British investor sees a gap in the Belgian gaming market

The Belgian gaming sector is fully developing and some players are facing significant advancement. However, finding local investors is not easy. British Hero Capital jumps into the hole. It invests $ 2.2 million in Happy Volcano in Leuven.

“The European gaming sector is severely underfunded compared to the US and Asia, while there is a lot of talent here,” explains Samuel Costello, an expert at Hiro Capital in London. The mutual fund is still young and has been active for a year and a half, but the founders have a lot of experience. One of them is Ian Livingston, who has founded pioneering companies such as Games Workshop (“Warhammer”) and Eidos (“Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”).

The timing is right for the box. The pandemic has given the gaming sector a record year in 2020. The trend of allowing simple but social “us” games to be run more intensively on different types of devices has helped find new audiences.


The European gaming sector is critically underfunded compared to the United States and Asia, which has a lot of talent here.

Samuel Costello

Hiro Capital expert

The lack of funding in Europe certainly also applies to Belgium, where more than 100 companies are active in the sector. Hiro Capital encourages Belgian gaming companies to present their projects. The fund invested only $ 2.2 million in Happy Volcano in Leuven.

Emotion

Jeroen Janssen, co-founder and CEO of Happy Volcano.
© Birgit Strucks

“The game was a commercial failure,” admits Jansen, CEO of Happy Volcano. We had no experience at all with how to market a game. But it proved that we can make and release a game together.

In a next game, The Almost Gone, they teamed up with Brussels author Joost Vandecasteele. The game makers won three awards with it. The money came from the Dutch fund and from the gaming division of the Flemish Audiovisual Fund (VAF). To do this, the trio had to create a company in 2015: Happy Volcano. We were still working after hours. It took until June of last year before the game was released, Janssen says.

You Suck at Parking – Trailer (PC & Console)

In 2017, the trio decided to work full time at the studio, which has now grown to eight employees. The studio builds sites and games for clients, but also works hard on its own game “You Suck at Parking”, “Maybe the only racing game you can win by quitting smoking.”

Happy Volcano in Hero Capital

Toy company Happy Volcano was founded in 2015 by Jeroen Janssen, Peter Maasen and David Prinsmel. Located in Leuven. The team of eight is looking for reinforcements, and there are three job vacancies on site. Turnover amounted to 350,000 euros. The company makes video games as well as websites and short games for clients. After investing $ 2.2 million from Hiro Capital, the focus turns to its special game “You Suck at Parking”.

Hiro Capital is a Luxembourg / London venture capital fund targeting European, British and North American innovators in games, esports, broadcasting and digital sports technology. It has a capital of 100 million euros and is involved in 12 companies. The fund was established in 2019 by Ian Livingston, Alvarez Locke and Freeman Sherry. They have a lot of experience in games, technology and e-commerce.

Happy Volcano presented “You Suck at Parking” at an event from Hiro Capital. “I did it out of interest and experience,” says Janssen. The next day it turned out that the investment company wanted to be part of the story. You didn’t even look at our business people. Janssen says she focuses on the product and the team.

We were not looking for money. We were profitable since the first year. With Hiro’s money, we can now focus on making our own games. Access to their expertise and network is invaluable to us.

Happy Volcano is not only looking abroad for capital and expertise, but also for talent. Especially in this area that there is mutual competition in this sector. Thanks to its remote working experience in the pandemic, Happy Volcano feels ready to become a “distributed team” with employees who can also be overseas.

Virtual Reality

Hiro Capital is also sniffing out other gaming companies. The Fund will attend the session next Wednesday The Big Score is dedicated to games, Organized by the Network Foundation | Startups.be Scale-Ups.eu.

Ghent Triangle Factory is one of the 8 Belgian game companies that offers promotions. Its turnover was 1.6 million euros last year. For 90 percent, this came from virtual reality (VR), both from apps and training. More than half of this money comes from companies, including a number of multinational companies.

The studio recently introduced a promising consumer virtual reality game, Hyper Dash. This illustrious multiplayer shooter has been in the official store of the popular Quest 2 headphones since last week, and has won a lot of praise from users. In the Discord messaging service, Hyper Dash already has a community of around 11,000 people who are also organizing competitions.

Triangle Factory CEO and founder, Timothy Vanherberghen, has the same approach as fellow Janssen from Happy Volcano: Investing is beneficial, but it is fundamentally about the investor’s experience and their network.

Vanherberghen and Janssen see his games getting a lot of updates. This lends itself to the “games as a service” concept, as gamers continue to be amazed at the new developments. Support from experienced investors is an asset.

It makes sense for Anglo-Saxon funds to appear. “Nearly 40 years of experience has been built in the UK and US,” says Janssen. But gaming companies are still hoping to offer local investment. The sector has long called for a tax shelter, which is an investor-friendly tax system that film and television products have been using for the past 17 years.

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About the Author: Estelle Allen

"Coffee fanatic. Friendly zombie aficionado. Devoted pop culture practitioner. Evil travel advocate. Typical organizer."

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