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Kabam CEO Recounts What a Total Pain in the Ass It Was to Get $120 Million Investment from Alibaba

Holy smokes, that's a lot of money.


You think it's hard to cage a hundred bucks off your parents, even though you'll totally pay them back just as soon as you get your next paycheck. That's nothing. Imagine trying to squeeze $120 million out of newly-public Chinese internet giant Alibaba. That's what Kabam CEO Kevin Chou had to do over the past several months as he worked to stitch together a deal that would allow the SoMa mobile game maker to crack the Chinese market.

The time you may have heard of Kabam it was when they ponied up big bucks to plaster their name on the field of Cal's Memorial Stadium. We remember thinking at the time it was good for them, but worrying that it might look like the Zynga Field or—worse— in a few years. Well, maybe that concern was overblown. After all, the internet giant du jour, Alibaba, sure seems to think these Cal boys are worth something. $120 million somethings.

Chou lays out the story behind the big investment in a post on Linkedin today. What's the secret? Meetings. Lots of meetings. More meetings after those. And then a few more meetings, just in case. "For Western companies looking to China for large partnerships," wrote Chou, "it’s important to remember that deals move at a very different speed." He also had to be willing to open his books wide. Instead of an auditor's report, Chou had to give Alibaba "a deep dive with forensic accounting."

All that, and Kabam was ready to expand its mobile games into China. Not mentioned in Chou's post: Baiju. Which, come on, obviously played a role too. So, if next time you're in Shanghai you noticed everybody playing Lord of the Rings on their mobile phones, you'll know who to blame.


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