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Nolan Bushnell one of several contributors to Wonder's smartphone-console hybrid

Scott Stilphen

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Wonder raises $14 million for smartphone-console hybrid Former Zynga GM, Scopely exec's community-focused start-up draws investment from Nolan Bushnell, Shakira, Neymar Jr, and more


Nintendo's Switch has shown the audience exists for a console-handheld hybrid, but new start-up outfit Wonder wonders if there's a similar audience for another kind of mixed-market offering. The company today announced that it has raised $14 million in Series A financing for "a new type of portable hardware device that might be considered a hybrid between a powerful smartphone and a gaming console."

While Nintendo may aim for a broad audience with its products, Wonder is targeting an enthusiast crowd that considers gaming a strong part of their identity. Leading the effort is Wonder CEO and founder Andy Kleinman, whose previous experience in the industry included stints as Scopely's chief business officer, GM at Zynga, GM at The Walt Disney Company, and president of Vostu.

"We are building a company where everything we do revolves around our community," Kleinman said. "Most companies focus on the product first, but our focus has been on understanding our core potential audience and what they care about most. Once you can truly understand your audience, you can innovate and build products and services that are focused on making them happy for a long time. We all consider ourselves our core audience, so the approach is very real and authentic."

The lead investors are Grishin Robotics (investment firm of Mail.ru Group co-founder Dmitry Grishin) and Chinese telecom TCL Communications, but Wonder has also attracted smaller contributions from a number of notable names. The games industry is well represented in Wonder's investment base with the participation of Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, former Sega CEO Hayao Nakayama, ex-Disney Interactive president John Pleasants, and former Zynga/Facebook/MySpace exec Owen Van Natta. Outside of games, the company has attracted investment from football superstars Gerard Pique and Neymar Jr, Shakira, and former Coca-Cola marketing exec Emmanuel Seuge.

"There is strong potential for a gaming platform that would go beyond the software realm and expand its capabilities through innovative, cutting-edge hardware," Grishin said. "Grishin Robotics has an understanding of both - and we believe in investing in companies that not only have tremendous potential, but where our areas of expertise and experience can help our entrepreneurs in a meaningful way."

The company has said it will release details of its actual product soon.

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There really is just much going on in the modern gaming world.  I'm starting to get overwhelmed and bored at the same time.  Is that even possible?  I think I'll stick with trying to import a Famicom, Super Famicom, and PC Engine instead of wasting money and time on newer consoles that are not even here yet.  The only one I would save for so far is the Super NES Mini.  That's it.  I don't want to spend money on another FlashBack that is the same as what I can do on a PC with Stella.  The same with the Sega Flashbacks.  

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