Grand Cru, a gaming start-up operating from the newly trendy Kallio area of Helsinki, has raised 8.5 million euros of funding – before launching a single game. According to the company, the secret to a successful funding round is that investors must understand the nature and possibilities of the gaming industry.
Grand Cru’s office of thirty employees has colorful walls and comfy chairs, a sauna and a terrace with a spectacular view. It’s all part of the big plan, says the company’s CMO Thorbjörn Warin.
— We want to hire the best people and we want to grow into a company of 100 people within a year and a half. Really talented people can’t necessarily be attracted with huge salaries. They want the most interesting job and the best company culture. That’s why we want our office to be really comfortable and that’s why we have an option to rent another floor in the building.
Investors who believed
A growth rate of this magnitude is made possible by a recent 8.5 million euro investment round. The round was led by Grand Cru’s main investor, Idinvest Partners, and Qualcomm Ventures and Nokia Growth Partners joined in as new investors.
Seeking new financing wasn’t necessary for Grand Cru but the company decided to do it anyway, to speed up its game development. The process of finding investors took altogether 4–5 months. How does a start-up with no launched products collect 8.5 million euros of investments, more than 75 percent of which is foreign?
— We met quite a few investors and finally found suitable ones. We were looking for partners with a clear understanding of the gaming industry, and that was the challenge. An understanding of the industry is necessary to guarantee a good working relationship. Investors need to believe in the team and the product; they need to know that if not this game, then the next one or the one after that will make it big, said Warin.
— All the positive attention that gaming companies like Rovio and Supercell have drawn to Finland and Helsinki certainly helped as well.
Saving the world from space
Grand Cru has been working on its first mobile game, Supernauts, since the company was founded in 2011. Right now the beta version is about to roll out in Canada, and Grand Cru is hoping to launch the game globally by the end of the year. The new investment round enables the company to speed up the launch and step up the marketing of Supernauts.
Supernauts is a touch-screen operated building game with full 3D features, designed for the Apple iOS operating system. The story of the game takes place in the future, when the polar ice caps have melted. The Supernauts have to build new worlds orbiting the globe as well as rescue people who are stuck on earth. There is a strong social aspect as gamers can build things together and take part in competitions.
— Playing Supernauts is free but users can also purchase things to speed up building. In our business, about five percent of customers bring in about 95 percent of revenue. The rest of the players just make the game fun and interesting, explains Thorbjörn Warin.
International company, location Finland
Grand Cru designs games for the global market and considers itself an international company that just happens to be located in Finland. But Warin finds many benefits in the Helsinki area.
— Finland is probably the best location in the world for gaming companies. First of all, there’s the Nokia history, which has left a strong legacy of mobile gaming know-how and international connections. Then there’s government support, like low interest rate loans and investments for start-ups. Computer, mobile device and broadband penetration is extremely high here, and everyone speaks English.
— Helsinki is becoming quite attractive and it’s getting easier and easier to hire employees from the international job market. We’re already an international crew and will probably continue to hire a mix of nationalities. In the end, we want to hire the best people. Many of them just happen to be Finns because of the history of the business here, Warin said.
The company is already starting to work on its second game and planning to hire people to start on its third game. This would not have been possible without the investment round.
And the company’s grand goal for the future? To make really cool games and to build a profitable company. In fact, to build one of the greatest gaming companies in the world.
Article is published in cooperation with Good News from Finland.