Kuju Entertainment launches Startups Fund

Kuju Entertainment launches Startups Fund
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

July 15th 2014 at 10:25AM

Studio to link investors and studios, providing production, distribution and mentoring support to new teams

UK developer Kuju Entertainment has added a new element to its business in the form of an initiative to partner games makers with investors.

Named the Kuju Startups Fund, the program will also offer support to the studios involved through a range of development and distribution services.

The initiative invites investors to contribute to a funding pool on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. The money raised there – with a pot targeting a £300,000 total for the initiative’s debut round – will be used to support the development and release of a number of games by start-up studios, each selected by Kuju. The Kuju Startups Fund specifically focuses on mobile, tablet and PC releases.

Kuju – itself responsible for the development of some 120 games since its founding in 1998 – will offer each start-up involved a tailored package of support services, covering planning and funding guidance in the pre-production phase, development support and testing as the game is made, and soft-launch, distribution, PR and other services to extend lifetime value of each title at launch.

“You can’t ignore the growth of the mobile, tablet and PC markets at the moment; growth has been exponential over the last few years,” offered the fund’s games investment director Travis Winstanley (pictured above left).

If studios are looking to partner with us – as another developer – then we can offer an alternative route to what they may have become used to.

Derek De Filippo, Kuju Entertainment

“Our latest statistics show that there are now 1.2 billion gamers in the world, around 900 million of those are mobile, tablet and PC gamers; and by 2017, the industry will be worth over $100 billion. The market opportunity is undeniably huge, and many investors are excited by that opportunity too.”

Kuju hopes it can offer a route to promising start-ups for investors enthused by the opportunity, but not intimately familiar with the constantly changing UK games development scene.

The Kuju Startups Fund process begins with investors contributing anything from a minimum of £100 to a pool of money to be used to develop and market games by selected studios. Unlike more famed crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Seedrs rewards backers with equity. The first round will open to investors across Europe, with residents in the UK eligible for tax relief.

The studios Kuju picks for involvement may include both youthful start-ups and new outfits by industry veterans, and each will be audited and verified as suitable for investment by Kuju. A minimum of four development teams will be assigned to the first funding round; a task Kuju is undertaking at the time of writing.

After the Seedrs campaign target is met, the process of development and support will begin, with equity spilt between developer, investor and Kuju on a case-by-case basis. More information on the equity split will be made available to interested parties on contact with Kuju.

DEMOCRATISING INVESTMENT

The team at Kuju see the process as democratising investment in games, while at the same time offering a new opportunity to studios otherwise distanced or deterred by traditional equity models.

“The way we see it, the indie movement in the UK is thriving, and what that is creating is a scene of innovation,” said Derek De Filippo (pictured above right), the fund’s business development director and former game designer at subsidiary outfit Zoë Mode.

“If a developer has an innovative, creative vision and they want to realise it, and they know that this game idea might not be commissioned by traditional forms of funding or publishing, then we are interested”

And De Filippo is certain the Kuju Startups Funds’ distinct mix of funding and development services will appeal to a wealth of studios.

“If you’re a developer and you’re looking for a partner who can add real value in terms of helping with the whole process of pre-production, production and bringing your game to market, then the Kuju Startups Fund is available for that very reason,” he stated. “If studios are looking to partner with us – as another developer – then we can offer an alternative route to what they may have become used to.”

RISKY BUSINESS?

Start-up investment can deliver tremendous returns, but is infamous as a high-risk business model. However, Kuju’s team is confident they have done much to mitigate this.

“Working with start-ups – and everybody in the industry knows this – there is a risk that those start-ups won’t all succeed,” explained De Filippo.

“What we’re doing to mitigate that risk has two stages. Firstly, when we identify each opportunity of working with a company, we do a lot to make sure we have faith in not just their ideas, but their capabilities. Then, from the point of partnering with them, we work with them all the way through to market, in putting together a strategy to make them a success. So there we’re trying to de-risk that process from start, middle to end.

Interested studios and investors can find out how to become involved through the fund’s official website: www.kuju.com/startups