VentureWrap: Friendster, SpaceX Raise $20M Funding

One of the earlier social networking pioneers, Friendster, has continued its Asian-led comeback with a $20 million infusion from IDG Ventures and previous investors [Benchmark, DAG Ventures, Founders Fund and Kleiner Perkins].

In addition to the cash Friendster has secured Richard Kimber, formerly Google’s South Asian Regional MD, as CEO.

Also raising $20 million is SpaceX, the Elon Musk-led space transporteer. The round was provided by Founders Fund. Musk is a former South African and founder of Paypal and Tesla. The recent test of their Falcon 1 rocket hit a snag with stage separation lock. This led to the craft not achieving orbit. Elon has unequivocally stated that they are still on track – the message from this funding round backs him up.

Founders Fund are having a busy time of it lately. One of their other portfolio companies, Facebook, is apparently contemplating empowering staff to sell off a portion of their vested stock. This accords with the philisophy of letting founders cash out along the journey, which has been a key Founders Fund differentiator – extending it to all employees is an interesting move.

Incidentally LinkedIn is also reportedly [via VentureBeat] contemplating this route.

Appspace: $15M First Round Funding For Social Gaming Network

The creators of social network game apps like Warbook and Jetman, Social Gaming Network has raised a weighty $15M in first round funding. The previous highest first round in this category was $10M, which went to Mark Pincus’s Zynga Networks.

Spun out of Freewebs, SGN has located itself in Silicon Valley and is led by Shervin Pishevar. He’s secured this round from Greylock Partners, Founders Fund, Columbia Capital and Novak Biddle Venture Partners.

This funding comes on the back of some healthy installs and DAU rates across Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and hi5. To date, SGN has attracted over 1 billion page views, 54 million installs and almost 1.1 million daily active users.

Wagner James Au spoke with Shervin:

While Social Gaming Network’s low-graphics games aren’t likely to be confused with a next-gen title, he told me, they’re successful enough. “Small is the new big, right?” Games like Warbook can be made with a low budget, he noted. “Even having a 100,000 daily active users is good revenue.” (At peak usage with a sponsorship deal, he said, Warbook was making $100,000 a month.) “We’re much more about engagement and retentions than virality,” Pishevar told me.

Over the next few months, Shervin Pishevar and his small team will be working on several top secret games that’ll leverage advertising and virtual item sales for revenue. While still relatively low budget, he’s working with developers to give these new titles more polish. The goal, said Pishevar, is to transform Social Gaming Network into “the Pixar of social games.”

[Disclosure: metarand’s Randal Leeb-du Toit is an advisor to MySpace’s parent company, Fox Interactive Media and Chairman of app developer, Creative Enclave, which has released the massively multiplayer game, Imperial Galaxy on Facebook]