We have reached a milestone on a textbook journey that has defined our team's presence in the gaming and finance industry. London Venture Partners made our first investment as a newly formed group in October 2010. That investment was with the other first investors, Initial Capital, Lifeline Ventures & Jari Ovaskainen into the success known as Supercell.
We wanted to reflect on the journey and blog about it. I've been trying to think through how to manage sharing our love and excitement for the company, our pride in achieving one of the most successful financial returns in business and staying relevant as the game industry moves through yet another transformation of itself, all without sounding arrogant or looking smarter than we are. We were fundamentally lucky to get everything right.
I had been involved in another incredible success with the Playfish team in London. I had just come out of 25 years with Electronic Arts and wanted to be involved in the shift from packaged goods to online. Kristian Segerstråle was introduced to me by his Cambridge roomate Jonathan Guiness, a family friend who as a teenager tested games at EA and then went into investment management looking at the media industry. Within minutes I knew Kristian had superpowers and I pushed to become not just an advisor but an investor. It was that success loop which made me want to turn into a professional investor and led us to meet Supercell.
We nearly didn't invest. We had just started the vile process of raising our own funding to build an investment warchest to back promising teams in the gaming ecosystem. We had to stay focused, stay on target and meet hundreds of money managers to sell them our story about how the games industry could provide above average returns without uncommon risk. We had our slide deck full of ideas, we had our database of contacts and we had our background as industry executives with real experience running game companies - but we had little money. Meeting after meeting we were told what great backgrounds we had and if anyone could make a success of it, that would be us. "Come back after your first close," we were told - which is private equity speak for go away until you've proven your worth.
The LVP team met Ilkka, Mikko and the handful of founders to see their production pipeline, their toolset and get to know their ideas for how to build a new company. We learned that they had built and sold companies before and now they wanted to build games for Facebook and had an idea called Gunshine. They had a toolset to help make development quicker and easier (we've heard that line before too) and were going to bring hard core gaming to Facebook.
After we experienced hundreds of rejections raising our own fund it felt like coming home meeting Supercell. We were actually talking about games and talent. We brainstormed genres and launch strategies, made introductions, coached and shared opinions - we felt skilled and appreciated. We knew we wanted to build this games fund to bridge the gap between money and the games industry. We dipped into our own savings and made the investment against our promise to stay focused on fund raising for our own business. We just wanted to do what we loved doing, getting involved in games. We wanted a break from being rejected and the toil of fundraising. Thank God we did. Now we look smart and can say I told you so to the naysayers about European game talent, games as an investment thesis and how you can build world class global businesses from scratch, in record time that create billions in value for shareholders.
Thank you Timur, Greg & Erlend for the jetlag in Japan, being incredible learners and using the "treat man" phrase which still makes me laugh and reminds me to motivate myself and others. Thank you Lasse for grappling with me over the art direction in Clash. I think a few hundred million people will agree that you got it right :)
Thank you Ilkka and Mikko for your wry sense of humour, your endurance and incredible, incredible laser like focus. Your understanding of when to say no, when to pivot, when to accelerate is like watching the best F1 drivers eat up the track as though they were born for it. Hey, why are there so many world class Finnish race drivers and game makers? Maybe I've just unlocked a new investment thesis...
We've enjoyed this part of the journey together and we will be cheering the whole company forward as you continue to try new things with grace, integrity and without fear.