Investment fund turns full focus on 'exceptional opportunities' in gaming

Investment fund turns full focus on 'exceptional opportunities' in gaming

Tuesday, July 19, 2016 Posted by Andy McCarron
Ex-Bwin chief Norbert Teufelberger is an adviser to the board at FastForward Innovations

An Aim-listed investment vehicle which recently made its first acquisition in the gambling space and added ex-BwinParty chief executive Norbert Teufelberger as an adviser to the board has announced it is now wholly focused on the sector.

FastForward Innovations is run by former Fun Technologies founder Lorne Abony and to date has been invested in a range of technology-led sectors with investments ranging from the education sector to life sciences and blockchain.

Back in April the company announced it had bought a 41% stake in virtual sports provider Leap Gaming for $3.5m and added Teufelberger as a special adviser. Now it has confirmed the company will change its focus to concentrate wholly on the gaming sector.

In an announcement last week, the company said that it believed there were “exceptional” opportunities available to the company in the sector which represented “significant growth opportunities”.

It said that its current portfolio of investments is likely to provide significant returns in the near-term and that exit opportunities were being sought. Its education technology portfolio companies will likely be spun off into a new investment vehicle.

As of March this year the company had net assets of £10.2m which has been raised through a series of share placings over the previous 12 months. Before the Leap investment, £4.2m of the £10.2m was invested seven in investee companies and £6m remained as cash on the balance sheet.

Abony joined the company in January this year having previously been a shareholder. FastForward itself only came into existence in November of last year having previously been an investment firm active in natural resources and energy called Kuala. Alongside Abony and Teufelberger, the company also boasts serial investor Jim Mellon (also the major shareholder in US tote provider Webis) as non-executive co-chairman and ex-888 chief executive Gigi Levy-Weiss is a major investor.

Talking about the Leap Gaming investment, Abony said virtual sports provided a 'massive opportunity'. “It’s really a fantastic market and we think there are so many opportunities there,” he added.

Leap Gaming was formed five years ago but only now has a product with which to go to market. It said the investment from FastForward would be used to double its R&D headcount as well as adding sales and marketing capabilities.

Leap's new virtual sports product suite includes a live in-play tennis offering featuring full three-set tennis matches which it says is the first on the market. The company also has plan to launch a 3D casino in the near future. 

Speaking recently, Leap chief executive Yariv Lissauer said the company was working on a football version that would expand upon the in-play possibilities. “It will probably be something of a hybrid of the current offers from the competition and a full match,” he said. “It won’t be a full match but it won’t be highlights either. It will be more representative of the real-life experience.”

Abony from FastForward said that the company was investing in the management as much as the technology. “On the management side, Yariv and the team there are outstanding entrepreneurs who have a big vision and the right experience to execute, and most importantly the drive to succeed.”

On the opportunities within the wider online gaming sector, Abony said it was an under-explored area as far as most private equity and venture capital was concerned. “It has largely been neglected,” he said. “We see a really great opportunity to bring capital, expertise, and our network to gaming businesses at the seed/early-stage,” he said. “It’s a space we are very familiar with being entrepreneurs in gaming ourselves.”

Abony didn’t divulge any specific further investments but he did suggest that the expertise from him and his team brought to the company would mean that they would stand a good chance of identifying likely entrepreneurs. 

Totally Gaming Says: FastFoward thinks it is really well suited to source and execute outstanding investment opportunities in the best entrepreneurs, which Lorne Abony believes is what sets it apart from traditional investors, venture capitalists, private-equity types. If it can stick to its search criteria of a great idea, a huge market opportunity and a very talented team, then the company could be very successful. Although as Abony said: "Some ideas don’t always pan out perfectly but with the right team in place they always find a way to deliver something special.”

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