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Execution Labs entrepreneur Keith Katz on investing in game studios

Find out more at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #8
Execution Labs entrepreneur Keith Katz on investing in game studios

Keith Katz is an entrepreneur and investor based in San Francisco.

Over his 20-year career, he has focused primarily on video games and video game technology.

In 2012 he co-founded Execution Labs, a hands-on early-stage investor through which he led investments in two dozen early-stage game studios.

Having been both a founder and seed-stage investor, Keith speaks and advises frequently on the themes of early-stage fundraising and initial market traction.

His presentation at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #8 will be on what developers should consider when choosing the right investor. Tell us a bit about what you do?

Keith Katz: Execution Labs is a hands-on early-stage investor in game studios. We manage a portfolio of studios utilising both premium and free-to-play (F2P)/games-as-a-service (GaaS) business models.

During our nearly five-year active investment period, we deployed our in-house team of experts to make games better and unlock partnerships and additional financing.

Recent and upcoming games from our portfolio studios include Outward (Nine Dots Studio), Tribes of Midgard (Norsfell), Convergence (Double Stallion), Boyfriend Dungeon (Kitfox Games) and Tuber Simulator (Outerminds).

What does your role entail?

As our portfolio studios have gained experience, my role has become more about helping studios transition from startups to mature game studios.

That means helping them think about what their product roadmaps should look like, what key hires make sense, what financial partners they should bring on board, sources of growth capital and – increasingly – advising on merger and acquisition (M and A) opportunities.

Why did you want to work in the games industry?

When I first started out, I saw games as this unique nexus of the broader entertainment industry where the worlds of film, music and design collided with really interesting business challenges. I wanted to do brand management and had grown up a gamer, so a gaming gig was my dream job.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the games industry?

For anyone looking to get into games, my recommendation would be to try a lot of different avenues. Your first job doesn't have to be your dream job, and it's pretty easy to navigate through the industry once you're in.

“We've seen the rise of dozens of new institutional investors over the last year or so.”
Keith Katz

I would also recommend that you avail yourself of the myriad sources of knowledge now available – all over the place and for free! There are some amazing blogs, podcasts, newsletters, etc. that are tremendously helpful whether you are a veteran or just starting out.

What are your thoughts on the industry in the last 12 months?

We've seen the rise of dozens of new institutional investors over the last year or so, particularly for early-stage studios. When we were getting started at Execution Labs there were only a handful, so this is great to see.

That said, while I'm excited to see so many developers getting checks, I'm concerned that we might start to see what we see in tech generally: mostly experienced entrepreneurs with exits or extensive track records getting the bulk of the funding.

Oftentimes that means we're funnelling money to white, male, Western founders, so we're neglecting a ton of creative folks who could be just as successful with a little support.

What major trends do you predict in the next 12 months?

We'll continue to see lots of investment and M&A in games, on mobile, PC and console. I think we're starting to see more investment in traditionally under-funded regions, in places like Turkey, Slovenia and India, which is exciting.

And I think we'll continue to see the barriers between mobile F2P and PC GaaS fade more and more so that studios will develop across platforms.

How has the games industry changed since you first started?

The industry has, quite obviously, matured and expanded dramatically in the last 15 years. Mobile wasn't a thing, we bought games at physical stores and all the rest.

That maturity means that there are now so many more entry points into games, both creatively and from a business standpoint, where there used to be only a few pathways in. But, as with all maturing industries, the space is more competitive and the bar for success is that much higher.

Which part of the Connects event are you most looking forward to and why?

I always look forward to hearing from new studios working on exciting concepts.

I always try to be helpful to any gaming startup, and if I can't help I like helping folks find others who can!

You can find Keith at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #8.

Join the conversation

Hear from Keith Katz and more than 250 other expert speakers at PG Connects Digital #8, September 27 - October 1. Don’t forget to check the full conference schedule to see exactly who you could be learning from throughout the week.

It’s the perfect time to register and secure your spot as the MeetToMatch meeting platform is now live, meaning you can hop straight in and start requesting meetings with industry professionals from across the globe today.

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