Gaming start-up Yakkr secures six figure pre-seed investment

A tech start-up launched by two Durham University friends has secured a six figure pre-seed investment from Athena Venture Capital, backed by TwinklHive.

Yakkr was set up by Marcus Rowley and Rhys Birkinshaw – both finance and computer science graduates – and connects fans and their favourite celebrities, influencers and gamers.

The platform allows fans to pay for digital experiences, for example playing FIFA against a professional footballer.

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Mr Rowley said: “Although it is unlikely you would ever get the chance to play football with Messi, people may like to play a game against him on FIFA and pay for the experience. With the growth in demand for digital experiences since the start of the pandemic, fans want to engage with their favourite celebrities, influencers and gamers. Yakkr allows this to happen.

“The creator schedules their availability along with the game they are playing and the price per slot; the fan purchases a space in the session they want to join and then when the time comes, they jump into a Yakkr session and it’s game on!”

Durham City law firm, Swinburne Maddison LLP provided advice to Yakkr which is at pre-revenue stage and will use the funding to build the business and develop relationships with esport teams and content creators.

Alex Wilby, a partner in Swinburne Maddison’s corporate and commercial team, used his experience in the tech sector, including with companies such as Land Tech, a London-based company that provides software to streamline the property development process, and the sale a year ago of Silent Games – a game design studio in Newcastle, which was acquired by Amplifier Game Invest AB, a subsidiary of the listed Swedish Embracer Group.

He said: “We were introduced to Marcus and Rhys after they approached Durham City Incubator (DCI) for a recommendation. We have previously acted for numerous companies on the DCI programme, providing various levels of support.

“I regularly act for fund managers and investors, so I have experience of what both parties require. To do the work well, you need to have the legal experience to know where to focus your time and attention to keep costs under control whilst adding value for your client.”

Whilst at university, Mr Rowley was involved in two start-ups and Mr Birkinshaw in several, with one of these moving over to Silicon Valley.

Mr Birkinshaw said: “We were introduced to Twinklhive by Durham University. Although obviously, we are not in the ed-tech sector, we submitted our pitch deck for Yakkr anyway in the hope of speaking to potential investors. It worked.

“Gaming is something Marcus and I have both done from an early age – from playing Driver 3 on the original Xbox and Star Wars Battlefront Galactic Conquest on the Playstation 2 – it’s a pastime we have always had a passion for, so it is fantastic to be able to turn that passion into a business. The future is looking tremendously exciting for us.”

Prior to receiving the investment Marcus was working for one of the Big Four accounting firms in its deals advisory practice and heading towards his ACA qualification while Rhys was working as lead developer for a start-up in the commodities industry.

The investment has enabled them both to go full time in Yakkr, along with employing an additional front-end developer.

The pair plan to release Yakkr in Spring 2022 with the core functionalities available for users and then later expand to make it the go-to platform for gaming experiences globally.

Mr Wilby added: “The conclusion of this transaction was a fantastic way to start what promises to be another excellent year of trading for Swinburne Maddison, which currently sees the firm extremely busy and ahead of targets across the board.

“Additionally, the recent arrival of one of Teesside’s top commercial lawyers, Craig Malarkey has added strength and depth to our corporate and commercial team, so the year ahead is looking very promising indeed.”

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