EGD News #98 — How to fundraise
It’s Joakim here. Greetings from Helsinki!
First, I want to congratulate the founders at Reworks on the news that Playtika will acquire the Helsinki-based mobile game studio for up to $600m.
I think there’s a bunch more of these acquisitions coming up in Finland. How so?
- The previous 100+ million exits were all one-game mobile studios (Small Giant, Seriously, Reworks) so all it takes is one game to make it.
- Merge Mansion creator Metacore is now at the top of the list.
- If you just look at Series A stage companies, there’s Mainframe, Lightheart, Savage Game Studios, Redhill Games and many others.
Also, I want to remind you about the Bitcoin and gaming webinar that I have coming up next week.
In this webinar, I’m joined by André Neves and Christian Moss from ZEBEDEE, a company that enables players to play and earn Bitcoin inside your game.
Agenda for the webinar:
- Introduction to ZEBEDEE
- How developers can get Bitcoin onto their games
- Demonstration of example games
- Ending with audience Q & A
You can sign up here. Now, onto the news.
💰 What I learned from fundraising in 2007
It was August 2007. I was sitting in the lobby of a London VCs office, with glass walls and doors, with people there looking quite busy.
I was there to pitch. I’d been invited to do so by a venture partner who was scouting for companies in Finland. They had recently invested 300K in a Finnish startup and were keen on doing more.
What was the setup? Me, wearing a suit and tie. But it gets worse. I had no clue what a VC backable company is and what I should be thinking and saying to get an investment.
The meeting started. The VCs had six people in the room, but it was evident that the meeting wasn’t going well as the managing partner decided to walk out of the meeting as I was going through my slides. Few of the partners asked questions, and then our 30-minute session was over. Later that day, I got a call from the venture partner that they won’t invest. He said it wasn’t a good fit and that it wasn’t something they were looking for.
What went wrong with my opportunity to pitch? First, there was no actual preparation. And after I got the answer, I should have asked what they were looking for. I didn’t use the time I had to ask them what I was missing. (A question that I love nowadays when I turn down an entrepreneur)
Decoding “not a good fit” and “not what we are looking for” can be incredibly hard for someone who’s raising for the first time. At the same time, you’re swept by an inferiority complex, and you don’t dare to show any signs of lacking competence.
Let’s go back to 2007. I attended pitch training in Oslo to better myself. I learned that I’d need to be more convincing and that the pitch meeting is a sales process. When you pitch, you want to stay calm, present your slides, and don’t wave your hands too much.
A pitch deck is a communication tool. And it’s helpful when an investor needs to know if they should have a meeting with you or not. Often you only need a so-called teaser deck: Idea, Team, and Plan. That’s it.
The best form of communication is a lot of discussion with the investor. Fifteen years after that London VC meeting, I believe that discussing is the essence of fundraising. You need to treat each investor meeting as an opportunity to ask questions and learn.
Here are some questions to ask
“What am I missing?”
“You invested in company X. What made you make that investment?”
“When you place a bet on an inexperienced team, why did you still take the leap of faith?”
“What kind of traction are you looking for before you invest? Is it always the case, and when is less traction required?”
You are not selling if you don’t know what they want.
Also, you want to figure out if you’re even at the point where it makes sense to pitch. To find out, you could take many unofficial meetings with VCs when you aren’t yet raising. On my podcast in March of 2020, I had Callum Brighting, co-founder and CEO of Netspeak Games. Callum had the most creative approach to learn how to fundraise.
I asked him, “How have you approached fundraising? How did you learn that craft?”
“I was fortunate enough to know someone who was married to a VC who doesn’t make games investments. They do medical tech, FinTech, and a bunch of other industries. We went for lunch and sat down. And I asked him: if I were going to do [a fundraise], what were the questions you’d ask me? It just snowballed from there.”
“That guy introduced me to some of his limited partners, the people that invest in the funds so that I could understand their sensibilities. Like, why and how would I pick a fund to invest in? Can I use that information to leverage it by understanding that part of the process? Does that give me some leverage trying to get money out of the fund? Almost certainly, yes is the answer, by the way. It was a case of leveraging my network and talking to people. That was the idea.”
“Also, I read loads of books on it as well. There was only one that was worth its weight in gold. It was Venture Deals; that one was very operational.”
Lots of founders spend months or sometimes even years pitching to investors and often not getting anywhere. The best way to avoid the pitching trenches is to get your theory down before applying it in practice.
🎙 Ask Me Anything #4
This week I published my fourth Ask Me Anything podcast episode, where I answer people’s questions related to game studios, fundraising, and all other entrepreneurship related stuff. I will be recording another episode quite soon, so please submit your questions by filling out this form.
You can go and listen to my answers or read the full transcript, which includes links to content that I mention in the episode, by going here.
Listen to the full episode by going here.
📃 Articles worth reading
+ How do you discover when people find your game? — “In our experience, a lot of game devs just go and post natively on each platform. This is partly because, as Astrid pointed out to me, things like alt text, polls, and embedded CTAs are difficult to trigger from third party platforms. (And some social media companies actively discourage being able to schedule posts from third party apps!)”
+ Snowprint’s Self-Publishing Adventure — “Self-publishing sounds so independent, but in reality, it’s only possible with the right connections and relationships. There are so many moving parts with game publishing, with many areas of expertise. No individual and no small team like ours could possibly know everything — but we know a lot of experts who’ve been generous with their time and advice, and that’s made all the difference.”
+ Making Uncommon Knowledge Common — “When Michael Jordan returned to basketball from retirement—the first time, in his prime, not the second time of which we do not speak—the whole world watched in awe. Meanwhile, the tech world just saw the return of arguably the GOAT of consumer tech, the founder of three household names in Expedia, Glassdoor, and Zillow. And hardly anyone, even inside Silicon Valley itself, paid it any mind.”
💬 Quote that I’ve been thinking about
“But products don’t create value. Customers do.” — John Doerr
Sponsored by Pollen VC
Pollen VC provides flexible lines of credit to mobile app and game developers, enabling you to borrow up to 4x your monthly revenues on a simple, transparent interest rate basis.
Unlock the value trapped in your platform receivables (AR) and in your existing marketing cohorts – get an elastic line of credit that flexes in line with your business growth. Capital can be rapidly reinvested back into user acquisition to help growth without relying on dilutive venture capital funding, or expensive revenue based loans.
Go to www.pollen.vc to learn more.
Sponsored by Opera Event
Looking for some great new authentic video creative? Try something totally new with Influencer Generated Content (IGC) by Opera Event. Influencers or actors will make specific creative content for your games and Opera Event will deliver you high-quality video ads that highlight the best parts of your game.
Note! You get a free video with the purchase of 4 or more videos. Remember to say that Elite Game Developers sent you!
Go to www.getigc.com to see some examples and get more information.
Sponsored by AppMagic
I (Joakim) wrote an article with the AppMagic folks, and in it, we talk about the ways that developers of mobile games should think about market insights in the early stages of concepting and prototyping of their games.
Read this article by going here
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I hope you have a great weekend!