ICM Partners has teamed with software company Originate and law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips to support the new venture, called O Labs. The mission is to create as many as five companies a year that — as the firm’s announcement puts it — “address the challenges facing large and growing enterprises” which will start with gaming and could soon include digital video. The partners are keeping key details of their two-year agreement close to the vest: They aren’t saying how much the partners are investing in O Labs. CEO Matthew Pierce tells me that one of them has a majority stake in the JV, but won’t say which one.
The idea is that their skills in promotion, software, and the law complement each other and can be invaluable for new ventures. For the most part O Labs-supported firms will “be behind the scenes at the companies you see,” Pierce says, although they’re “not afraid” to be out front.
O Labs’ first new company is Versus, which will help video game makers offer opportunities for players to bet real cash on the outcome. “We worked hard with Manatt to be sure it’s legal,” Pierce says. That means firms offering the service must tailor the rules to laws in different states and districts and be able to verify the location and age of the players. Despite the complexity, game makers could be interested because “it’s a way to monetize your back catalog.” O Labs could make its profits by taking equity in the companies it creates, or by taking a piece of the action.