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Level-Up’s managing partner Thibaud Morin on how the pandemic has affected the games industry

“Gaming emerged as a way to stay connected with your friends: the social component will be more and more important in the gaming experience.”
Level-Up’s managing partner Thibaud Morin on how the pandemic has affected the games industry

Thibaud Morin is the managing partner of Level-Up, an investment fund primarily focused on mobile studios and gaming technologies.

Morin joins us for Investor Connector at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #5, a fringe event which pairs pre-selected developers who are seeking funding with investors.

Before the event takes place next week, we caught up with Morin for his thoughts on investment and how the current pandemic has affected getting funding. Tell us a bit about your company and its primary investment focus?

Thibaud Morin: Level-Up is a fund dedicated to mobile studios and gaming technologies. We co-created in 2017 with Guillaume Lautour and tailored it to serve this industry better by adapting our model to its specificities. We each have 20+ years of complementary experience: Lautour as a seasoned VC with a fantastic track record and expertise in funding mobile gaming and technology companies, combined with my corporate background as a senior executive at Vivendi (Activision-Blizzard…). We now have eight investments active in the fund across Europe and Eastern Europe.

What kind of companies/projects are you interested in?

We focus on European mobile studios, self-published. We are genre-agnostic. Our current focus is on studios with at least soft-launch KPIs demonstrating a possible ramp-up within six months, i.e., positive post-marketing gross margin or proven LTV vs. CPI.

What are the key advantages for founders when they raise investment from your company?

We are specialized. With our focus on the mobile industry, we aim at providing more than just money. We nurture collaboration between our network of portfolio studios or tech companies to implement best practices. We aim to scale our studios and maximize profitability. We prepare and support them and the teams for the next rounds of fundraising. Besides, we share a passion for gaming and love entrepreneurship: we are loyal and try to be as helpful as we can in their journey.

Do applicants need a pitch deck and if so, what information should a founder be sure to include to interest you enough to want to know more and have a meeting?

A pitch deck must emphasize a company vision and the quality and experience of the team. We invest in studios, not in games, i.e., in the end, in teams with a plan. It shall also provide the appropriate metrics and precise positioning of the product, demonstrating a realistic market-entry strategy. Too many pitches underestimate competition or do not convey a deep understanding of it. We appreciate transparency. A good pitch deck shall present fundraising objectives, milestones, and challenges to succeed: it is a perfect team maturity and quality indicator.

What do you expect to learn from a founder at the first meeting?

We expect to feel their understanding of its market, its strengths and weaknesses, and a realistic plan to execute their vision. We also need to understand the team dynamic, its complementarity.

Could you give any advice for developers or teams for pitching over video calls?

It is indeed more challenging to create a personal relationship via video calls. It requires discipline to share that the company is not a solo-founder company but has built a real team. We would recommend being well prepared to present data clearly and show a deep understanding of key success factors.

Last but not least, video calls are much more efficient when investors have had a chance to review the pitch deck ahead of the meeting: Level-Up has a dedicated submission form I would recommend studio to fill-in thoroughly before any call.

How has the investment cycle changed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic? Typically, how long is it taking to close deals?

No more than in the past: it all depends on studio preparation. When data is available, if the timing is appropriate, we can move as quickly as pre-Covid.

What trends do you see emerging in games over the pandemic that are likely to persist post-pandemic? Conversely, what trends do you think are short term?

On the consumer side, we would point out two COVID-related trends:

  • Lockdown has attracted new gamers that will continue playing which will support the market
  • Gaming emerged as a way to stay connected with your friends: the social component will be more and more important in the gaming experience.

On the production side, studios had to learn to work with remote developers, sometimes realizing it is not that easy and requires reorganizing organization and processes. This experience will help them to leverage some remote expertise: long term we believe the studio will have a hybrid model. Nevertheless, the fully distributed model is probably a short term trend. Post-Covid, studios may come back to have at least a core-team on the same premises, maybe three to four days a week: a team's energy creates better company culture and faster execution.

Want to meet Thibaud Morin at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #5?

You could meet Morin and many more investors online next month by signing up for Investor Connector at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #5. So if you’re seeking funding, sign up here. Applications close this Wednesday, February 3rd.

Please note you can only sign up for the Investor Connector if you’re a registered attendee of Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #5. Book your tickets now.

We’re also allocating a limited amount of free passes solely for small indie developers, enabling them to meet investors and publishers, and learn from the industry’s biggest names. If you think you qualify, sign up here.