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In doing so, it is joining dozens of other venture capital funds aimed at the hot market of games. But it stands out because its headquarters split between Moscow and Los Angeles, said Maria Kochmola, one of few women fund managers in gaming.
The market is so hot that The Games Fund set out to raise $30 million and it came out with nearly $50 million instead, Kochmola said. The fund expects to close its final numbers by the end of the summer.
“We are the first focused fund in Eastern Europe,” Kochmola said. “Our competitive advantage is we have access to the many talented developers in this region, where it is very cost-effective and sometimes three or four times less expensive than in the United States.”
The aim is to connect investors with game companies in both established and emerging markets. The company has already made one investment in a studio in Belarus, and it expects it will put about $2 million into each company for pre-seed to Series A (institutional) rounds, and up to $5 million for follow-on rounds or collaborations with other investors.
Kochmola believes the market is hot because it saw a boost in the pandemic and high competition from strategic players, which created an active acquisitions market. At the same time, the barriers to developing a game are relatively low, especially in mobile.
“That’s why it’s very good positioning and timing for the fund,” Kochmola said.
Kochmola started the firm with Ilya Eremeev. They both previously worked at Mail.ru’s My.Games division, which started a game fund called MGVC. Kochmola was the investment director at MGVC since its inception in 2017, and she led more than 35 investments. Of those, six companies were acquired.
“I joined the team in 2017 and basically built the operation from scratch,” Kochmola said. “Now there are more than 30 people on the team.”
Eremeev has experience in game creation for companies such as Game Insight and Sperasoft, as well as leading investments in 10 gaming companies for MGVC.
They’re being joined by GEM Capital, a heavyweight in deal sourcing and structuring, and Sergey Titov, a founding employee and former chief technology officer of Riot Games (the creator of League of Legends, one of the most popular games in the world).
The Games Fund aims to work with a pool of more than 5,000 established studio and game development teams in Central and Eastern Europe. Portfolio companies will be able to use the connections of the fund’s partners to draw on this often underutilized talent to create games with global appeal, Kochmola said.
“Western Europe is rich with talented developers, but they often lack funding opportunities,” said Mike Vorhaus, the CEO of Vorhaus Advisors and an adviser to The Games Fund. “The Games Fund is at the forefront of a new generation of video games investors, combining a deep understanding of games development with the best practices of venture capital. With our vast connections in Eastern Europe and the U.S., we will empower developers from emerging territories and help them build global companies.”
Vorhaus is a moderator at our upcoming GamesBeat Summit 2021 event, where he is interviewing NetEase executive Simon Zhu in a fireside chat. Backers for the fund include Avi and Gabi Shalel (founders of Plarium), Lev Leviev (founder of leading European social network VK.com), and Aream.
As for being a female fund manager, Kochmola said the industry is dominated by men. There are female fund managers, but after reading through thousands of pitches from startups, Kochmola said she has come across maybe 10 companies founded by women.
“I think the problem is it’s a self-producing system,” she said. “When girls they don’t see a good example, they don’t see that women can lead the company or that they can lead a fund. I’m one of the fund managers and so might be a small example for other kinds of girls to do what they want and start their own businesses.”
Kochmola said she believes 70% of the fund will be invested in mobile platforms, but the company can co-invest with others in PC and console game developers. She said the fund won’t invest in adult games or gambling or games targeted at kids.
“At the same time, we are very agnostic to genres and so our strategy is very flexible,” Kochmola said. “We prefer teams that create something new and don’t develop direct clones.”
Kochmola said that 60% of investment will likely be done in Eastern Europe, and maybe 40% will be invested in the U.S. and Europe.
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