Imminent new product launch set to become the go to platform for gaming experiences

Durham City’s leading law firm, Swinburne Maddison LLP (Swinburne Maddison) has provided legal advice to an exciting new tech start-up, Yakkr, in relation to a six-figure pre-seed investment.

Yakkr, an online platform, is all about connecting fans with their favourite celebrities, influencers and gamers in the pursuit of delivering premium gaming experiences.

The idea for Yakkr was conceived by two former Durham University graduates, Marcus Rowley and Rhys Birkinshaw, who studied Finance and Computer Science, respectively.

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

Swinburne Maddison was recommended to the two entrepreneurs by the Durham City Incubator (DCI). Alex Wilby, a Partner in Swinburne Maddison’s corporate and commercial team advised them.

With a strong commercial background and recent experience in the tech sector gained with organisations like 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 – Wilby was well-suited to the task.

As he explains, Swinburne Maddison was delighted to have the opportunity to advise on the transaction and build on its solid experience of advising software companies on their terms, ‘software as a service’ agreements and IP matters.  He said:

“We were introduced to Marcus and Rhys after they approached 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.”

Explaining the thinking behind Yakkr (slang for ‘have a chat’), Marcus 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!”

The investment has been provided by Athena Venture Capital, backed by TwinklHive, who predominantly invest in the ed-tech sector.  Rhys explains:

“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.”

The company is currently at pre-revenue stage and the funding will be used to fund the creation of the business and the Yakkr platform.

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.

Rhys was working as lead developer for a start-up in the commodities industry, so the Twinklhive investment has enabled them both to go full time in Yakkr, along with employing an additional front-end developer.

It will also be used to build partnerships with Esport teams and content creators.

The plan is to release Yakkr in Spring 2022 with the core functionalities available for users.  After its release, Yakkr will look to expand these functionalities to make it the go-to platform for gaming experiences globally.

Alex 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.”