The founders of Singapore-based Mighty Bear Games. From L to R: Benjamin Chevalier, Saurabh Shukul, Simon Davis, Fadzuli Said.
By April Zara Chua
Most entrepreneurs try to raise funds before starting a business or launching a product. But not all of them can be as successful as Mighty Bear Games.
Even before creating its first game, the local game studio has acquired just over S$1m in pre-seed funding from Global Founders Capital, Rocket Internet’s venture capital arm.
The funding, according to Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Fadzuli Said, will go into developing Mighty Bear Games’ mobile MMO (massive multiplayer online) game. The team, however, was tight-lipped about any information about the game, only revealing that it will be “unveiled later this year”.
Established in November 2016, Mighty Bear Games rose from the ashes of the now-defunct Nonstop Games studio, which was acquired by King – of Candy Crush fame – in 2014. The Mighty Bear Games story began when King decided to close its Singapore studio in October 2016.
To Fadzuli and the team, starting their own company felt like a natural progression. “This kind of opportunity rarely comes around, so we had to seize it,” he said.
The game plan
Mighty Bear Games’ CEO Simon Davis – whose 15 years in the gaming industry have given him a keen eye on good talent – set the plan in motion. He and Fadzuli are joined by six teammates who have earned their stripes in King, Ubisoft, EA, Disney, Jagex, Nvidia, and other big names in the gaming scene. Together, they have more than 50 years of experience.
“When the time came to form a studio, it was clear to me that we had to leverage those synergies and make the most of such a talented team that was already in place,” said Simon.
However, being first-time entrepreneurs has its own set of challenges. The first came in the form of running the day-to-day side of the business, managing corporate structures, and choosing good legal company representatives, which the team lacked experience in.
The next set of challenges was finding investors. Looking back, it was their good network of advisors and mentors, and their own perseverance and willingness to adapt and learn that helped in their success.
How did they do it?
The team took cues from Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson, a book which delves deep into understanding the processes of venture capital funding. They knew that raising funds would not be an easy task, and they educated themselves on the field as much as they could.
When it comes to pitching to an investor, Fadzuli said it is important to have a prototype. “It not only conveys the game’s potential to interested investors, it also shows that the team can work together and is committed to making things work out,” he said. “I am really proud of the team because we focused full-time on a prototype very early on.”
They also put equal importance on their pitch deck that had their business plan, and it took many revisions before they got it on point and targeted to the people they were reaching out to. Their biggest advice? Text on presentation slides is a distraction so always prepare two versions: one for emailing and another without text, which is purely for presentations.
Even when the offers start pouring in, they advise fellow startups to have a clear objective in mind: know your target valuation and the terms that you’re willing to accept.
“Don’t be afraid to negotiate or even walk away from offers that will not work for you,” added Fadzuli. According to him, the team went through numerous investor meetings, and were fortunate enough to raise more money than they initially set out to, with more than one offer on the table. They eventually decided to pick an investor who offered what they felt was best for Mighty Bear Games as a company and who is aligned with their current objectives.
The mighty island
The team has chosen to continue being based in Singapore despite receiving opportunities in Europe and in the US. According to Simon, it was a no-brainer as Singapore is well positioned to be in the world’s fastest growing mobile games regional market and has good access to top talent. Setting up a business here is also relatively easier.
For Fadzuli, who went to Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania as an MDA-ST Engineering scholar in 2008, it was something closer to home. He has always been an avid gamer since his younger days but did not think he could make a career out of it. He focused instead on honing his other skills, which led him to engineering.
Upon completion of his scholarship, he felt it was important to give back. He decided to follow his passion for gaming, and has been researching for meaningful ways to contribute to Singapore’s fledgling gaming industry before finding his calling in Mighty Bear Games.
Being housed in IMDA’s PIXEL Studios gave Mighty Bear Games the right working atmosphere, and the team believes it’s the right step in growing the industry in Singapore.
“Being around others who are also trying to create something in the gaming industry is inspiring,” Fadzuli added.
When asked about the studio’s greatest achievement, Simon replied without hesitation, “Taking the company from being an idea, to closing a round worth over S$1 million in just a few months was the hardest thing we’ve ever done, and the most rewarding!”
Stay tuned for Mighty Bear Games’ mobile MMO game later this year (2017).