Splitmo is a fast-growing startup that knows quite well the power of publicity. The founders were dealt a winning hand.
After being featured in a TechCrnuch story, the phone rang at Splitmo’s modest headquarters in Underground at Main – the shared office space complex in downtown Durham. And who should be calling but a representative of communications giant AT&T.
The rest is developing history.
Splitmo, which has developed technology that takes smartphone capabilities to your TV and enables multi-player gaming, continues to be in the media spotlight after landing a money-producing deal – not just a partnership – with AT&T. The deal to use Splitmo’s “app” technology was formally announced at the International CES show last week in Las Vegas.
How’s that for a debut?
Its mission statement is clear:
“Splitmo is leading the charge to expand the capabilities of your TV to match those of your smartphone. We see a future where your television works together with your smartphone for more engaging games and group interaction.”
The company further declares:
“Splitmo is the first mobile companies to embrace the connection between mobile and televisions. This two screen environment provides immense opportunities for apps and games that aren’t possible with your mobile phone alone. Our apps showcase this emerging market.”
Now the two-person company is rolling out a new game on iTunes, following up on its PokerNight which AT&T licensed for its U-verse network. The latest game, which is called “Snake Life,” went live on iTunes Tuesday night.
Rob Witman, one of Splitmo’s two founders, will never forget that AT&T call out of the blue.
“It was surprising,” he says. “Sometimes you don’t always know who pays attention to the various blogs and just how much media coverage is getting through.”
Obviously, Splitmo’s technology cut through the blog clutter. The story led to more than cash. perhaps most of all, AT&T’s partnership provides credibility.
“It was very validating,” Witman explains. “We are working in a very nascent space.
“Most people don’t even know you can connect your phone to your television, let alone why you would want to.”
The Splitmo tehcnology play also struck a chord elsewhere.
“They weren’t the only company either,” Witman says. “Amazon is looking at the space and they called as well.
“It was definitely an exciting couple of days.”
Showtime on The Strip
Then came Las Vegas.
“We were featured heavily in their presence at the developer event last and they hired a professional poker player to play against people using our app and the U-verse boxes,” Witman recalls..
“AT&T originally approached us after the launch of our Poker Night app last year. They wanted us to help bring more apps to their new platform using the U-verse boxes as the connection point between TVs and mobile phones.
“In the end, they paid us to port our app to their system.
“They were quite happy with the results and we are discussing future development projects with them.”
In its announcement, AT&T declared:
“Developer Splitmo used AT&T’s open APIs and the U-verse Enabled platform to create Poker Night TV, a new app available today. Up to eight players can join for a virtual poker game on their U-verse TV and supporting smartphone or tablet. All the customer needs to add is a lounge singer and an all-you-can-eat buffet and they’re practically in Vegas.
“Splitmo has created a digital-age version of Texas Hold’em Poker, which is the first multi-player gaming app available on U-verse. Your TV displays the common cards, pot and player positions. Individual players’ cards are kept hidden on their mobile devices. Players can place bets and look at their cards on their own device while the rest of the group keeps up with the action on the TV. Poker Night TV is free for all U-verse TV and Internet customers.”
With Snake Life launched, Splitmo has more momentum entering the new year, but Witman is a bit coy about discussing other deals.
“The AT&T collaboration is the largest deal we have publicized to date,” he says.
“While 2013 didn’t produce some of the industry momentum we had hoped for – chief among that being native app support on the Apple TV – we did secure the AT&T deal and make some inroads in expanding the visibility of our brand and vision. 2014 has a lot of potential for us as a result of that work last year.”
The two principals are mobile to the core.
Witman is the founder and CEO after serving as co-founder and CEO of Riffware. His partner is Phil Jacobsen, one of the founders at Inlet Technologies which was acquired by Cisco. Two other contractors provide support.