Mentors wanted: Microsoft Ventures' seeking support for Accelerator start-ups

Mentors wanted: Microsoft Ventures' seeking support for Accelerator start-ups
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

March 3rd 2014 at 11:54AM

London Accelerator firms Skara and Gateway Interactive hoping to learn best business practices from industry experts

Following the success of last year’s London Accelerator, Microsoft Ventures has already launched a second 12-week programme to help start-ups establish themselves as a business.

This time around, Microsoft is hoping to call on industry veterans that will mentor the new firms – and is looking for Develop readers that may be interested.

Rather than signing thousands of mentors up, the firm hopes to create a small group of “committed individuals, entrepreneurs in their own right, who have been there, done that and really want to give back to the start-up community”.

Each start-up will be allocated two to three mentors, while each mentor will work specifically with one start-up. The partnership will last until the end of the London Accelerator’s current programme, which finishes in April.

Microsoft Ventures is looking for mentors who:

  • have had real experience building businesses from nothing to meaningful revenue and market share
  • or a long and successful track record in early-stage investing
  • and are willing to devote time and energy to transmit that. This means a minimum of one hour per week during the 12-week programme.

Mentor dinners and other special offerings will be held as a thank you to those involved in the Accelerator. If you’re interested, send a brief bio to MSVUK@Microsoft.com.

There are two games developers amongst the Accelerator start-ups. Read on to find out more about them, their projects and what they seek from a mentor.

SKARA: THE BLADE REMAINS

There are plenty of action-packed online multiplayer games available but 8bit Studio is trying to offer something a little different.

The developer’s inaugural title Skara: The Blade Remains is a third-person fantasy action game and caters for up to 16 players simultaneously. In doing so, the team has created what it claims is a new genre: Multiplayer Online Versus.

Skara will also make use of the community functions seen in social games, and the studio is working on companion apps that will allow players to purchase items and customise their character when they’re not playing.

Currently in development for PC, Skara is also coming to consoles. Thanks to Microsot’s Accelerator, 8bit is even working on an Xbox One version. The team has also secured a licence for Unreal Engine 4 to ensure Skara looks the part of a next-gen game.

It might sound a little ambitious for a start-up, but this is no team of amateurs. Between them, 8bit Studios draws on years of experience from established firms such as Ubisoft and Eurocom.

“We know how to develop games, but there are so many other things we need to learn, such as the legal side of releasing games, how to gain access to certain markets, how to deal with customers and investors, and so on,” CEO Paolo Rodriguez told Develop.

“We know how to make games, but not a business for games.”

The idea for Skara stems from a map Rodriguez scribbled down while out and about. As he expanded on this fantasy world in his imagination, the setting and races formed the foundation for what would become Skara: The Blade Remains. But Rodriguez isn’t stopping there. 8bit has commissioned a novel and comic series that will build on the fiction behind the game.

In terms of what the team hopes to gain from mentoring, Rodriquez says: “We expect them to challenge us. We don’t want someone to tell us our game is awesome and we’re doing great. We want our mentors to encourage us to keep doing new things.”

You can check out Alpha footage of Skara: The Blade Remains below, and find out more about the game at www.thebladeremains.com.

GATEWAY INTERACTIVE

Riot Games’ League of Legends and Valve’s Dota 2 draw in millions of players, inspiring a multitude of rival Multiplayer Online Battle Arena titles from both indies and larger games firms. But Hull-based start-up Gateway Interactive thinks it has found a gap in the MOBA market.

“I really really hate fantasy games,” CEO Louis Deane explained to Develop. “But I’m a huge sci-fi fans and there are no MOBAs that have a sci-fi setting. So I started making a little demo of what a sci-fi strategy action game would look like.

“This was around the time that Unity started adding support for all the phone platforms, so I built a touch version for fun and then we realised there were no similar games in that market.”

The result is PureSpace, a sci-fi MOBA that sees players piloting fleets of highly customisable ships against both in-game enemies and other gamers. Gateway is aiming to launch the game on app stores within the next two months.

The firm also has more ambitious long-term plans beyond the launch of PureSpace. As well as developing new games, Gateway plans to become a muti-tiered company that also serves as a tools provider. Specifically, Gateway hopes to sell the software it has developed that allows players to pause their game on one device and pick it up on another seamlessly using cloud saves.

Unlike some of the other projects in London Accelerator, PureSpace was 60 per cent finished before the 12-week programme began. While Microsoft Ventures’ support has helped them polish the game, the Gateway team’s main goal is to establish contacts in the industry – something they’re hoping a mentor will be able to assist with.

“We want a mentor that will introduce us to people,” said Deane. “Not to strategise or do work for us, but to point out opportunities that we’ve missed and then give us the contacts to take advantage of them.

“We’d love to have a mentor with a good track record and experience.”

You can find out more about the team at www.gatewayinteractive.co.uk and PureSpace at www.bestspacegame.eu.