Ian Livingstone, Charles Cecil and others share expert tips for devs seeking funding

Livingstone: Investors fund people, not profit forecasts

Ian Livingstone has told developers seeking funding that they must put forward their ideas, team members and ability to deliver if they are to attract investors.

The UK government’s creative industry champion and former Eidos life president was speaking at the Video Games Day conference at the British Film Institute in London, which looked in depth and funding, investment and grants, including UK tax breaks.

“Profit and loss forecasts and the financials are fine, and they are important, but that’s not what I’m investing in when I look at a games company,” said Livingstone, who has given his finical backing to several games projects in recent years, including Midoki’s seafaring RTS Plunder Pirates.

“I invest in people, their ideas and their enthusiasm for those ideas,” he continued, having been invited to join the panel discussion from the audiences. “And it’s about their potential future for me. Their ability to execute and deliver is important too. […] We all have ideas, and ideas are really quite cheap, so the ability to execute and succeed matters. And at the same time you need to be willing to fail. In this country we must be more open to people failing, as they are in the UK. People need to learn to iterate and fail faster to attract investors.”

Revolution Software founder Charles Cecil, also on the panel, offered further advice for those considering both grants and funding or crowdfunding.

“Getting off the starting block you have to do it yourselves,” he offered. “Then you can look at help from the likes of Creative England and so on, and find that funding. And then I really think crowdfunding really is still a very interesting option, as long as you have a demo and something to show. But really, to get to that point you have to do it yourself, and get yourselves ready as a studio to attract funding and backers.”

Wales Interactive’s MD David Banner also joined the discussion, recommending developers have a firm idea of their own ambitions when picking the right investor.

“Be confident in what you want to achieve and don’t give anything away you don’t want to give away,” he urged. “Stick to what you want to do. We haven’t allowed investors to boss us into doing things differently from how we want to do them. Set the precedents rather than follow them, and don’t do stuff you don’t feel is right for your ideas. Our interest was to make the games we want to make and be self-sufficient, and that is achievable, and you can find funding doing what you want to do there.”

Banner also recommended that studios balance that devotion to their ideas with healthy realism.

“If the investor brings something to the table that you haven’t got – such as marketing – you may have to think seriously about giving away more of your company,” stated Banner. “You do still have to run a business if you want to keep making games, and so you have to be realistic there. I like our good ideas, but I like them more when they make money.”

The panel concluded with chair and Ubisoft Reflections’ GM Giselle Stewart encouraging developers to consider the diversity of Funding options available to them. 

“People providing funding are all really accessible, so call Creative England and the others,” she said. “These people are there to help you so get in there and let them help you.”

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