itself Jam City last week, seeking to inject more fun into its brand.

For a start-up that makes colorful matching and bubble-bursting games including Juice Jam and Panda Pop, SGN — short for Social Gaming Network — came off as a stodgy and dull, the Culver City company said.

“Put another way, we were a company with memorable products but a forgettable name,” Chris DeWolfe, the Myspace co-founder who runs  Jam City, said in a blog post. He and consultants considered 500 names over a year before deciding on Jam City.

The company says it has nearly 50 million monthly players and five titles among the 100 highest revenue-generating mobile games in the U.S. Sales, derived from purchases of extra features within the apps, are likely to climb as the company explores placing ads in games. Revenue is expected to top $400 million over the next year.

Jam City also has a developed a close relationship with 20th Century Fox. It has made games tied to the media properties “Book of Life” and “Family Guy,” with plans to work on a “Peanuts” title next, the company announced.

Foursquare opens sales office in Playa Vista

A Foursquare dashboard shows how an ad campaign is performing, including whether it's leading consumers to visit desired places.
A Foursquare dashboard shows how an ad campaign is performing, including whether it’s leading consumers to visit desired places. (Foursquare)

Local search company Foursquare is calling Los Angeles home for the first time as it tries to cut advertising and data deals with auto, consumer products and entertainment companies.

A sales and marketing team led by three new employees in Playa Vista will focus on teaching those industries about Foursquare’s ability to profile people’s physical movement and spot trends based on foot traffic, said Steven Rosenblatt, president of the New York City start-up.

The company has amassed a map of places, including restaurants, parks and shops, by allowing users to share their location with friends. It has recorded more than 10 billion digital check-ins at locations in about eight years.

The resulting data gets used not only in Yelp-like apps from Foursquare, but also thousands of other apps including Twitter, Uber and WeChat.

But Foursquare wants to help companies use much of the same data for advertising purposes or market research. The company says it can reach about 150 million devices on behalf of advertisers.

“We can target people based on historical profiles,” Rosenblatt said. “Do we see their phones in movie theaters often? Did we serve them an ad for a movie and did they go to a movie theater? We can prove we can drive awareness.”

The new offerings are selling well, but Foursquare faces competition from Facebook, Los Angeles’ Factual and others.

Workplace app Branch Messenger expands to Minneapolis

After a few weeks this summer working closely with Target executives and other mentors at a start-up boot camp in Minneapolis, workplace chat app Branch Messenger has no plans to leave the city.

The company will continue to be based out of the Idealab business incubation firm in Pasadena. But the decision to expand to Minneapolis demonstrates how the corporate programs for start-ups that have launched in recent years are starting to find their groove.

Branch Chief Executive Atif Siddiqi said the program at Target, run in tandem with the investment group Techstars, helped him focus in on a plan to target big customers.

In Minneapolis, Branch gets closer access to companies like Target, General Mills and Best Buy. And that’s essential for a start-up whose software enables employees within a retail location to swap shifts, plan schedules and talk to co-workers. Employees can use the app for free, but companies can purchase access to manage scheduling and identify trends.

Siddiqi said he hasn’t decided whether the company will raise venture capital funding or rely on sales to fund its expansion.

“We’re looking at all our options,” he said.

Tinder invests in social media app for women

Tinder Chief Executive Sean Rad and Vina founder Olivia June Poole.
Tinder Chief Executive Sean Rad and Vina founder Olivia June Poole. (Tinder)

Tinder has tried to push the idea that it’s an app for meeting new people — and not just people you want to date.

Although the app’s attachment to dating could be hard to shake off, Tinder the company is shaping up to be more.

Last week, the West Hollywood subsidiary of dating giant Match Group announced an investment in Vina, a social media service aimed at helping women find female friends. Tinder also launched Stacks, an app that brings the swiping gesture it popularized to polling friends about any topic.

Tinder said it plans to mentor Vina as the start-up expands worldwide and tries to keep up with fast user growth.

Partnering with a start-up co-founded by two women could polish’s Tinder public image, which was tarnished by a sexual harassment lawsuit from a former female employee that was later settled. People also complain about how Tinder’s emphasis on people’s looks objectifies women.

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