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Finding and Keeping Your Perfect Investment Partner

February 25, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

Would like to meet...

Like the courtship stage of any relationship, both sides will be trying to work out what the other has to offer. It's as important for you to choose your investor as it is for your investor to choose you; it has to be mutual. Everyone's priorities are different -- so make sure you are clear about what you want and need. If choosing wisely, you'll find an investment partner that genuinely shares your values and can "complete" you.

As there are many different funding opportunities, it's imperative for you to spend a fair amount of time researching different types of investors. Don't rule anything out before you've done this, because you might surprise yourself. Whether you look at angel or institutional investors, publishers, incubators, private equity, grants, subsidies or crowdfunding, every option has its pros and cons and there isn't a single one-size-fits-all solution.

Think of it as preparing a personal listing for a dating agency -- you wouldn't say "I want love, commitment and support but I don't care who it comes from." Instead, you'd narrow it down to personality types, common interests, similar expectations, and so on. The same is true here.

If you're happy to hand your idea over to someone more experienced and utilize their resources, then you can lower the risk of not publishing your game by courting one of the bigger publishers -- even in this tough climate; although you should expect much lower royalties. If you desire a more hands-on approach and want to retain much greater creative control, then direct funding would probably be the better way for you.

So, you're creative and have fresh ideas. Investors seem more attractive because you could retain a bigger slice of the profits, all without being under the publisher's thumb. Sounds perfect, right? Let me stop you there. Don't be under any illusion that this is an easy option. Today's investors require savvy business partners, not savant artists. No investor is giving you anything. They're financing your dream with the clear expectation of a solid return on that investment; so you'd better be prepared to do everything you can to make that a reality.

You're going to need to understand and deliver all those dull "business" things that perhaps you thought weren't part of your job. If you want me committed to you, then you'll need to show me business plans, balance sheets, SWOT analyses, and marketing plans.

Like it or not, I'm afraid you're going to have to jump through the hoops of doing things "the old fashioned way": working hard. So run your numbers then run them again. Be able to defend and justify them and never, ever say "I guarantee you this will make money" -- no one can ever make that promise; but they can show me that they understand what it takes and that they've got a detailed plan to achieve it.

Now there'll be some of you out there thinking "Ah, but if I go for crowdfunding instead, then I can get all the money I need without having to worry about being accountable." Personally, I don't agree. Never think that crowdfunding is an easy route, either. It may be the big funding trend of the last year, but running a successful crowd-funding campaign is something that takes a huge amount of planning, effort and time if you want it to be successful.

Also, make sure you realize that getting your financing this way doesn't mean you have fewer people to report to -- it means you'll have more; potentially tens of thousands more, having invested only a few dollars each -- and at the very least, they've entered a moral contract with you, the developer.

You might feel your commitment to them only stretches as far as the free T-shirt or art book they've "pledged" for, but if you want to make the most of the loyal community you've worked hard to build, you need to deliver more. Communicate with them regularly, update them on your progress, show them the cool features that make your game amazing, and reassure them that what they've backed is going to come out on time and to the standards you've promised.

For me, the jury's still out on whether crowdsourcing is going to be a viable long-term source of financing. I believe that it's only a matter of time before a high profile funding success fails to deliver on its promise. What happens then, and under the direction of which regulatory agency, is anyone's guess. Therefore, I caution you not to enter this arena lightly. Like accepting investment from any other source, with crowdfunding, you need to deliver what you promise.

Ultimately, the choice of funding is yours -- so carefully weigh your options and what is truly important to you. The bottom line, in every sense, depends on you seeking and courting the most compatible investor so put the work in, go the extra mile and you'll hugely increase your chances of meeting "the one."

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Michael Silverman
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Nice to see an article from this angle. In terms of crowd funding being somewhat unregulated or a high profile crash ruining it for everyone, I think that a large part of the fun of those projects is getting to see a team you like do their thing. If Double Fine just said "we aren't going to finish our project" (Which would obviously be highly unlikely!) I wouldn't even be mad at them b/c the documentary and community they've already sent out to backers so far has been hours worth of entertainment and considering the investment was only 15 bucks or so, its actually still a good deal.

I do worry more about the studios that get their funding and then kind of shut off to their backers, but I think the more high profile the devs are, the more value you get out of even a failed project, so I'm guessing crowd funding will stick around even through some car wrecks.

David M
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To be clear, Mr Tribell and Digital Capital are not themselves an investor or a venture capital fund, correct? As I understand it after meeting with them last year, they are an investment broker, facilitating introductions, in a similar fashion to Tim Merel at Digi-Capital. Their website doesn't have a portfolio and lists only two small deals in the last year, of undisclosed size.

Most of my investor and VC contacts have advised me (in general, and not specific to Mr Tribell or his firm) that prospects who use middle men to secure these type of deals are generally not rated highly by investors. Several VCs have blogged on the topic as well. For example, I'm familiar with the financing history of several high profile US and European gaming companies, and I don't believe they used any middle men or brokers in those deals.

Todd Tribell
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Thanks for your comment David. Just to clarify, however while it's true that some investment brokers are simply that, brokers with no investments of their own, I can assure you that the owners of Digital Capital have indeed invested millions of dollars of their own money into a variety of projects, as well as securing external investments also. Regardless of how a developer accesses finance, their responsibilities to be accountable, display good communication skills and conduct their business professionally are the same.