March Capital has launched its March Gaming Fund with $60 million to invest in game startups. The fund is headed by managing director Gregory Milken, who has been responsible for most of March Capital’s investments in game companies since the fund originally appeared in 2014.
The Santa Monica, California-based March Gaming Fund will focus on startups in the $159 billion industry (from market research firm Newzoo’s estimates). In contrast to the larger March Capital funds, this will just invest in seed and series A (first institutional VC round) entrepreneurs who are developing gaming content, technology, and infrastructure. It’s larger than most of the 30 or so other game venture funds around the world, and it’s one more sign of the mainstreaming of games.
“We had two funds which did venture growth investing,” said Gregory in an interview with GamesBeat. “Part of what I was doing was early-stage deals in gaming. We decided after those first two funds that it would be better to put gaming off into its own dedicated team now, which I’m really excited about. So we can put more time and focus on it. We also had certain limited partners who really liked the gaming sector.”
Why gaming is hot
Mobile gamers could grow to a legion 2.6 billion strong this year. And the sector is one of few that is benefiting during the pandemic, as more new players turn to gaming while they can’t go outside for sports or entertainment events.
March Capital Funds I ($240 million) and II ($300 million) gaming investments included Genvid Technologies and Immortals Gaming Club. Nifty Games and Knock Knock are among the investments that have been made by the new entity, March Gaming Fund, while it was still in its stealth mode. March Gaming Fund will lead approximately 12 to 15 investments in gaming and will provide capital, connections and guidance to entrepreneurs in this arena, Gregory said. Each investment will be $500,000 to $3 million.
Gregory has had some success in game investing. He invested in Small Giant Games, which Zynga acquired for $560 million (for just 80% of the company).
Growing up Milken
Gregory is the son of Michael Milken, the well-known financier who was known in his heyday as the “junk bond king.” The elder Milken went to prison for violating U.S. securities laws, but he redeemed his reputation through charitable giving and his Milken Institute think tank. U.S. President Donald Trump pardoned the 74-year-old Michael Milken in February.
Gregory said his love for investing didn’t come directly from his father. Rather, he said he tried his own hand at the startup life as cofounder and CEO at AltEgo, a cloud technology and gaming company.
“It was not so much my father’s investments that drew me in. I really enjoyed that experience in the early stages, thinking about like strategy opportunities product and market fit,” he said. “Honestly, I do not love managing programmers. After that experience, I was thinking of how I can still be involved in early stages and share in the passion for company building. At March Capital, I learned it was just amazing and energetic to be in venture investing.”
Before AltEgo, he was a senior vice president at Knowledge Universe Education, and he worked in new business development at Warner Bros. in Hong Kong and London and at Twentieth Century Fox.
For the past six years, Gregory was managing partner and cofounder at March Capital, whose other cofounders include Sumant Mandal and Jamie Montgomery. Most of the limited partners are family offices of rich folks.
“We have deep knowledge in terms of what works [and so we can] help the entrepreneurs and we also have entrepreneurial backgrounds so we understand a lot of mistakes that can be made,” Gregory said.
He describes himself as a lifelong gamer, and he said frequently plays games with his wife and five children. Gregory is also active in philanthropy as a board member at his father’s Milken Institute, the Milken Family Foundation, and Penn’s Graduate School of Education.
“I played games my whole life. But I went through phases also where as a teenager, I read comic books. And comic books are a mainstream juggernaut now,” Gregory Milken said. “I’m excited, you know, that games are the mainstream social activity in some sense. They’re what you talk about at the water cooler.”
The March Capital approach
March Capital’s gaming investments include Genvid Technologies, Immortals Gaming Club, Nifty Games, Knock Knock, and Dorian. While Gregory was a big advocate for game investments, the rest of the group had checks and balances in place with partners who were not focused on games but were quite knowledgeable about startups and big enterprises.
“We’ve worked well as a three-person team making the investment decisions,” Milken said. “We didn’t see any reason to change that.”
With a dedicated gaming fund, Milken feels the team can focus on gaming more and exploit more opportunities.
“I’m always excited about playing games. And I have five kids. It’s great being able to play with them,” he said. “What’s really exciting to me is the way that the games industry has grown in terms of being able to engage with games as a viewer, not just gameplay, but people discussing and talking about games. It has become part of our lifestyle and social activity.”
He admires companies like Roblox, which have unlocked interest in user-generated content. Social media platforms like TikTok have also shared a lot of gaming activity, as have livestream companies like Amazon’s Twitch and Google’s YouTube.
Gregory is excited about investing in mobile games and PC games, but not as much about console because it takes so much more capital. North America and Los Angeles will be the base for investments, but the past funds have also made investments in Western Europe. He made an investment in esports in the Immortals Gaming Club, but he thinks the broader gaming market has more potential than esports in particular. He’s also more of a fan of startups building original games rather than licensing Hollywood intellectual properties.
“We’re interested in streaming infrastructure and platform tools and services,” he said. “I am not that excited about influencer-type businesses, which is like intelligent talent management.”
March Capital has stayed away from some markets, like virtual reality. And it hasn’t yet seen anything compelling in augmented reality.
“We’ll stay away from the things we worry about, but I’m not worried about one particular thing crashing the industry,” he said.
Some Silicon Valley venture funds make a gaming investment every one or two years. But Gregory thinks that’s not enough focus. Andreessen Horowitz has stepped up with numerous game investments. And dozens of other game-focused VC funds are offering a lot of competition, including Lumikai that also announced its fund for Indian game companies this week.
“If you’re not making multiple bets, you’re going to have to be very lucky,” he said.