Execution Labs receives $1.4M to launch hybrid incubator and accelerator for independent mobile game development

By Scott Reyburn Comment

Execution Labs announced today that it’s taking applications for its hybrid incubator and accelerator for independent mobile game developers. The program is designed for experienced mobile game developers to work independently by receiving help to create and launch their own games, then eventually branching off into their own startup mobile game studios.Execution Labs logo

Co-founder Jason Della Rocca of Executive Labs, which will be focused on creating core and hard-core games for mobile platforms, told Inside Mobile Apps that he saw a great opportunity to work with indies to provide them with seed level funding and matching their development expertise with the business expertise they may be lacking.

“Often in the game industry people have great ideas, and they have a vision, but they don’t necessarily have the funds to get it going,” he says. “They might have very strong development skills but don’t fully understand the go to market side, the monetization side, the marketing, the user acquisition, all that kind of business side.”

Della Rocca believes there’s no other program designed like Execution Labs. He says there are other game-specific incubators or accelerators like YetiZen, Joystick Labs and GameFounders, but none that do both incubation, which means going from an idea to building a product out of an idea, and acceleration, which means going from a product to fostering an audience and going to market.

The Montreal, Canada-based Execution Labs program is spearheaded by game industry veterans including industry consultant and former director of the International Game Developers Association Della Rocca, Gameloft deployment division manager Alexandre Pelletier-Normand and OpenFeint vice president, monetization Keith Katz.

Game developers hand-picked by Execution Labs will receive seed funding, shared office space, development tools and access to Execution Labs’ mentors will provide coaching in aspects of game development and commercialization. Some of the mentors include co-founder of Xbox Ed Fries, game designer and creator of Fez Phil Fish and ngmoco Stockholm, Sweden general manager Ben Cousins. Game teams will not be pushed out of the incubator after a few months, meaning they can stay in the program until their game gains traction in the market and they’re ready to branch off into their own development house. Teams will be given marketing spend and customer acquisition and live operations support.

“Of the whole endeavor to put this together, the easiest part was probably getting those mentors to say ‘yes’ to coming up to Montreal and spending some time with the team,” he says. “That really speaks to the collaborative nature of the game industry.”

For now Execution Labs will work only with Canadian developers because it doesn’t want to deal with the work visas, Della Rocca says. However, there’s no shortage of game development talent in Canada. Della Rocca mentioned successful Canadian indie developers including Capybara Games, Massive Damage and Get Set Games.

Execution Labs also announced a marketing partnership with video game retailer GameStop’s incubation division Digital Ventures (GDV), the mergers and acquisitions, global strategy and incubation division of the company. GDV actively looks for partnerships, acquisitions and investment opportunities where it can accelerate the growth of innovative game and game-related products, services and technologies through GameStop’s global financial, management, retail and digital services. Della Rocca says as GameStop moves more toward digital markets, Execution Labs will help fill one piece of that puzzle.

“It’s a powerful partner that an indie off the street wouldn’t necessarily be able to just knock on their door and say ‘hey, let’s talk about a partnership,'” he says. “Whereas for us, we have those relationships in place, and that’s part of the value of what Execution Labs brings. We also represent a pipeline of content so it’s not just me and my one game, it’s sort me and my whole lab of teams that are producing content that may be suitable for marketing, distribution and support.”

When a game studio is ready to leave Execution Labs to go out on to its own, Execution Labs will also provide legal guidance and help to find funding from early-stage investors in hopes to allow the game developer to focus on making games, and less on business functions. In return for the legal guidance and help to find funding, Execution Labs will make money through equity stake and revenue share that’s variable with its level of investment in each game studio. For a breakdown of how the revenue share and equity stake will work, developers can go here.

The $1.4 million in seed round funding is led by BDC Venture Capital, Real Ventures, White Star Capital represented by Eric Martineu-Fortin and Taiwan-based angel investors Jimmy Foo and Richard Woo.

Canadian game developers can learn more about the program and apply here. Execution Labs’ plan is to go through initial applications in November and December, with the hopes of having five or six teams starting in¬†January.¬† Game developers can also stay in the program for as long as need be, and when a developer leaves the program, they’ll backfill that spot. Execution Labs plans to accept international applicants in the future.

Lastly, Della Rocca said this program is for experienced developers who know how to make games, but not necessarily done so in a startup or entrepreneurial context. The program is not for game development students or rookies.

“We’re going for guys who know how to make games and providing them the platform to be independent.”