With Gondal being someone who's tasted success - Indiagames was acquired by Disney for $100 million back in 2012 - his offer of financial assistance and mentoring seems a significant and rare opportunity.
But what do our Indian Mavens think of the proposition, and of the importance of mentorship more generally? We asked them:
- Are you eligible for/interested in Gondal's new fund?
- How important is it for the Indian scene to be exposed to the mentorship of successful homegrown developers?
This is a great question and I will try and provide answers from our own experience.
Some Background: June Software went to yCombinator in 2012, and got our first outside investment after being bootstrapped since 2008.
After yCombinator, our first outside money came from Julian Farrior and Dale from BackFlip Studios after a meeting at ImagineK12 and over lunch at GDC 2012.
Backflip Studios in 2012 was the biggest company in the charts, with DragonVale being the top grossing game of 2011.
After lunch we had a $100,000 cheque on an uncapped note, which helped us immensely move to the next stage of company building.
Post yCombinator and raising a seed round, one of first places that we visited and spent time as a team was Backflip Studios where we learned the basic tools to run a gaming studio.
A couple of years later when our first non educational game, Tiny Run, was gaining traction, Backflip agreed to publish it with the Ninjump brand.
Successful games and financially viable companies coming out of this collaboration will change India's games scene.Roby John
Today, Ninjump Dash has over 10 million users worldwide. We learned a lot about running a Games as a Service business, and used those lessons to build all our real-time multiplayer games and our game engine.
I can credit at least 50% of our learning in games, both good and bad, from this single source. I feel just for this reason alone everyone should go ask for Vishal for money.
I believe there are an incredible number of talented teams in India that may not have access to this sort of expertise first - or even the seed money to become successful in the games industry.
Successful angels like Vishal will help fix this and this is great news for the Indian games scene, probably the best in recent times.
This model is really what the Silicon Valley culture is all amount.
I'll add a disclaimer by saying that this by itself will not fix it, since teams and mentors need to also figure out how to best leverage their relationship.
Successful games and financially viable games companies coming out of this collaboration will really change the game scene in India.
Everyone: why are you still reading this? Go figure out a way to get Vishal take a look at your company if you are building something of value.
Shailesh Prabhu is an Indie Game Designer from India who has been designing games for over ten years. Seven years ago he founded Yellow Monkey Studios and is the recipient of numerous game design and entrepreneurship awards around the world. Socioball, HUEBRIX, It’s Just a Thought are some of his recent games. Shailesh is also an excellent cook, loves playing tennis, gardening and DIY projects apart from sporting facial hair.
The last time I tried to raise money (back in 2009), we had a term sheet bankrolling us for a year and a half and hiring a bunch of people.
These "Silicon Valley" investors were previously very successful, friendly and understanding, but as time went by they starting to try and muscle us into being a more service-oriented company because they had some great leads for branded games.
They pretty much told us to stop doing our own games. This was despite the fact that our pitch had been purely based on our own games. Needless to say I backed out.
Why I bring back this issue is because when raising investment its extremely crucial to find out if your investor is on board with your vision and if not, my advice would be do not go ahead with it.
About Vishal Gondal's fund: I don't know if I am eligible, and I will not find out - and definitely won't apply.
If you want to make games, I would suggest avoiding this.Shailesh Prabhu
Here is why: my last interaction about fundraising with Vishal, where he was urging me to raise money, clearly led me to believe that he was telling me to raise money so that I could raise more money and sell/IPO.
And that's great, if you want to do that. But for me, when I told him that I would like to be making games and making money from those games instead, his words were, "someone put some sense into this kid."
What ticked me off was the complete lack of respect for an opinion other than his own. So yeah, if you want to make games, I would suggest avoiding this. If you want to make a "successful company" go for it.
Talking about mentorship, I think it's extremely crucial that developers here get exposed to mentorship of successful homegrown developers, but I don't think these people exist at the moment.
We need more successful games, game developers from the region, and then maybe we can have those mentors.
Mentors only work if they understand what you want to do, be on board with it/respect it as an option, and are able to provide relevant information with respect to that.
I am not sure about eligibility, but we are not interested in applying for it for the simple reason that it is focused on the Indian Market, which does not align with our future strategy at this point.
Like Shailesh mentioned, it’s very important to find synergy with your investors. The lure of funding can be strong, but ultimately if it comes at the cost of giving up what you want to do, it only feels like a burden.
We are not interested in applying for it for the simple reason that it is focused on the Indian Market.Amit Goyal
I also think it’s very important for budding developers who are starting up to interact with more successful developers (homegrown or otherwise).
Drawing from my own experience when we started out, we often got some very helpful advice on the way forward that enabled us to make some smart choices - or at least we like to think so!
However, this can be a double-edged sword. It’s great to have mentors who have help you fine-tune your vision, which at the outset can be raw and unfocused.
But it is also important for young developers to not just blindly follow what they’re told, which can often happen, especially when it comes from a person who has seen a lot more success in the business than you have.
There is no one way to success, and as long as both developers and mentors remember and respect that, this would be a positive step for the Indian gaming industry.
I'm with Shailesh - chasing Vishal as a mentor/investor will get you into places as a service provider (with his deep pocket and network).
I can see that Nazara is on the right path.Cartic P
However, I doubt his role as a mentor at present. I guess we need more UA experts as mentors to experiment, analyse, and explore the market.
If he’s open to enhancing indies with this kind of investment and his vision on designs, it will be great.
Most of us are still struggling to get the casual gamers out of BCP box (Bollywood, Cricket and Poker).
I can see that Nazara is on the right path - they brought in Pascal Clarysse to nurture the gamers here. I'd be more keen on getting someone like that than Vishal as a mentor.
This is a very interesting topic considering the timeliness of the announcement, and also considering that at least one or two of us in this group have worked with Vishal extensively.
I myself have worked closely with Vishal for over 10 years, so I feel I have a good understanding of what value he can bring to a gaming startup, because he definitely will bring a certain type of value in his mentorship.
In fact, I know that some members of this group are already talking to him to either be involved with his fund in some way, or for direct investment into their companies - but I’ll leave the speculation aside for the time being.
Having said this, I do agree with the general sentiment that mentors and investors should be correctly paired with companies looking for funding and both companies and investors should have the same vision.
The investor’s primary purpose of investing in startups is to get a substantial return on their investment and it won’t be any different for Vishal.
What Vishal and his fund will provide is higher level mentorship of a successful entrepreneur.Hrishi Oberoi
Any experienced investor will get their own skills on the table as a mentor - which should compliment the skills of the companies looking for investment - but these companies should want those particular skills and advice that the investor will be bringing.
In order to secure their investments, investors would typically mentor the startups in the way that they know best, whether that be expanding the business, scaling the company, guidance in talent acquisition, pivoting the product, changing the business model etc.
With Vishal, it would be exactly this same type of holistic strategic guidance that he would be able to provide. Any company that is not open to this type of feedback would not make a good fit for this type of mentorship.
Now, it goes without saying that the mentorship of successful homegrown developers - that descriptor is key - would be invaluable to the local scene, especially to developers looking to create great world class games.
What Vishal and his fund will provide, though, is higher level mentorship of a successful entrepreneur and businessman to build successful businesses.
These are two entirely different (albeit related) things needing two different sorts of mentoring and companies not looking for this type of business mentorship should not bother with this.
There are several different ways of getting mentorship from successful homegrown developers - seeking feedback in person, partnering, attending conferences etc.
Funding definitely can be added to this list. However, when looking for a strategic investment, it’s critical to have two things right (several responses seem to be aligned with my thoughts here).
Intent: It’s very important for an indie to understand what the intent of the investor is. Does it align with the intent of the indie or not. When you are confident that both are on the same page; it’s worth the consideration.
Vision: What’s the vision that you have for your company? Do you want to build a freemium business, a premium business, a portfolio of casual games, celebrity centric games, indie games etc.
How can a homegrown developer help you steer through that vision as an investor? What kind of value will he/she add to you and your team, will you be given additional support in terms of getting connections, scaling your infrastructure, ramping up your team etc. to meet that vision?
Given how volatile the gaming space is, would the investor/mentor experience add any further value to what you’ve already garnered? If your answers are in the affirmative, you know you have the right partner.
It’s always a delicate balance - ensuring you have the intent and vision in place would help you make a very informed decision in taking a call on moving ahead or not.
My name is Rituraj Behera and I am Co-founder of Cympl, an Indie game studio started back in November 2012.
I had begun my career as an application developer but I always loved playing games which attracted me to the fast growing mobile games industry.
I had started the organization with a vision to create high quality mobile games and an attitude to learn & improve everyday.
Before I give my answers, I would like to thank you for asking this question and also all the people in previous answers who have shared their honest feedback on their previous experiences.
Such information and learning are super useful for indie developers to take the right decisions for their company.
Successful developers as mentors will ensure that we do not have to learn from our own mistakes.Rituraj Behera
As we are a mobile game development studio, I am assuming we are eligible for Gondal’s new fund, unless he is targeting a very specific type of games for which we have neither the skills nor the expertise.
From what I have heard from very experienced local developers in previous answers, especially from Shailesh, it seems scary for passionate game developers like us to approach someone like Mr. Gondal.
He definitely knows how to create great business value, but creating business value should not come at a cost of compromising our own values.
But I am sure there could be many other developers who might resonate with his way of thinking, in which case the partnership will be synergetic.
I do think it is very important to be exposed to good mentors early on.
Successful developers as mentors will ensure that we do not have to learn from our own mistakes and we get the right guidance to achieve our goals faster and cheaper.
But we need to make sure that the mentors understand and respect our vision and their advice appeals to our own reasoning.
A good mentor can drastically improve our approach to game design, development and making sound business decisions.
But they do not necessarily need to be homegrown developers (if that means local developers) as long as they have been really good and experienced game developers themselves.
Let’s evaluate few facts to validate if Vishal will be good mentor or not: Vishal started Indiagames when there was neither a player base, nor a large number of people to experience high quality gaming.
There were many hurdles in monetising the player - even larger than what exists today. There were no sophisticated analytical tools available.
In my opinion, Vishal Gondal[ can be a great mentor.Laxmi Desai-Khanolkar
In spite of all these hurdles, he created a successful business which attracted the highest valued transaction in Indian gaming industry.
Considering this, I am sure he does have all the skills and know-how to guide to build successful businesses out of gaming. So in my opinion, he can be a great mentor.
Now, whether your investor best aligns with your vision and goals or not is something that needs to evaluated by the investment-seeking party before taking an investor's money.
During this phase, the decision-making rights can also be discussed and decided so that there is no ambiguity later.
In a nutshell, approaching Vishal will definitely be a good idea.