Kadri Ugand is the co-founder of Gamefounders, Europe's first business accelerator for mobile games and gamified apps. It is located in Tallinn, Estonia.
GameFounders has seen over 300 applications from game studios from over 60 countries during the 18 months.
We also do many evaluations, so in the process we get to know the teams quite well. We see what they do right and what they do wrong - plenty of material for articles like this.
So even though these tips might seem quite basic, we regularly see teams failing to follow them. That's why we decided to put together this small reminder.
1. Investors value a team over a game
When a game startup goes to an investor, they want to find money to make their game. They will start telling the investor about the game and how cool it is for the player, how they can win, how they can buy boosters and pass through the levels.
Investors in the gaming sector are players themselves, so they listen and enjoy this, but if this is the only level to the conversation, no money is coming the studio's way.
The investors are looking at studios for one reason only- to make great returns on their investment. And these returns are produced by the people working in the studio.
We see a lot of game studios, such as Seriously, Grand Cru, etc raising investment without having a game ready, but we do not see investors throwing money at games without a team.
2. Size does matter
If you are a control freak like me, you think you can do everything alone, but this is not the case.
Wikipedia tells us that teams normally have members with complementary skills and generate synergy through coordinated effort maximizing skills and minimizing weaknesses. Make that the definition of your team as well. At GameFounders we do not accept one-man shows and there is a reason. One person is not a team, it's as simple as that.
When a 1 or 2 person studio approaches an investor it is quite clear that they have to grow the team before the investor will make any returns on their investment. So why not do it already before approaching the investor?
By no means am I saying here that a big team is an asset in itself. If you have heard or practice the lean methodology, you know that less is more. I would say the optimal size of a starting game development studio is 3-5 people.
3. Make your experience count
Usually new game studios are either employees of a gaming company that want to create their own studio, a game development team that has been doing work for hire, graduates of a game development discipline or people who are just hobbyists that live and breathe games.
Sometimes they have experience, sometimes not that much. Usually in the case of no experience the team describes themselves as "Superstar Programmer", "Code Queen" or "Talented Artist". This means nothing ... don't do that.
Say the things that are applicable only to your team, list of games, teams, people you have worked with, awards, competitions you have participated in or a life achievement that makes you different.
Experience is NOT age. I recently heard a game pitch that said "We have a really dynamic team of young hungry students combined with veterans".
It sounded like really good combo but when I asked for details, it turned out the veterans were 50 year old guys who had played games their whole lives. They hadn't developed any though. This is not the kind of 'experience' we are looking for.
Joint experience is key. You may individually be superstars but if you cannot stand each other or work together smoothly, the result cannot be good. We need to know you are happy working together.
We need to see the team culture next to the competences. How do you work together, what tools do you use to communicate, how do you iterate, are you making decisions (and failing) fast, are you flexible as a team?
4. Know what you are good at and focus on it
I have seen teams who come to us and say; 'This is the game I made last year and now I have these six prototypes'. Then they ask: 'What do you think, which one should I start working on?' This is not a question to ask your potential investor.
If the investor sees that you are fishing - trying to please him by having the right answer, they will not bite. We want to see teams that know what they want to do, teams that know their unique selling points and have a plan how to turn these USPs into revenue and in turn returns to the investor.
5. Know your numbers
I have seen a lot of pitch decks that say we are looking for 'X' amount of money and when asked what the money is about, the team does not have a precise answer.
This gives the investor a signal that you want to make the game and are not thinking of the budget and business, which in the future means you are not focused to make a return on the investment.
Have a plan!
The same goes for metrics such as LTV, DAU and ARPPU. Look for games in the same category or games using the same mechanics. Find out how many users your game can get, how much is the average spend and make your projections.
Life will always make changes in the numbers, but you have to figure out the business behind your game to be attractive to investors.
Created in early 2012, Gamefounders is the first business accelerator in Europe that is purely focused on games and gamified apps.
We look for gaming startups, do a small investment and expose them to an exhaustive program of 3 months including about 60-70 active game industry executives as mentors. At the end of 2013, our portfolio includes 21 teams.
The next deadline for applications is 8 December 2013. You can get more info and apply at gamefounders.com