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Accelerator pitch: Nick Hatter of giftgaming

Can you pitch your genius business idea in the time it takes to get from the ground floor to the C-suite? giftgaming’s Nick Hatter, on Cambridge Judge Business School’s Accelerate Cambridge programme, takes on the challenge.

Mobile phone in a woman's hand, night, city ​​of Light backg

The background

We spend an amazing 55 million hours playing games on our phones and other devices in the UK every single day. There are more than 300,000 games on the app stores, and many try to raise revenue by offering their players in-app purchases, such as for extra virtual currency. However, more than 98 per cent of gamers do not buy these. As a result, more games are compensating with video ads, which can be highly intrusive. So the challenge for game publishers is to monetise their games while still preserving the immersive gaming experience.

Nick Hatter (centre)

Nick Hatter (centre)

The brains

I began developing software at the age of 13 and am a freelance web developer and independent game developer, having previously worked in internet security and with advertising systems like OpenX. I hold a First Class BSc Hons in Computer Science from Southampton University’s School of Electronics and Computer Science.

The product

giftgaming® is an in-game advertising platform that game publishers integrate into existing games, where brands pay to “buy” virtual gifts for players. When game players click on an icon, they might get a reward to use in the game, such as an extra life or a free power-up, which the game player knows has been bought for them by the brand (encouraging brand loyalty). The player also receives a coupon or discount voucher from that brand to spend outside the game.

The business case

This is about bringing brands together with gamers. What in-game advertisers want more than anything is brand loyalty, and at the moment it’s not there. But with giftgaming, advertisers get brand loyalty and game developers retain their players with the excitement of free gifts, while giftgaming receives a commission.

The timing

Example of a giftgaming-enabled in-app gift

Example of a giftgaming-enabled in-app gift

There is a big opportunity as in-game advertising spend is more than £1.1bn right now, and is expected to hit £4.2bn by 2016. In November 2013 I went to the Cambridge Startup Weekend and had less than 24 hours to pitch a business idea. I went with the notion of an app in which brands pay to give you a birthday present – but then I thought: “How can I get them to positively engage people more than once a year?” and the in-game idea came to me in a flash. It went down very well and I got an email from Cambridge Judge Business School offering me a place on their Accelerator programme. I was working in Bath so I gave my boss a week’s notice and immediately moved to Cambridge.

The strategy for growth

In June, giftgaming won the TechCrunch London Meet-Up Best Pitch Award; two weeks ago we were also honoured to pitch at TechCrunch Disrupt Europe as one of 15 companies at Europe’s most prestigious tech event, which has resulted in several promising leads with game publishers and advertising agencies. Most recently we attended Game Connection Paris where we got valuable informal feedback from well-known game publishers including Sega (makers of Sonic the Hedgehog) and Rovio (makers of Angry Birds). The format was very similar to Accelerate Cambridge mentoring: back-to-back, one-on-one meetings. As for advertisers and brands, giftgaming is now a network publisher on the Affiliate Window network that gives us access to pitch to more than 1,700 brands, and we are also targeting ad agencies directly.

The future

This has the potential to completely revolutionise in-game advertising. So many people have asked why no one has thought of this before. With our solution, unlike video ads, we are reinforcing the idea that advertising can provide instant gratification, value, enjoyment and, of course, brand loyalty. If this really catches the imagination it could have a huge impact on the whole industry.

The Accelerator

I’m a technical person but the Accelerator programme has given me the skills to make a quantum leap into business: how to deal with people; how to network; how to keep my focus and motivation. It has given me excellent mentors and I am learning so much from them. The support and the contacts and the expertise from the Accelerator programme have been invaluable – they are all helping giftgaming to the next level up.