“League of Legends” is one of the world’s hit computer games with an estimated several million players in Germany alone. Five gamers compete against five opponents to conquer their territory and to defend their own. One of the first ever gamers, Sebastian Kuch, has been playing the game since the tender age of 14. At some point, playing alone did not suffice and Kuch longed for tougher challenges.
Matecrate connects gamers
Opportunity came when he turned 21 and Kuch launched the Matecrate start-up in 2017. The company’s app brings together players with similar skill levels and quickly saw the dawn of “League of Legends”. Although the game unfolds online, players still want to meet, discuss their hobbies and compete with each other. To meet this demand, Kuch has come up with the City Masters series which is akin to a tournament. The software forms teams of players depending on their skills. “We make professional competitions possible for players on all skill levels. The social aspect is hugely important,” said Kuch.
No investors despite promising figures
The first season saw around 12,000 players register in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg hosted the City Championships. This May, around 100 gamers vied for a win in the three-day German Finals watched by their fans. Despite a big, promising market, Kuch initially had difficulty finding investors. His (young) age discouraged investors and older people had not yet tapped into the games’ potential. The tide turned when an ex-gamer invested EUR 50,000 in the app as part of an accelerator programme. Then, a consultant put Kuch into contact with the Hamburgische Investitions- und Förderbank (IFB Hamburg). “At first, I thought they didn’t know how to handle e-sports. They only supported the most innovative things and the bureaucracy was enormous,” said Kuch. However, he changed his mind as their collaboration progressed. “The bureaucracy was really manageable. We had a great contact person, and it was lean and quick, really practical.”
Matecrate included in Innofounder program
The InnoFounder program promotes start-ups that have been in existence for less than a year. The IFB Hamburg’s subsidiary, IFB Innovationsstarter GmbH, funded Matecrate initially with EUR 45,000. The Innovationstarter Fonds has continued and Matecrate received a six-figure investment. Established by the City of Hamburg and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the program promotes promising companies in existence for under five years through venture capital participation and with private investors. The Nuremberg-based Olympia-Verlag, which publishes the “Kicker” football magazine, became the lead investor in Matecrate. Meanwhile nearly two years since its inception, the start-up has raised EUR 1.4 million. “The investment was a huge help towards building a very solid team,” Kuch noted. He now aims to hire software developers and to double the workforce from ten to 20 as “the exchange of game-related data is enormous and very complex.”
Aiming high in future
The City Masters continues to grow and Cologne and Stuttgart have become the latest venues. The number of players is likely to double in the second season, which will last for around three months. More games will be added, said Kuch, and the company may go global. “Switzerland, Austria, but also Poland and France are very interesting,” he pointed out.
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