Head of the investment fund for video games from Mail.Ru Group on project financing and closed meeting at DevGAMM.
DTF spoke with Ilya Karpinsky, who recently headed Games Ventures, the holding company Mail.Ru Group, which, according to the company, will invest about $ 100 million in games for two years. He told what projects can be funded, why such initiatives are needed and what department prepared for the upcoming DevGAMM conference in Moscow. It’s a translation of the original article.
In April, the company announced a new structural unit with a capital of $ 100 million to invest in games. You became its director. You had a role in the game department of the Mail.ru Group – deputy head. Is it saved, or are you completely going to the fund?
In fact, the development of the gaming area, including through the search and attraction of external partners, has always been a big part of my day-to-day work as deputy head. The creation of a separate team, dedicated to investment, was a long-awaited step that would allow this process to be put on track.
Therefore, I will certainly continue to deal with my direct duties within the unit, most of which are now connected with the development of the new game department.
Investment experience is new to you or have you already had to do something similar?
As I said, the search for promising projects and teams has always been among my tasks. Probably, if we consider the “investment experience” in the classical sense, I encountered it less often. But this is compensated by huge experience in business, development management, building departments and teams, managing business processes, which together gives a good understanding of the market and opportunities.
What is the role of the director of such an investment unit, the daily routine?
Basically – communicating with the founders of companies and teams, analyzing their activities, studying products and the market as a whole, as well as assisting in the development of existing teams, including partner support and consulting. And, of course, process management within the Games Ventures itself.
Who was the ideologist of the unit?
This is a joint idea, which has long been in the company. And I’m certainly glad that we launched Games Ventures as an understandable brand and product, in the creation and definition of the development strategy of which I was directly involved.
Who is he oriented to?
On the gaming market, with no strict restrictions to the stage of development of the project or company. Of course, the teams that are in the early stages of the project are most attractive to us, counting on investments from one to 10 million dollars.
But this does not mean that we will refuse more mature products. If there is potential in such a deal, then it will take place. It is important to note that, in addition to money, we are ready to offer our services – analytical tools, promotion technologies, communications on the international market and much more, thereby reducing the partner’s costs in dozens of times.
Do you focus on developers from the CIS?
Not only. We look with equal interest to, among other things, European and American companies.
A successful developer in the CIS (and especially beyond) from mobile or social platforms can cost more than the entire amount of the fund, is not it?
Of course, but we should not forget that there are only a few such companies on the market. The greater part of its participants only goes to the desired indicators and needs additional tools and tools that can provide competitive advantages and full growth. Already today there are more than 10 thousand developers on the market – I’m sure we have someone to work with.
Are you ready for experiments, small projects – for example, investing in a paid indie game on Steam?
If the game is pleasant, we are ready to consider becoming a passive investor, but not 100% of the budget.
On the one hand, you have an interesting deal with Pixonic – an excellent purchase from the Mail.ru Group. But some developers did not understand the pricing (the holding bought the studio for $ 30 million, ed.). It is not so difficult to know the income of Pixonic, and it turns out that the coefficient was very modest. Do you have a different view of the situation?
You should always remember that the seller, of course, dreams to get more than worth it. And the one who buys, wants to buy cheap. In the case of Pixonic, I can say that the deal was successful for both sides. Expectations and price in the market coincided and seemed interesting to each of the companies.
How do you take the project into work – does some council sit and study the materials?
Yes, a separate team processes the application and prepares documents for the investment committee. After studying, analyzing and assessing the situation, the committee votes for or against the transaction.
There is a special regulation: the answer to everyone, the analysis of the reasons for refusal, the answer for a certain period?
Soon we will make it and publish it. We have received more than 300 applications, but most of them do not meet even the minimum requirements for the design or presentation of the project. Reply to everyone and consistently identify the reason for the rejection is simply physically impossible. Or we will have to get rid of a formal refusal, which we would like to avoid.
The right application is already a step forward. Understanding this, we first of all want to focus on creating information materials that will help young and already established teams learn how to correctly formulate and communicate the value of their ideas, clearly identify their goals and objectives.
Do you put forward demands for the company being invested – launching projects only with you, the inability to go to competitors, some other conditions?
No, there are no pitfalls. We are ready to make money even in one bundle with our competitors, if we see that the project and the team have real potential. In this matter, we are open and can consider partnership with all our colleagues in the market if its goal is to create good products and successfully commercialize them.
Suppose a developer has read everything and wants to participate – does he need to contact you directly, or is there a formal filing procedure and a set of documents that need to be prepared?
On our site there is a form through which you can apply. Also there are listed contacts, through which you can contact me or other employees of the unit.
There are no fears that in two years there may not be studios for investing the amount of the fund? Someone is not ready to take, someone is not ready to give, someone so earned, that he himself can give out investments and so on?
We have seen a steady growth in the gaming market, the emergence of new niches and technologies. At the same time in Russia, for example, there are almost no specialized investment structures in the field of gaming business.
For many teams, the lack of a partner and mentor, able to understand the problem and help with the decision, can serve as a serious barrier to a successful start. And our goal is not just to invest these $ 100 million, but to significantly increase them, which is quite possible to do in two years.
As far as we know, you are organizing a small closed event during DevGAMM in Moscow? For whom is it and how to get at it?
Yes, on the 18th of May. It is for owners of companies, team leaders and representatives of platforms, we have already begun to personally invite guests.
That is, no press, traffic and “good acquaintances”, only business?
We want to create an opportunity for people working in the same market to chat quietly, share experiences and answer questions related to the opening of Games Ventures.