Juliane Schulze, initiator of the workshop “Projekt Zukunft: Investment Lab Games and XR”
Projekt Zukunft has announced a new workshop called “Projekt Zukunft: Investment Lab Games and XR”, which aims to network the players within this industry and offer training in investment management to managing partners of games and XR companies based in Berlin. The inaugural workshop will take place this autumn. The project invites all games and XR developers and producers based in Berlin to apply. Its goal is to increase the willingness of companies to invest in the games and XR sector.
Ms Schulze, the workshop “Projekt Zukunft: Investment Lab Games and XR” will take place for the first time in autumn. What exactly awaits the participants there?
The online training programme, which is conducted in English, aims to increase the willingness of companies to invest in the games and XR sector. The participants will ask themselves all the crucial questions that are relevant for raising outside capital. They will also draft or update the necessary documents to be submitted to investors. All of this will be done in a supervised setting in an intensive workshop, namely from mid-October to the end of November 2022.
The programme consists of modules that build on each other, which first impart knowledge and then apply it. The participants develop the basis for their investment proposal step by step, which they can then discuss in the group and continue to improve until they pitch their company to an (inter)national investor panel.
Can you elaborate on that?
In this process, we examine two perspectives: that of business angels, who traditionally invest in companies in their early stages, and that of venture capitalists, which usually gets involved a little later, in other words when the company has reached a certain stage of maturity. Both types of investors are very different, follow different criteria and have different expectations of the company. Participants will get to know and understand the thinking of both parties - and thus be able to identify the right investors for them.
The programme offers participants two test runs to rehearse their investor pitches and receive feedback from the group and the coaches immediately afterwards - and thus optimise their pitch decks. An additional individual mentoring hour helps to examine important issues in detail and iron out any potential kinks. In this phase of the programme, we will hopefully be able to meet in person at two networking events, depending on the course of the pandemic.
The highlight of the programme is the Online Pitching Day, where the entrepreneurs will present their companies and projects to a selected group of experienced investors. But the workshop series does not end there, because we close the programme with the important question about the next steps and practical milestone planning. Finally, we want the participants to apply what they have learned and successfully raise funds.
What are the most exciting aspects of the programme?
Putting yourself in the shoes of an investor is certainly one of the most exciting moments. Only then does the logic of a business pitch become apparent, only then do the participants understand why certain documents have to be provided for due diligence and what needs to be taken into account when drafting them.
In my opinion, however, the real highlight is the investor feedback round, which takes place right after each pitch. This is where the Investment Lab Games and XR differs greatly from other formats, because our financiers respond immediately to the pitches, comment on them, explain what they found came across well or not so well, why there may be outstanding issues and what particularly impressed them about the presentations.
The programme is divided into the business angel perspective, which includes business pitch workshops with four modules over three days: Evidence Planning + SWOT; What is a Business Pitch & Getting into the Mind of Investors; European Financing Sources; Dealing w. Investors & Company Valuation, The Business Pitch. The venture capital perspective includes a workshop presentation by Erdinç Koç, Head of MediaTech Hub Accelerator at the Hasso Plattner Institute, followed by a discussion.
Who can participate in the workshop?
“Projekt Zukunft: Investment Lab Games and XR” is open to all game developers and producers in the XR and immersive media sector based in Berlin. Your company should meet the definition of a small or medium-sized company, be at least two years old and not have already given more than 20 per cent of the company shares to investors.
We also welcome relatively small teams of at least five people who are either employed and/or working as freelancers. It is important to us that the company has its own IP and already has at least one game or XR content on the market. This means that the company should already be generating sales, has worked with local funding institutions and would now like to prepare the next strategic step to acquire outside capital. Participation is limited to ten companies, with up to three team members attending the workshop.
You helped bring this event to life and will also play a key role in organising it - which investors do you have on board? And what support will they provide?
In order to create the best possible match between the participating companies, their requirements and needs as well as the different investor profiles, we will invite the investors after we have selected the companies. I can confirm that the investor panel will be made up of local, German and international investors who include both experienced business angels and venture capitalists.
The German XR/VR industry has seen steady growth in sales and is already an important part of the digital economy - almost on a par with the games industry. Is networking therefore almost a matter of necessity?
My impression is that both areas are increasingly overlapping. Not only in terms of technical developments and skills, but also in terms of narrative formats and business models. Games and XR are also increasingly becoming a kind of reference base for all other branches of industry. This means that networking can potentially also lead to increased cooperation, creative exchange and, ideally, to innovation.
How exciting investors find these links can be seen from the amount of funds currently invested in the metaverse.
You have specialised in innovative financing solutions and act as a link to investors and the creative industry. Can you tell us more about it?
My background is the film industry. I spent the first few years of my career working in film financing, which was still relatively confusing for many European film producers in the early 2000s. It was therefore necessary to develop financing strategies for international co-productions. Interestingly, other cultural and creative sectors also faced similar financing issues and challenges that could sometimes be solved with modified models from the film industry.
What these sectors have in common is that they still rely on project funding. Those who can only finance their company from project to project will hardly be able to develop medium or long-term company strategies. That means private capital is needed. Laying the foundations for this, in other words developing and identifying alternatives to the relevant funding, shall be my role for the next few years. These foundations laid should also allow investors to assess the business models, value chains and growth prospects of a creative business.
It is therefore not only important to professionalise creative people, but also to offer investors the knowledge they need to be successful in this industry. This led to the establishment of a European investor network for early-stage investments in companies in the creative industry.
How can investors be wowed by media and creative industry in the long term?
Through success stories that are well documented and that create confidence in the investment suitability of an industry that is still relatively new for most investors. In the end, what counts for investors are the exits in the industry in which they want to invest. Which company shares were sold at what value, which mergers and acquisitions have taken place. It is therefore particularly important to monitor these key figures. However, these are still lacking to a large extent.
In addition to this, an attractive proposition is that the media and creative industry often paves the way for value-related and future-oriented innovation. Sustainability and inclusion have long been practised in many creative companies. This also attracts the attention of investors. However, a deal will only come about if the company can compete with other investment opportunities. This is exactly what we are working towards at “Projekt Zukunft: Investment Lab Games and XR”.
Finally, you are also a member of the European Women's Audiovisual Network – can you tell us more about your work and why this network is so important?
The EWA Network is a pan-European organisation dedicated to promoting gender equality in the European audiovisual sector. This equality is anything but self-evident and is unfortunately far from being achieved. Even if more recent data shows that we are on the right track, there are still large discrepancies, for example access to funding between male and female producers. Therefore, the network connects women in the audiovisual sector worldwide - also in the fight for inclusivity and intersectionality in the European audiovisual industry.
EWA promotes the professional development of women through networking opportunities, career-promoting programmes, research and advocacy work and special membership events, and makes their contributions visible and recognised in the European audiovisual sector.
I've been on the network's board for four years, which means I'm allowed to contribute to its strategic direction and, most recently, to the election of a great new team of directors. I also run a training programme for members on, you guessed it, alternative financing for audiovisual products.