Game studio fundraising for dummies (or, how LILA Games raised $10m Series A)

 

LILA Games is making an ambitious shooter at its studio in Bangalore, India, and needs funding. Where to start?

Here, LILA CEO Joseph Kim and his GameMakers newsletter bring you insights on how his studio ended up raising $10m – despite making plenty of mistakes along the way.

This is a summarised and edited version of the full chat with Kim, Jasper Brand of Bitkraft, Michael Fan of Galaxy Interactive and Hans Kim of Mayfield Venture Law. For more detail and context read Kim’s blog in full and watch the video embedded below.

Fundraising environment context

  • There’s more capital available than ever
  • Venture funding shifting to a founder-favourable market (away from VC-favourable)
  • Capital no longer the key differentiator for VCs
  • Series A funding is being raised with fewer proof points than ever
  • Early stage valuations are likely to continue at elevated levels
  • Pricing is stabilising a bit compared to 2021; prices/valuations will go down over the next 12-18 months
  • Don’t worry about trends – good founders will get funding regardless of the market environment

Defining seed and Series A

  • Seed is when you have something to tell, a team and a vision
  • Series A is when you have something to show: infrastructure, live services, first or vertical slice

Opportunities

  • A bet on emerging markets: LILA leaned on huge Indian market growth; Latin America will be hot in a few years, Africa will come later but there’s great talent and expertise in China now
  • Teams split out from proven AAA studios like Riot or Blizzard: folks who can ship are super appealing, though some can have trouble not having huge resources and doing non-gamedev work
  • Old local silicon valley model is history – global outlook on talent is increasingly preferred

Profile investors are looking for

  • Founders who have really contributed to shipping a game
  • Category creators – will the end product create or redefine a new or existing category?
  • Detailed understanding of cost of execution
  • Founders who are hungry, disruptive, fast-moving, self-aware of their weaknesses
  • Also: organised, focused, consistent

Drawing up your fundraising target

  • Think like a product manager: have specific objectives and milestones, figure out what you need to achieve it and work out the cost from there
  • Keep it frugal and scrappy; investors have seen studios raise too much money and then allow feature creep to set in 
  • Understand the trajectory of the opportunity – there’s also risk in not being able to scale quickly if you need to 
  • Raise based on “runway minus five months”: five months is how long it usually takes to close a deal

Define your fundraising process

  • Preparation: have the detail and specifics down in your materials and investor meetings
  • Meetings and pitching: times, dates and investors have to be clear; have your funding amount, target price and range ready; plan for scenarios if funding targets are not met

Biggest fundraising mistakes

  • Every subsequent round gets harder; prepare for this. Have a very structured process and that will help keep the momentum going if you need to keep raising
  • Over-raising: raising a massive series A puts pressure on the next round; it also means you have to behave like a global company and you might not be ready for that
  • Maintain fiscal discipline, just because you have the money doesn’t mean you should spend it; keep some dry powder
  • Do your homework up front to find the right investor fit
  • Don’t lose hope!