Chess.com Announces Growth Investment from General Atlantic

General Atlantic

Chess.com, one of the world’s largest chess platforms, today announced that General Atlantic, a leading global growth equity investor, has become a significant investor and partner in their mission to grow the game of chess. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Launched in 2007, Chess.com is a leading online destination for playing, learning and watching chess, with over 75 million registered users and more than 10 million games played every day. Chess.com offers an extensive suite of free and paid options to both novice and experienced players, including online chess gameplay, puzzles, game analysis, and hundreds of lessons taught by chess grandmasters and coaches. Members can engage with friends through a social community via the Chess.com app and website, ChessKid, Learn Chess with Dr. Wolf, and other apps. Chess.com has also become a key content provider to the global chess community, streaming some of the world’s largest chess tournaments, including the World Chess Championship. Chess.com currently has 300 full-time team members.

The ancient game of chess has enjoyed a renaissance over the past few years driven by the convergence of several factors including the Covid-19 pandemic, mainstream media such as Netflix’s hit show “The Queen’s Gambit,” and the growing popularity of chess in esports channels such as Twitch and YouTube.

“Our mission is simple: help people enjoy chess,” said Erik Allebest, CEO and co-founder of Chess.com. “As a mission-driven, bootstrapped company that never raised venture funding, we knew we needed an experienced, savvy partner to help us in our next stage of growth. General Atlantic has a longstanding commitment to partnership in helping companies grow and thrive, and we are beyond excited to work with them to bring the joy of chess to millions more across the globe.”

Anton Levy, Co-President, Managing Director, and Global Head of Technology Investing at General Atlantic, commented, “As interest in chess continues to grow, we believe Chess.com has an opportunity to make this classic game even more accessible to new and existing players around the world. We are thrilled to support Chess.com’s vision to leverage technology to further build the global chess community and look forward to partnering with Erik and the team to grow the platform.”

Tanzeen Syed, Managing Director at General Atlantic, continued, “Chess.com is early in its growth story. Looking ahead, we’re excited to help Chess.com drive the continued international expansion of its platform, develop new products and features, and further build its loyal and engaged community of global chess players.”

Houlihan Lokey advised on the deal. Legal services were provided by Latham & Watkins; Paul, Weiss; Herzog Fox & Neeman; Shartsis Friese; and Poultan & Yordan.

About Chess.com

Chess.com is one of the world’s largest chess platforms, with a community of more than 75 million members from around the world playing more than 10 million games every day. Launched in 2007, Chess.com is a leader in chess news, lessons, events, and live entertainment. Visit Chess.com to play, learn, and connect with chess—the world’s most popular game.

About General Atlantic

General Atlantic is a leading global growth equity firm with more than four decades of experience providing capital and strategic support for over 445 growth companies throughout its history. Established in 1980 to partner with visionary entrepreneurs and deliver lasting impact, the firm combines a collaborative global approach, sector specific expertise, a long-term investment horizon and a deep understanding of growth drivers to partner with great entrepreneurs and management teams to scale innovative businesses around the world. General Atlantic currently has over $86 billion in assets under management inclusive of all products as of September 30, 2021, and more than 215 investment professionals based in New York, Amsterdam, Beijing, Hong Kong, Jakarta, London, Mexico City, Mumbai, Munich, Palo Alto, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore and Stamford. For more information on General Atlantic, please visit the website: www.generalatlantic.com.

Media Contacts

Emily Japlon & Casey Gunkel
General Atlantic media@generalatlantic.com

Grant Lee
Chess.com press@chess.com

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Gaming1 partners with CVC

Gaming1, the entertainment branch of Ardent Group, has signed a transformational deal for their next phase of growth.  The active shareholders in the Liège-based company, the leader in the Belgian gaming market, have partnered with CVC Capital Partners Fund VIII. CVC will bring their expertise to support the group’s growth in becoming a global reference in the regulated online gaming markets thanks to the continued development of their own technology and through their unique omnichannel approach.

A strong company growing quickly
The history of the group’s entertainment activities started in 1992 in Liège, parallel to the development of their land-based network, the company progressively developed a digital offering through their own technology platform. Today, as well as being a Belgian leader, Gaming1 is present in 9 countries around the world, including Portugal, France and the United States with their joint venture Gamewise founded with the American giant Delaware North.

Only active in regulated markets, Gaming1 is exclusively positioned in legal, responsible and ethical gaming. Gaming1 strives to offer the best player experience, in a responsible way focused on regulated markets. The group has around 1,300 employees, including more than 400 in their digital hub in Liège.

To accelerate their growth and become a worldwide reference on the regulated online gaming market, the company wants to partner with a new shareholder capable of bringing global, sector and digital expertise. Emmanuel Mewissen, Sylvain Boniver and Nicolas Léonard, historical shareholders of Gaming1, will continue to be the reference shareholders in Gaming1 and look forward to post-completion partnering with CVC, once the regulatory approvals are in place. Throughout the process, Gaming1 was assisted by the financial advice of BNP Paribas Corporate Finance.

An experienced, first-class investor, fully aligned with Gaming1’s growth strategy
CVC is a leading global investment firm with US$125 billion of assets under management. CVC has experience in the sector through CVC funds’ investments in Tipico, the German sports betting company, the Italian operator Sisal, and the English business Sky Bet. They also have significant knowledge of the digital space through CVC funds’ investments such as ironSource, a leader in mobile advertising and mobile gaming technology markets, and Aleph, a leading global enabler of digital advertising.

CVC has an international network of 25 offices, including 13 in Europe, and an established team in the Belgian market. This choice also allows Gaming1 to stay loyal to their roots and continue to contribute to the development of the country’s economic fabric, a core element of Gaming1’s mission.

Emmanuel Mewissen, CEO and Founder of Ardent Group, explained this choice: “In a rapidly changing world, the key to success is adapting. By partnering with CVC, we will benefit from their global, sector and technology expertise, which will support our company to continue on our successful growth path and further build our digital capabilities. We will stay loyal to our values and Belgian roots, as shown by our recent move to our digital hub in the heart of Liège. This desire to anchor ourselves in and to contribute to our country’s growth is an integral part of our identity and will continue to guide us daily.”

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Flutter Entertainment to acquire Sisal Gaming

CVC Capital Partners

Acquires Italy’s leading online gaming operator from CVC Capital Partners Fund VI for €1.913bn/£1.62bn

Flutter Entertainment plc (“Flutter” or “the Group”) is pleased to announce the acquisition of Sisal (“Sisal”), Italy’s leading online gaming operator, from CVC Capital Partners Fund VI for a consideration of €1.913bn/£1.62bn. This acquisition fully aligns with the Group’s strategy of investing to build leadership positions in regulated markets globally. The transaction is likely to complete during Q2 2022 and is expected to be accretive to adjusted earnings in the first 12 months post-completion.

Sisal is a leading betting, gaming and lottery operator headquartered in Milan. In the 12 months to December 20211, Sisal expects to generate EBITDA of €248m/£211m, with 58% coming from its online offering and the remainder coming from a combination of retail and lottery operations. Approximately 90% of Sisal’s 2021 EBITDA is generated in Italy with the balance coming from regulated lottery operations in Turkey and Morocco. The business employs circa 2,500 people today.

The addition of Sisal to Flutter delivers several key strategic outcomes:

  • Secures a gold medal position in Italy by bringing the leading online brand into the Flutter portfolio. The combination of Sisal with Flutter’s existing online Italian presence through PokerStars and Betfair will result in a combined online share of 20%2
  • Increases the Group’s exposure to an attractive, fast-growing, regulated online market: Italy is Europe’s second-largest regulated gambling market and one that has seen online penetration grow from 10% in 2019 to approximately 20% today. Sisal’s online revenues have grown by a compound annual rate of 34% since 2016
  • Sisal’s omni-channel offering will deliver a competitive advantage to Flutter’s business, particularly given Italy’s advertising restrictions and the prevalence of cash deposits and withdrawals through retail
  • Increases Flutter’s recreational customer base with the addition of 300,0003 highly engaged online average monthly players and over 9.5m retail customers
  • Further diversifies Flutter’s product and geographical footprint and increases the proportion of Flutter’s revenue from regulated markets which in Q3 2021 was over 91%
  • Bolsters Flutter’s existing talent pool by adding a proven management team that will continue to lead the business and who have sought to take a leadership position in the promotion of safer gambling in Italy

Peter Jackson, Flutter Chief Executive, commented: “I am delighted to add Sisal, Italy’s leading gaming brand, to the Group as we look to attain a gold medal position in the Italian market. For some time we have wanted to pursue this market opportunity via an omni-channel strategy and this acquisition will ideally position us to do so. Sisal has grown its online presence significantly in recent years, aided by its proprietary platform and commitment to innovation. I’m excited to see how Flutter can complement these capabilities through our scale, differentiated products and operational capabilities. We look forward to welcoming Francesco and the rest of the Sisal team to Flutter in 2022.”

Francesco Durante, Sisal Chief Executive, commented: “Over the last five years, thanks to CVC’s support, we have successfully transformed Sisal into a leading digital and international gaming company. Through our commitment to digital innovation, international expansion and safer gambling, we have achieved a leadership position in Italy’s online gaming market and developed our global footprint by winning lottery tenders in Morocco and Turkey. We are delighted to join Flutter and are convinced that through its scale and operational capabilities, we will be able to further strengthen our leadership in the markets we operate in. I look forward to working with Peter and the team on the next chapter of Sisal history.”

Giampiero Mazza, Managing Partner at CVC Italy commented: “We are very proud of the success achieved by Sisal and its transformation since our acquisition in 2016. Through heavy investment in its digital competencies, Sisal has become Italy’s leader in online gaming while also growing its international operations. Furthermore, the Company is leading the Italian industry in ensuring responsible and safe gaming. We want to thank Francesco and the whole management team for their incredible dedication, focus and ambition, and for leading this successful journey in spite of regulatory challenges and the pandemic. Flutter is a fantastic new partner for Sisal and we wish them the very best.”

The full RNS announcement is available here.

1 Financial projections for FY 2021 have been provided by Sisal management and are consistent with 10 months of actual EBITDA performance (£163m) and 2 months of projected performance (£48m). FY 2021 has been used in this release as we believe it is a better reflection of the ongoing earnings power of the business; 2020 performance was materially impacted by Covid-19 related retail restrictions
2 Online market share of gross gaming revenue in October 2021
3 Average number of players in the 12 months to 30 June 2021

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BDC enters into partnership with Plug In Digital

Bridgepoint

Bridgepoint Development Capital (“BDC”) has signed an agreement to invest in Plug In Digital (“PiD”), one of the largest independent video game distributors and a rising video game publisher. Existing shareholders, including Francis Ingrand, are reinvesting significantly in the operation, while the transaction enables the opening of PiD’s capital to its employees.

Plug In Digital orchestrates a $75m funding round to finance its organic development, including the publishing of high-potential indie games meeting PiD editorial line as well as its external growth strategy, targeting notably video games’ developers with own-IP on which the company can further capitalize. Financing is provided by Eurazeo in the form of unitranche debt and includes a dedicated and committed line to finance future external growth.

Plug In Digital was founded in 2012 by Francis Ingrand, quickly growing into a full-service games distributor and publisher for today’s most exciting games across PC, cloud, console and mobile platforms. The company’s two publishing labels, Dear Villagers and PID Games, boast an impressive portfolio that spans a variety of today’s most popular genres, reaching players across all platforms and delivering playful, distinctive and audacious games to global audiences.

Francis Ingrand, CEO and Founder of Plug In Digital commented: “We are excited to work with Bridgepoint for the next steps of our ambitious development project. We are confident they are the right partner to accompany us in our growth journey, mixing organic development and targeted strategic acquisitions. We are pleased to have attracted Bridgepoint who believes in our differentiating model, our strategic direction and our people.”

Plug In Digital has seen a 50 percent+ yearly growth over the past five years, hitting a successful stride with its flagship publishing label Dear Villagers which has launched more than eight cross-platform, cross-gen titles into the global games marketplace since its inception in early 2019. One of its most recent titles, The Forgotten City, has been lauded by international critics for its unique, eye-catching design as well as its exceptional narrative and dialogue and has been a remarkable commercial hit. PID Games, the second label under the Plug In Digital umbrella, is focused on offering studios a flexible publishing or co-publishing support on PC, Console and Mobile. PID is on track to publish 30 games this year from its global development partners.

Olivier Nemsguern, Partner at Bridgepoint Development Capital and responsible for investment activities in France added: “We have been following the Video Games sector closely for a period of time and are impressed by Plug In Digital’s journey to-date. The company is well-positioned in a really exciting market, and has built a great brand in the Indie publishing space, relying on its committed and skilled leadership team. We look forward to partnering with the Company during its next chapter of development.”

Bridgepoint Development Capital, through its BDC IV fund, has concluded through this transaction, its fourth investment in Europe, and first in France.

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Great Canadian Gaming Corporation Enters Definitive Agreement to Be Acquired by Funds Managed by Affiliates of Apollo Global Management For C$39.00 Per Share

Apollo Global

November 10, 2020

Sponsorship from Leading Investment Manager to Bring Additional Gaming and Hospitality Expertise to Great Canadian

Apollo Expresses Support for Safe Reopening and Welcoming Back Team Members in Adherence with All Applicable Health and Safety Restrictions

TORONTO, Nov. 10, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (TSX:GC) (“Great Canadian” or the “Company”) today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by funds (the “Apollo Funds”) managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management, Inc. (NYSE: APO) (together with its consolidated subsidiaries, “Apollo”). Under the terms of the agreement, Apollo Funds will acquire all the outstanding shares of Great Canadian common stock for C$39.00 per share in a transaction with a total enterprise valuation exceeding C$3.3 billion.

The purchase price represents a 59% premium to the 30-day VWAP as of November 9, 2020.

Following close of the transaction, Great Canadian will remain headquartered in Toronto, led by a Canadian management team and with Canadian board members. Apollo also anticipates that certain Canadian institutions may co-invest in the transaction to become equity owners in the Company alongside the Apollo Funds upon completion of the acquisition. Apollo is a responsible sponsor and has a long track record of success investing in companies in highly regulated industries, as well as Canada-based companies.

 “The Board of Directors, based on a recommendation from the special committee of independent directors, has unanimously concluded that this transaction represents the best course of action for the Company. Factoring in our long-term prospects, this transaction will unlock value for our shareholders at a significant premium to our current share price,” stated Rod Baker, the Company’s Chief Executive Officer.

“We are pleased that this transaction represents a great opportunity for our shareholders, while continuing to support the success of the business longer term. We believe this transaction is beneficial for our shareholders, our team members, our guests, and other stakeholders as we continue to execute on our operational and development plans into 2021 and beyond, while we navigate through this volatile time. In addition, we believe Apollo’s extensive experience in the gaming sector will provide additional strategic benefits to help expand our gaming and hospitality offerings and to secure our position as a long-term market leader,” concluded Baker.

Apollo is committed to maintaining the Company’s current operational footprint and anticipates Great Canadian’s properties will increase under the Apollo Funds’ ownership. Apollo intends to help drive additional, incremental growth through initiatives such as expansion of non-gaming facilities, expanded loyalty and marketing programs, and gaming improvements that leverage the scale of the firm’s platform. Apollo recognizes Great Canadian’s strong track record of corporate citizenship and community involvement and will continue this legacy.

Alex van Hoek, Partner at Apollo, said: “Great Canadian is a leader in the gaming and entertainment industry and, based on our experience and knowledge of the space, we see opportunities to work with their talented team to drive additional growth and value. With an industry-leading portfolio of assets and established presence in the best geographic markets across Canada, we are excited to help bring an enhanced experience to more guests across Canada.”

Van Hoek added: “We also recognize the challenges of the current circumstances and are committed to working with the management team, regulators and health authorities to allow the Company to reopen its properties as soon as it’s safe to do so. We’re excited for the Company to welcome Great Canadian team members back to work, and we look forward to a time when employment and operations return to pre-COVID levels. We are of course also firmly committed to complying with applicable reopening rules as the health and safety of team members and guests will remain the highest priority.”

The transaction has been approved unanimously by the Board of Directors of Great Canadian, which determined that the transaction is fair from a financial point of view to shareholders and is in the best interests of the Company. The Company and the Special Committee of the Board of Directors received fairness opinions from Scotiabank and CIBC World Markets Inc., respectively, which subject to the assumptions, qualifications and limitations therein that, as of the date of each such opinion, the consideration to be received pursuant to the definitive agreement, is fair, from a financial point of view, to the Great Canadian shareholders. The Board of Directors of Great Canadian also unanimously resolved to recommend that shareholders vote in favour of the transaction at the special meeting of shareholders that will be called to approve the transaction, which is expected to be held in December 2020.

The transaction is not subject to a financing condition. The transaction is structured as an arrangement under the Business Corporations Act (British Columbia). The transaction will be subject to a number of closing conditions, including customary provincial and federal regulatory approvals (including under the Investment Canada Act and the Competition Act (Canada)), the receipt of necessary shareholder approvals, the receipt of the necessary approvals from the Supreme Court of British Columbia, and the Company maintaining its credit facilities.  Further details regarding the terms of the transaction are set out in the arrangement agreement, which will be publicly filed by Great Canadian under its profile at www.sedar.com.

Further information regarding the transaction will be included in an information circular to be mailed to Great Canadian shareholders. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021.

Scotiabank is serving as lead financial advisor to the Company and CIBC World Markets Inc. is serving as financial advisor to the Special Committee.  McMillan LLP is serving as legal advisors to the Company and Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP is serving as legal advisors to the Special Committee.

Macquarie Capital acted as lead financial advisor to Apollo on the transaction. Deutsche Bank Securities and Barclays also acted as financial advisors to Apollo. Apollo’s legal advisors were Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. Crestview Strategy is serving as Canadian public affairs and government relations advisors.

Apollo is a leading alternative investment manager with extensive experience in the gaming sector, including control investments made by its funds to grow and enhance the operations of Aliante, Gala Coral, Gamenet and PlayAGS (formerly American Gaming Systems), collective operations of which span the US, UK and Italy. Apollo has a 30-year track record of responsible investing, with its affiliated funds successfully owning companies in highly regulated industries such as gaming, healthcare, chemicals and aerospace.

ABOUT GREAT CANADIAN GAMING CORPORATION

Founded in 1982, Great Canadian Gaming Corporation is an Ontario-based company that operates 25 gaming, entertainment and hospitality facilities in Ontario, British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Fundamental to the Company’s culture is its commitment to social responsibility. “PROUD of our people, our business, our community” is Great Canadian’s brand that unifies the Company’s community, volunteering and social responsibility efforts. Under the PROUD program, Great Canadian annually supports over 1,400 charitable and non-profit organizations across Canada. In each Canadian gaming jurisdiction, a significant portion of gross gaming revenue from gaming facilities is retained by our Crown partners on behalf of their provincial government for the purpose of supporting programs like healthcare, education and social services.

ABOUT APOLLO

Apollo is a leading global alternative investment manager with offices in New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, Bethesda, London, Frankfurt, Madrid, Luxembourg, Mumbai, Delhi, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo. Apollo had assets under management of approximately $433 billion as of September 30, 2020 in credit, private equity and real assets funds invested across a core group of nine industries where Apollo has considerable knowledge and resources. For more information about Apollo, please visit www.apollo.com.

CAUTIONARY NOTES REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This news release may contain forward-looking information within the meaning of applicable securities legislation.

Forward-looking information is based on a number of assumptions and is subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond the Company’s and Apollo’s control, which could cause actual results to differ materially from those that are disclosed in or implied by such forward-looking information. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, impact of global liquidity and credit availability and liquidity and market risks associated with our financial instruments; interest and exchange rate fluctuations; fluctuations in operating results; economic uncertainty and financial market volatility; outbreaks of epidemics or pandemics and the response of governments to actual and potential epidemics or pandemics, including the current outbreak of COVID-19. These factors and other risks and uncertainties are discussed in the Company’s continuous disclosure documents filed with the Canadian securities regulatory authorities from time to time, including in the “Risk Factors” section of the Company’s Annual Information Form, and as identified in the Company’s disclosure record on SEDAR at www.sedar.com.

Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on the forward-looking information. The Company and Apollo undertake no obligation to revise forward-looking information to reflect subsequent events or circumstances except as required by law. The forward-looking information contained herein is made as of the date hereof, is subject to change after such date, and is expressly qualified in its entirety by cautionary statements in this press release.

Great Canadian Contact Information

For investor enquiries:

ir@gcgaming.com, or
Ms. Tanya Ruskowski
Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer and the President, Strategic Growth & Chief Compliance Officer
(604) 303-1000

For media enquiries:

Mr. Chuck Keeling
Executive Vice President, Stakeholder Relations & Responsible Gaming
(778) 874-4942
ckeeling@gcgaming.com

Apollo Contact Information

For investors:

Peter Mintzberg
Head of Investor Relations
Apollo Global Management, Inc.
212-822-0528
pmintzberg@apollo.com

Ann Dai
Investor Relations Manager
Apollo Global Management, Inc.
(212) 822-0678
adai@apollo.com

For US media:

Joanna Rose
Global Head of Corporate Communications
Apollo Global Management, Inc.
(212) 822-0491
jrose@apollo.com

For Canada media:

Kieran Lawler
Crestview Strategy
kieran.lawler@crestviewstrategy.com
(416)-303-0799

Morgan Cates
Crestview Strategy
morgan.cates@crestviewstrategy.com
(647)-999-3024

Primary Logo

Source: Apollo Global Management, Inc.

 

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Ex-DICE & e-sports veterans raise pre-seed for new games studio NAG

LVP

Welcome to the LVP family, NAG Studios!

NAG raises pre-seed round

We are very excited to announce this $1M pre-seed round into NAG Studios AB, based in Stockholm, Sweden. The team is headed by DICE veteran Peter Stahl and esports specialist Johan Skott, and aims to deliver the next generation of competitive gaming entertainment.

Within VC and game development circles, the idea of investing into esports as some monolithic entity can form the punchline to many a joke. Not because it isn’t important within gaming, nor valid as a genuine differentiator – indeed, this was one of the key reasons why we invested into NAG – but that the sophistication of analysis has been lacking beyond platitudes about viewership, or esports was used as a buzzword tacked on without understanding what its function would be (see our previous blog post). We found that very few people were talking about esports in the right way. Is it possible to design an esport from the start? Is an esport a competitive game that has merely become popular?

On the other hand, when considering how well a game design will work as a viewing experience, or planning monetisation and balancing to make it open and fair enough to be considered by the esports ecosystem and tournament organisers, an esports focus makes sense. This also has added benefits when considering collaborating with streamers and influencers. Esports as a superstructure, being built on a competitive game with a fair balance and a fun to view format, means that getting teams in early to assist in this regard is only logical. The larger question that follows this is whether you can kickstart these communities by starting with this more hardcore community first and then expect the mass market to pick up the game as a result.

When we met NAG, we had all these thoughts running through our heads, and initially questioned why they were so explicitly targeting esports. However, as we talked further it became clear that their focus on esports was the effect, not the cause, of their wider strategy. Peter and Johan’s approach, in bringing in the community first and using them to build games from the inside out, was like music to our ears; this is how games should (and increasingly need) to be made. Their obsessive focus on integrating and engaging all users, regardless of whether they are actively playing the game or not, felt both revolutionary and natural at the same time. NAG is redefining what it means to be a competitive game, widening its scope to become a hobby activity: not merely the game, but including lots of overlapping activities including viewing and streaming integrations, flexible user engagement and community assistance in the design of the game.

To undertake this is no mean feat and luckily for us, the team assembled at NAG is more than up for the task. Together, the team has 60 years’ experience in the games and esports industry (the majority in competitive gaming), having worked on leading FPS titles such as Battlefield, Medal of Honor and Star Wars: Battlefront. Johan brings with him his deep network within esports. The creative spine of NAG, Peter and Niklas, both worked together whilst they were at DICE and the team are well positioned to draw upon the vibrant Swedish gaming ecosystem.

NAG’s first game is providing a mode and format that is different to anything that is currently out in the market today. Competitive games have always been more community-led and prone to experimentation than any other genre, thanks largely to a large and passionate core group seeking these high octane experiences. Looking back at the progression of competitive games, Counterstrike was initially a mod of Half-Life and battle royale was borne out of an Arma 2 mod. The fact that the ideas for these multi-billion dollar games have been spawned from within the community, clearly illustrates the importance of listening to and interacting with them. And this is exactly what NAG intends to do. We can’t wait to get started.

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GP Bullhound completes a follow-on investment in Challengermode

Gp Bullhound

GP Bullhound completes a follow-on investment in Challengermode
Challengermode Robel Web

Making esports accessible to everyone

26 August 2020

Founded in 2014 Challengermode has swiftly secured its position as one of the leading providers of the operating infrastructure powering esports and online tournaments. The company has grown impressively, having hosted millions of competitions and has become a regular place for gamers to congregate, practice and compete in esports.

Challengermode successfully closed an external financing round of $12m led by eWTP Innovation Fund, the global investment arm of the Alibaba Group, with additional support from GP Bullhound, Telia Ventures, Back in Black and football legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

 

Hampus Hellermark of GP Bullhound, said: “We have a strong vision for the future of esports and believe Challengermode has a unique opportunity to be a driving force in making that vision a reality. We are excited to continue to support Robel and the team on their quest to make esports accessible to everyone.”

 

“We are very excited to close this new financing round with the support of a strong set of investors who share our vision for esports. With the additional backing, we’re able to double down on our core mission of delivering the best competitive gaming experience to each and everyone’s home, in any game,” commented Robel Efrem, CEO of Challengermode.

GP Bullhound completed its first investment in Challengermode in 2018 through Fund IV, which focuses on growth stage businesses in the software, digital media, marketplaces and fintech sectors. Previous investments include Ravenpack, Slack, Klarna, Unity, Glovo and Believe.

Enquiries

For enquiries, please contact:

Joakim Dal, Partner

joakim.dal@gpbullhound.com Hampus Hellermark, Associate

hampus.hellermark@gpbullhound.com

About GP Bullhound

GP Bullhound is a leading technology advisory and investment firm, providing transaction advice and capital to the world’s best entrepreneurs and founders. Founded in 1999, the firm today has offices in London, San Francisco, Stockholm, Berlin, Manchester, Paris, Hong Kong, Madrid and New York. For more information, please visit www.gpbullhound.com.


GP Bullhound Fund V

Following the successful strategy of its predecessor funds, GP Bullhound Fund V recently held its first close of €125m, focusing on growth-stage businesses in the software industry. Read more here.

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CVC funds to partner with ironSource

New investment by CVC funds will allow ironSource to further accelerate both organic and inorganic growth

Leading mobile marketing company ironSource announced today that CVC Funds have agreed to acquire a minority stake for over $400 million in the company. The partnership reflects a shared long-term vision to further strengthen ironSource’s position as a global market leader in the high-growth mobile advertising and mobile gaming technology markets and will serve to accelerate strategic growth.

“As one of the world’s most respected private equity firms, CVC has a track record of successfully partnering with companies to drive global growth,” said Tomer Bar Zeev, CEO and Co-Founder of ironSource. “As such they are the perfect partner for this next phase in our journey, as we continue to scale internationally, engage with A-class partners and invest heavily in building out our offering for game developers.”

Profitable from almost day one, ironSource has grown rapidly since its founding in 2009 and is on track to finish 2019 with approximately $1 billion of revenue. Through its various technologies, the company works with a unique combination of customers including software, app and game developers, telecom operators, and mobile device original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The company  focuses on developing technologies for app monetization and distribution, with its core products targeting game developers.

The  gaming industry is experiencing rapid growth, and is on track to generate $180 billion in 2021, with mobile gaming experiencing a 27% CAGR. ironSource’s growth platform provides mobile game developers with the tools they need to grow and scale their game businesses.

“We’re witnessing the creation of a sector, gametech, which supports this growing ecosystem, with tailor-made tech solutions such as advertising, marketing, analytics, market intelligence, CRM and more,” says Bar-Zeev. “Our continued investment in this industry is part of a wider goal to be the go-to partner for any game developer looking to scale their game business.”

Another key growth driver for the company is Aura, ironSource’s solution for mobile carriers and device manufacturers. Aura provides a dynamic engagement and content distribution solution, empowering OEMs and telecoms operators to build ongoing relationships with their customers, ultimately turning those customers into engaged users. The technology is integrated on more than 120 million mobile devices globally, through partnerships with the top telecoms operators in the US and international mobile OEMs.

“By combining best-in-class technology with strategic acquisitions we’ve proven our ability to support the growth of our clients and create a unique experience for their users, and that’s something we plan to continue investing in moving forward,” concluded Bar Zeev.

“We are delighted to be partnering with such an innovative and exciting technology business,” said Daniel Pindur, Partner at CVC Capital Partners. “The investment in ironSource  is a unique opportunity to support a well-respected founder-led organization to accelerate its growth. We look forward to working with Tomer Bar Zeev and his team to take the company to the next level.”

Sebastian Kuenne, Managing Director, CVC Growth Partners added: “We are very excited about CVC Funds’ first technology deal in Israel. Israel is a hub for leading edge technology companies and ironSource is a prime example. We are excited by the opportunity to partner with ironSource’s founders to continue to provide leading technology solutions to its customers.”

Board members at ironSource, Shlomo Dovrat, Co-Founder of Viola Ventures and Ronen Nir, GP at Viola Ventures, added: “As the first institutional investor in ironSource, we had the honour of working with this exceptional founding team, and supporting their growth to become one of Israel’s first unicorns. We are big believers in the company’s ongoing journey to becoming a global leader and with CVC’s support, we are confident the company will sustain its rapid growth and high profitability. ironSource is a fantastic example of Viola’s commitment to backing Israeli entrepreneurs who aspire to build multi-billion dollar companies, and is an inspiration for the entire Israeli tech ecosystem.”

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Axcel invests in SteelSeries, a leading global brand within gaming peripherals

Axcel

For nearly two decades, SteelSeries has been a frontrunner in the gaming industry, offering high-quality gaming peripherals to pro and enthusiast gamers. Its software platform has millions of daily users and is integrated with games and applications. Over the years, the company has built a strong brand and has leveraged this to outpace category growth globally. The gaming peripherals market is expected to continue experiencing significant growth, mainly driven by an increased number of gamers, growth in esports and a clear trend towards multiplayer/social games.

“I am very proud of our growth, driven by relentless innovation, inspired design, and a commitment to esports. We are well positioned to benefit from category growth and a loyal fan base. We have built the best team in the business and we look forward to a new partnership with Axcel.” says Ehtisham Rabbani, CEO of SteelSeries.

SteelSeries helped create the gaming audio category, in a list of many industry firsts. Today, the Arctis headset line is an award-winning market leader. SteelSeries’ other market leading products lines include the Rival gaming mice, Apex gaming keyboards and QcK gaming surfaces.

Ehtisham and the rest of the management team have done an excellent job in defining a clear value proposition and setting a focused strategy. Furthermore, the company has been able to develop new and innovative products across the key gaming peripherals supporting today’s enthusiast and professional gamers,” says Lars Cordt, who is responsible for the investment at Axcel. “Based on SteelSeries’ strong position as a leading global gaming peripherals brand, we believe that we can grow the company significantly going forward.”

Founded in Denmark to serve the needs of esports pros, the company has sponsored some of the world’s first professional esports teams and tournaments. This legacy has solidified SteelSeries as a top esports brand and continues to drive all aspects of the company’s hardware and software development.

Jacob Wolff-Petersen, the founder, is excited about the prospects of partnering with Axcel:

“I’m excited about partnering with Axcel for the next phase of the company’s journey. SteelSeries has become a global company, but the company’s Nordic heritage is still an essential part of our DNA. Axcel was therefore an obvious partner. I’m certain that together with Axcel, we will be able to further expand the SteelSeries brand across regions and channels.

Christian Bamberger Bro, partner at Axcel, adds:

SteelSeries is an exciting investment opportunity for Axcel, where we will be able to leverage our experience within the consumer and technology sectors to develop the company together with its exceptionally talented management team.”

SteelSeries is being acquired from US-based L Catterton. The parties have agreed not to disclose any financial terms. The transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals.

SteelSeries is Axcel V’s ninth investment. Axcel will control the majority of SteelSeries’ shares.

About SteelSeries
SteelSeries is a leader in gaming peripherals focused on quality, innovation and functionality, and the fastest growing major PC gaming headset brand in the US. Founded in 2001, SteelSeries improves performance through first-to-market innovations and technologies that enable gamers to play harder, train longer, and rise to the challenge. SteelSeries is a pioneer supporter of competitive gaming tournaments and eSports and connects gamers to each other, fostering a sense of community and purpose. SteelSeries’ team of professional and gaming enthusiasts help design and craft every single accessory and are the driving force behind the company. In 2018, the company generated sales of DKK +1 billion.

About Axcel
Founded in 1994, Axcel is a Nordic private equity firm focusing on mid-market companies and has a broad base of both Nordic and international investors. Axcel has raised five funds with total committed capital of just over EUR 2.0 billion. These funds have made 55 platform investments, with almost 100 major add-on investments and 43 exits. Axcel currently owns 12 companies with combined annual revenue of more than EUR 1.1 billion and some 4,000 employees.

Further information:

Axcel:
Lars Cordt, Partner
E-mail: lc@axcel.dk
Tel.: +45 3336 6999

Christian Schmidt-Jacobsen, Managing Partner
E-mail: csj@axcel.dk
Tel.: +45 3336 6999

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First exit by EQT Ventures – sells stake in Small Giant Games at USD 700 million valuation

EQT Ventures

  • EQT Ventures sells its stake in mobile games company Small Giant Games to Zynga, a leading social games developer
  • EQT Ventures led a USD 5.7 million Series A round in March 2017 and an additional USD 41 million investment at the end of January 2018

The EQT Ventures fund (“EQT Ventures”) today announces that it entered an agreement to sell its ownership stake in the Finnish mobile gaming studio, Small Giant Games (“the Company”) to Zynga Inc. (Nasdaq: ZNGA), a leading social game developer, headquartered in San Francisco, California. The implied valuation of the Small Giant Games transaction is at USD 700 million. EQT Ventures led a USD 5.7 million Series A round in March 2017 and then led an additional USD 41 million investment in January 2018.

Founded in 2013, Small Giant Games’ team of 47 employees developed the hit franchise Empires & Puzzles. The game blends approachable Match-3 battles with deeper gameplay elements including Hero Collection, Base Building and Social Alliances. Just ten months after Empires & Puzzles’ launch in March 2017, the game had developed a strong new brand and loyal following, and Small Giant Games reported USD 33 million in revenues. In the first four months of 2018, the company had already exceeded 2017’s revenue. In addition, Empires & Puzzles has frequently made it into the the Top 10 Grossing Games on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store and has now been downloaded more than 26 million times.

In March 2017, EQT Ventures led Small Giant Games’ USD 5.7 million Series A round and has remained the largest individual owner in the Company since. Following the successful launch of Empires & Puzzles, EQT Ventures was dedicated to supporting the Company’s continued growth journey and, at the end of January 2018, the fund led an additional USD 41 million investment. During the investment period, EQT Ventures – with its team’s mobile gaming experience – supported the Company as it sought to scale Empires & Puzzles.

Timo Soininen, CEO at Small Giant Games, commented: “Our studio has always believed that small, focused and talented teams with a big vision can achieve huge things. EQT Ventures has supported us from the start – not just with capital, but also strategic advice and guidance. The EQT Ventures team’s extensive mobile gaming experience and entrepreneurial mindset has proved invaluable when scaling Empires & Puzzles and we’ve enjoyed working closely with Lars and the rest of the team. I’m confident that partnering with Zynga is now the right next step in our evolution.”

Lars Jörnow, Partner at EQT Partners and Investment Advisor to EQT Ventures, concluded: “Huge congratulations to Timo, Markus, Otto and the rest of the Small Giant team – this is a well-deserved milestone for everyone at the company. The Small Giant team checked all the boxes for EQT Ventures: small, passionate, agile, data-driven and determined to build a global hit game. The EQT Ventures team would like to thank Small Giant Games for letting us be part of their journey – it has been a true partnership and we look forward to the next phase!”

Contact
Lucy Wimmer, Communications Partner, EQT Ventures, lucy@eqtventures.com, +44 7551 289 177
EQT Press Office, press@eqtpartners.com, +46 8 506 55 334

About EQT Ventures
EQT Ventures is a multi-stage VC fund with commitments of just over EUR 566 million. The fund is based in Luxembourg and has investment advisors stationed in Stockholm, Amsterdam, London, San Francisco and Berlin. Fuelled by some of Europe’s most experienced company builders and scalers, EQT Ventures helps the next generation of entrepreneurs with capital and hands on support. EQT Ventures is part of EQT, a leading investment firm with more than EUR 50 billion in raised capital across 28 funds.

More info: www.eqtpartners.com

About EQT
EQT is a leading investments firm with more than EUR 50 billion in raised capital across 28 funds. EQT funds have portfolio companies in Europe, Asia and the US with total sales of more than EUR 19 billion and approximately 110,000 employees. EQT works with portfolio companies to achieve sustainable growth, operational excellence and market leadership.

More info: www.eqtpartners.com

About Small Giant Games
Small Giant Games was founded in early 2013 with the belief that small, talented teams can do extraordinary things. We bring years of experience to the table, with a crew of top players in game development, software engineering and graphic design. We’re based right in the heart of downtown Helsinki, Finland.

More info: www.smallgiantgames.com

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