Get Into Games: Videogame Economic Forum gives studios platform to pitch for funding
Game studios are being offered the chance to pitch for millions of Euros of funding from investors, thanks to a French regional development agency.
Pôle Image Magelis is inviting graduate start up and established teams to seek advice and investment at the second Videogame Economic Forum (VEF) in Angoulême, South West France. The event, on May 16 and 17, will feature funding tips from industry experts and the opportunity to pitch to members of the investment community.
“The primary goal of VEF is to bring investors into contact with studios over two days. Developers will have the chance to meet, say, 20 relevant investors,” says organiser Jean-Michel Blottière.
“The deal is that anybody who registers has the opportunity to pitch, which means they have three minutes in which investors can have a look at them.”
The Magelis economic development cluster behind VEF brings together 90 companies and seven education institutions, including the internationally-renowned Enjmin school of games and interactive media. Enjmin has been running for 12 years and has attracted guest speakers such as Trip Hawkins and Peter Molyneux. It has also produced a steady supply of graduates who land a job in games. And while VEF is open to all, several Enjmin students are expected to attend.
All attendees can gather the night before VEF on May 15 for a welcome dinner in the cellar of the Château de Cognac, birthplace in 1494 of King Francis 1. Beneath a ceiling designed by Leonardo Da Vinci, it’s an early networking opportunity and a chance to relax before getting down to business.
A busy programme of events features a series of short talks and culminates with the pitches. Keynote speakers include Kickstarter community manager Cindy Au, who will offer insight on the best ways to use the site to secure crowing funding.
“We also have a representative from EA Partner Management, Mickael Bougis” explains Blottière. “And we have Jim Ying from GREE, which is great as they have created a $10 million fund to support mobile. There’s also Zack Karlsson which will be really interesting – he’s the person from Capcom who is looking for new projects, so it’s an opportunity to meet him in person and maybe get involved with Capcom.”
VEF organiser Jean-Michel Blottière.
Last year a cosy crowd of around 100 people attended the event, though it’s hoped that number will rise to around 150 in 2013 with registration open until the last minute and spaces still available. “We will be happy with 150 people,” says Blottière. “We aren’t looking for a large number of participants. The idea is to create the feeling of a club.” Joining the club is relatively inexpensive – it costs 300 Euros to attend VEF.
The event’s co-founder Blottière is a New York-based veteran of the game industry with an enviable contacts book built up initially as a journalist. He was Editor in Chief of the first French magazine devoted to videogames, Tilt, which launched in 1982. Since then he has been involved in several pioneering projects including the launch of France’s first games TV show and he is now CEO of NX Publishing.
When he was approached by Magelis to come up with a theme for a new conference in the region he says he had little hesitation. “The real question at the moment is finance – how to get money and how to grow,” says Blottière. “We are in a time of huge change that has nothing to do with the traditional console cycle crisis. We are seeing new business models including MMO, free-to-play and mobile and monetisation through brand placement, for instance.”
“There are not so many events dealing with this, and I’m a big fan of specialised event offering something very specific to micro communities. Everyone is dealing with these issues, everyone uses the same machines and has the same problems, but everyone faces those issues in different ways and using different language.”
VEF represents a valuable opportunity for those seeking investment to articulate their vision to a group of investors with access to significant funding pots. But landing the 500,000 Euros to get a project off the ground, or the two million Euros to trigger international growth will, understandably, be tricky.
“Investors are a little scared of the videogame industry at the moment,” explains Blottière. “There was a lot of hope with companies such as Zynga, which was perfect for investors as it offered fast returns. But when they see that even Zynga got into trouble they feel they have to be careful. The good news about VEF is that the investors are all aware of that. These are people who understand the game industry.”
Blottière, who likens the matchmaking experience of VEF to speed dating, says there are some key pieces of advice developers would do well to heed. He points to teams who have a track record of success and a consistent staff list since startup as well-placed to access money. Those who understand globalisation issues are also in a strong position.
“In my opinion,” begins Blottière, “The best way to pitch for funds is to try not to bullshit your investors. Don’t pretend you are bigger than you are. For instance, if you are seven students from Enjemin and you say you will produce three games in the next year no-one will believe you. Be honest – that way you are on safe ground.”
“Also remember that the investors at VEF have patience. It’s not all about money and fast profit. They want to be part of success stories.”