Chris Bergman // building Gylee Games and The Fund Midwest [CC069]

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Eric Hornung 0:00
Jay, what’s your favorite podcast app named after a fruit?

Jay Clouse 0:05
Gotta be Apple.

Eric Hornung 0:06
Can you think of any other ones?

Jay Clouse 0:08
I tried really hard. But I didn’t want I didn’t want to wait for too long. I didn’t want too much dead air.

Eric Hornung 0:12
Hey, you know what’s worse than dead air, not getting reviews on Apple podcasts from your listeners.

Jay Clouse 0:18
Oh, my gosh, it is the worst. Every day that I wake up, and I don’t have a new review on Apple podcasts. I just look up the sky and I go, Ah,

Eric Hornung 0:26
I like how the first thing you do when you wake up is to look at Apple reviews.

Jay Clouse 0:30
If only I was lying, but I’m not. And I’m looking for new reviews for upside on Apple podcasts, Eric, and if you are listening to this right now, you could be that person that helps get the day started, right?

Eric Hornung 0:42
All you have to do is go to Apple on your iOS device or web browser, plug in and leave us a review. Five stars would be nice, four stars would be great. Let’s do five stars.

Jay Clouse 0:52
Let’s do five stars deftly prefer five stars. Even if you don’t use Apple podcast as your preferred listening app on an iPhone, please take a moment to rate us there anyway, it helps us bring on great guests. It helps us climb the charts. Our show will get better if you do this very simple act. So please, please.

Chris Bergman 1:11
Afterwards, I just get a random text from him. He’s like, Hey, I’m doing The Fund Midwest. Do you want to in as a GP? And it was like, yeah, that was it. That was the whole conversation. And then like next week, we’re on a call with with Jenny Fielding, who’s the founder of the fund, or one of the founders of the fund.

Jay Clouse 1:26
The startup investment landscape is changing. and world class companies are being built outside of Silicon Valley. We find them, talk with them, and discuss the upside of investing in them. Welcome to Upside.

Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the Upside podcast, the first podcast finding upside outside of Silicon Valley. I’m Jay Clouse, and I’m accompanied by my co host, Mr. sunburned face himself, Eric Hornung.

Eric Hornung 2:06
Look Jay, when you’re out there playing four and a half hour rounds, the sun can get here even in March, even in Cincinnati in March.

Jay Clouse 2:13
Is golf a prerequisite hobby if you’re going to get into finance?

Eric Hornung 2:17
So as I tried to do I try to be contrarian in life, you know, and I purposefully said, I will never get into golf. I’m anti golf, everybody in finances, golf, accountants and lawyers. You’re all golf, right? It’s like, oh, gotta join a country club. Got to be a golf guy. No, I’m out. I’m gonna make the path my own way. And then COVID hit, and I had nothing to do. And the only way to get out of the house was to either go play golf, which I didn’t do tennis, which I didn’t do, biking, which I didn’t have a bike and they were going at like 5x premium or running. And I absolutely don’t do that. So golf won out, and now I’m a golf guy.

Jay Clouse 2:59
Pretty good socially, distance activity. Yeah, I get that. Golf is on.

Eric Hornung 3:03

Jay Clouse 3:03
I like golf, it’s really hard. And it’s hard for me to justify spending that kind of money on something that I know I’m going to have a really bad time of doing at least, like look really bad. And really drag out these holes to do like the scramble or like the best ball type of situation.

Eric Hornung 3:19
When we started did that a little bit more. But last year is literally my only escape from listeners. You can’t see me right now. But this background was who I was in 2020. Like, it’s this is who Eric was, I sat in this seat for all of 2020. And the only escape from that was to go play some golf, get outside get a little fresh air. So yeah, that’s that’s how I got into golf Jay and, you know, it is it is hard. But I told Colleen, look, if I start golf, I’m the kind of person who’s just like, hyper competitive to the point that like, I’m going to get good at golf. So there’s unlimited driving range days and all kinds of stuff like that. So

Jay Clouse 3:57
Did you buy a set of clubs,

Eric Hornung 3:58
I told myself that I’m going to use this old set of clubs that I had from high school, so I used to have two sets of clubs, I lost one of them. And the other set, I think it’s from like 1987. And technology’s changed a lot in the last 34 years. So I told myself if I could shoot a nine or an 85, I’d buy myself new clubs. I shot a 92 and I got clubs for Christmas. So you know, close enough.

Jay Clouse 4:21
I feel like you got to have your own set of golf clubs if you want to live your best life.

Eric Hornung 4:25
Absolutely. And if you want to live that one life, you have to live the best way you can. You should also go talk to our friends at Ethos Wealth Management, you go to to learn more.

Jay Clouse 4:36
Well, speaking of games and finance, Eric. Here we go, this is a good segue. Today we are speaking with Chris Bergman, the general partner of The Fund Midwest and also the founder and CEO of Gylee Games. Gylee Games, which is Chris’s day job. Can you call it a day job if you own a company?

Eric Hornung 4:54
I think you can call anything a day job as long as you work on it during the day.

Jay Clouse 4:58
Gylee Games believes in building things worlds, they create fascinating characters that develop and grow over time. They also believe that games can be enjoyed in smaller chunks, not requiring hundreds of hours, but a delightful experience in short bursts. Gylee Games creates games for PC, console and VR. Right now they’re creating a game called Ra Ra Boom. But that is not why we scheduled this interview Eric. In fact, we scheduled this interview to talk to Chris because he is the general partner of The Fund Midwest, which is part of the fund a New York based Venture Capital Group, which was founded in 2018. The Fund has since expanded with microphones in Los Angeles, London, the Boulder, Denver region, and now the Midwest.

Eric Hornung 5:40
Gylee Games kinda reminds me of only playing one or two holes of golf, you know, like 18 is a lot of holes. You really got to commit to it. But if you just went out and you know, played one or two and then had some drinks after that be kind of nice. Also, you know, it’s I spoke off Jay, to come back full circle here. Midwest, a lot of golf courses, bought a really nice golf courses.

Jay Clouse 5:58
And a lot of flatland is that was that required for golf courses like some flatland?

Eric Hornung 6:02
I think a little hills is nice. But yeah, flatland is good, too. The thing is, though, they’re super underrated, because people always think, oh, Florida, you know, golf, but there’s a lot of good golf courses here in the Midwest.

Jay Clouse 6:12
And The Fund Midwest think there’s a lot of great founders here in the Midwest as well. Chris is based in Cincinnati, Eric, and the sad irony is that you also based in Cincinnati, are not going to be joining me for this interview.

Eric Hornung 6:24
We had a little hiccup with scheduling here, Jay. And it’s when I say little hiccup, it is not on you at all. This is 100% on me, I double booked my calendar because calendar management up until recently has not been a strength.

Jay Clouse 6:39
And what is not a strength for me is staying away from talking about a video game studio model, which is what Gylee Games is I’m going to try and talk about The Fund Midwest as much as I can. But Gosh, I really got to get some of these questions answered I have about video games. So we’re going to talk to Chris here in just a minute. We’d love to hear what you think about this episode. You can tweet at us @upsideFM or email us and I’ll talk with Chris right after this.

Eric Hornung 7:07
This episode is sponsored by Fundboard. Fundboard is a free tool to help you find startup investors and manage your fundraising process. Fundboard helps you to find not just the right firm, but the right person at the right firm. Fundboard makes it easy to search, save and share. You can search 1000s of investors ranked by how they match to your startup. Save them to your Fundboard to create your list of targeted investors and share your Fundboard with your network to gameplan how you will approach investors directly. You can build a tailor fit list of startup investors in minutes with Fundboard. Learn more at that’s and the link is in the show notes.

Jay Clouse 7:58
Chris, so grateful to have you here on the show. Welcome. Hi, Jay. I want to dig into your background a little bit before we get into The Fund Midwest. So being there in Cincinnati, can you tell me about your history as it relates to startups and Cincinnati?

Chris Bergman 8:14
Oh man, a long and storied history. I grew up in Cincinnati. I was very frustrated growing up in Cincinnati because there was no really cool places to go work or do cool things. And so I moved out to California and became an art director for a couple different skate magazines. And then came back to Cincinnati and goofed around doing design work for a bunch of different people. And that led to building websites. And that led to making apps for big brands like Maker’s Mark and Sam Adams and New Balance shoes. And then my wife got pregnant with our first child, who’s now nine which is crazy. That sort of led to ChoreMonster, which was was our first product. Me and my co founder at the time, Paul Armstrong, our first product that was direct to consumer and went on a wild ride for about seven years running that we had 4 million users, 500 million chores completed, kids did chores and collected farting monsters, it was a ton of fun. Disney invested in it. Because of that I ended up spending about a year and a half, two years in New York, and just recently came back last year to start Gylee Games, which is a video game studio focused primarily on PC and console games.

Jay Clouse 9:26
All right, yes, ChoreMonster is exactly where I first met or became aware of Chris Bergman. So talk a little bit more about that. What was ChoreMonster you kind of just talked about all these chores are getting done, and there were fart monsters involved. What what was that?

Chris Bergman 9:39
Let me see if I can still do the pitch. Are you ready, Jay? Let’s see if it’s still in in there somewhere. ChoreMonster is a suite of web and mobile apps that allow parents and kids to actually enjoy doing chores. Kids can gain points and tournament for real life rewards like an hour of Xbox, a television show or canoe trip. With ChoreMonster, your kids will beg to do chores.

Jay Clouse 9:57
That was great. Okay.

Chris Bergman 9:58
Thank you.

Jay Clouse 9:58
So 4 million users.

Chris Bergman 10:01

Jay Clouse 10:01
Something like 500 million completed chores.

Chris Bergman 10:03
Yeah, man.

Jay Clouse 10:04
Disney invested.

Chris Bergman 10:06

Jay Clouse 10:06
What happened with that business? Where is it today?

Chris Bergman 10:08
It is owned partially by a big corporation.

Jay Clouse 10:13
Okay, maybe maybe a longer story that we can get into in this interview where we’re exploring something else. But that might be a part two that we come back to.

Chris Bergman 10:18
Yeah, totally.

Jay Clouse 10:19
How did you transition out of that to now? Gylee Games and The Fund Midwest?

Chris Bergman 10:24
Yeah, so it was interesting, interesting story, man, I was kicking around, I’d finished up the corporate thing that I was doing in New York, and spent about six months hanging out at Betaworks in Chelsea Manhattan. And really kind of considering what my next, you know, sort of move was, while our kids, our kids, were going to school in New Jersey, so like, there was no rush to move anywhere, or, you know, or we’re gonna go to LA or we’re gonna move to Brooklyn, what’s what’s sort of our plan, finally came home one day, after about six months of hanging out and chatting with my partner and said, Hey, I think I want to make video games finally, and she goes, it took you six months to figure that out. Um, you know, because it’s something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, I was the founder of the International game developers associations, Cincinnati chapter, which now has over 500 members. So I’d always been somewhat involved in game making for a very long time, but had never, you know, had the opportunity to go build a full on creative studio for PC and console games. It was fascinating man, I had expected to raise the capital that we needed to start that studio, and in about nine months in New York, happened to come to Cincinnati and met with some of my old investors. And they said, we’ll give it all to you. And you should get here now and get started. And so we did. And now if you include interns, we have a team of about 40.

Jay Clouse 11:49

Chris Bergman 11:50

Jay Clouse 11:51
This is gonna be hard for me to get to the questions about The Fund Midwest, spin out in a couple things.

Chris Bergman 11:56

Jay Clouse 11:56
What makes a game a game? Because with ChoreMonster in my limited knowledge of it, there were gamified aspects of that there were characters it was it was animated. So what’s the difference between something like that and what you’re calling a game.

Chris Bergman 12:08
Yeah. So this is kind of my my personal clarification. I don’t know, you know, if this would be broadly applied, but for me, personally, ChoreMonster especially, you know, as again, a bunch of users, most of the decisions were data driven, right, and and optimized for particular behaviors optimized for user retention. And there’s definitely some of that in video games as well. But PC and console games in particular, I’d say about 90% of the decision making is subjective. Its creative. Its writing its art. Its tone, its voice, its acting, it’s it’s, you know, editing, it’s gameplay mechanics.

Jay Clouse 12:45
I see. You’re saying you’re saying the actual as the developer, the decisions you’re making on ChoreMonster, were data driven. And as the developer of games, this is more narrative driven. At first, I thought you’re talking about like, the the decisions that were being made by users, but you’re talking about you as a creator?

Chris Bergman 12:59
Yes. Me as a creator. Yeah, for sure. In the creation of the product and the optimization of the product, I definitely think, you know, tourmaster we’re trying to solve a real world problem, right? Like it’s it is the, you know, sort of the the fundraising, is this a vitamin or a medicine, right? Because I’m only going to invest in a medicine. Well, ChoreMonster was definitely a medicine, parenting super hard. parents had a huge problem with getting kids to do stuff. And ChoreMonster did an incredible job of solving that by leveraging both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. With a game that we’re making right now, which is Ra Ra Boom, which is a four player Co Op, beat-’em-up about ninja cheerleaders from outer space. It’s

Jay Clouse 13:35
It’s just fun words to throw together.

Chris Bergman 13:37
Oh, it’s so great. Yeah. But it’s entertainment. I mean, and it’s truly it’s truly about the story of these characters. And it’s an all female cast, and it ends up the game is a lot about identity and grief, and some some pretty heavy, heavy topics. But at the end of the day, it’s storytelling.

Jay Clouse 13:53
So when when you’re talking about your story, and you were doing these, like skate magazines at the beginning, and then that became developing websites and apps, and then you built this SAS tool, or essentially or SAS company and, and now you have these games, like are these skills that you taught yourself? Or are you leaning on other developers a lot of the time to make this stuff?

Chris Bergman 14:12
Well, Jay, I’m a high school dropout. So not a lot of formal education for this guy. Man, I you know, I was just explaining this to somebody I was mentoring today where if I need to get something done, I’m going to be able to do a D plus job at it. Right? So so you know, done is better than perfect. Always. And, and if you need to get something across the finish line, I can roll up my sleeves and get whatever done right. However, I think, you know, when I think about my career, and the things that I’ve become most effective at one of them is surrounding myself with people that are really good and finding the A plus people and so I very much enjoy building teams. I very, very, very much enjoy building culture. And speaking of culture, I mean, we just so Gylee Games just launched our webcomic this week on our Twitter and Instagram. Which is just @GyleeGames. And it’s it’s just talks about our culture as a team and and talks about the ridiculousness that we get into. And so all of those people that are in those web comics are a plus at what they do, whether it be producer, designer, developer, whatever, but I believe like building most of what building companies is his culture and team.

Jay Clouse 15:23
And you started Gylee in 2019, right?

Chris Bergman 15:26
Very beginning of 2020.

Jay Clouse 15:27

Chris Bergman 15:28

Jay Clouse 15:28
Do you guys have a game in market yet?

Chris Bergman 15:31
No, we’re still year out. So production cycle for this particular game is about three and a half years, it’s quite a long process, very different than sort of agile development, right? Like, this is much more waterfall. And I mean, I mean, there’s some elements of prototyping and testing. And, you know, can I verify this hypothesis, which essentially, is, is this fun, but for the most part, it’s, it’s quite a long, quite a long process, quite a long journey. And we’re doing something that’s all 2d hand animated. So very, very high production value.

Jay Clouse 16:00
Okay, I think I know how I’m gonna get to The Fund Midwest here in a second. Did you have a hard time or an easy time raising for ChoreMonster initially?

Chris Bergman 16:11
Um, I mean, I think it’s an unfair story to tell, because I just felt like we got really lucky with timing. This was in 2011, the app store was just starting to gain traction, there were no family oriented apps that were in market at all at the time, we were one of the very first ones. ChoreMonster was initially supposed to be a side project of our digital agency, it was, you know, we never expected to raise money. And I think we had a lot of help from the brandery, specifically, which we went through in 2011. You know, I mean, when I, the whole reason I said yes to the brainer was because I didn’t understand venture capital at all, and learned an immense amount through that process, and then came out a demo day, and since he tech lead our seed round, so I think so it wasn’t difficult at all early, and I think most of that was due to timing, more than anything else.

Jay Clouse 16:59
So that was led by CincyTech, they’re in Cincinnati. Now you’re doing a gaming studio with 40 employees and no product in market yet. So obviously, there’s funding that had to be involved in that. What did that process look like?

Chris Bergman 17:11
You know, so it’s one particular investor group that’s private, and doesn’t like to be talking about a lot. They’re not professional investors, they’re, you know, guys that have a group together. But, you know, I asked them, like, why did you say yes, so quickly to this, like, I kind of can’t believe it, it happened so fast. And their response was, you know, they were investors in ChoreMonster. So they, we had a, probably about five or six year relationship at this point. And, you know, they had been around me for a long time. And they said that I communicated with them every week. They were they weren’t really deep in the stack, or they didn’t have a big chunk of the stack of the cap table, for ChoreMonster. But I communicated with them the same way that I communicated with everybody else that was on the board or whatever. And they said that would like we know that you will always give us straight communication about what’s going on. And our confidence is super high, just in that alone, right? And you come up with ridiculous ideas, and there’ll be successful.

Jay Clouse 18:16
Very cool. The reason I ask these questions, I have a little bit of understanding of what it looks like to develop a game and the long cycle that is there. Because there’s there’s a group in Columbus that I’ve gotten to know a little bit that has tried to do a similar thing, and I’ve just talked to him and learn a little bit about the industry. Just seems like a very.

Chris Bergman 18:32
May I ask who it is or should I not do it on on the podcast?

Jay Clouse 18:34
Chris Volpe.

Chris Bergman 18:35
Yeah, no, I know Volpe. Well, man. You know, I’m the resident DJ at GDEX.

Jay Clouse 18:40
Oh, really?

Chris Bergman 18:41
Oh, yeah.

Jay Clouse 18:41
So GDEX, for listeners who aren’t familiar is the largest, at least Midwestern gaming conference in the in the country probably even has a better tagline than that, that I just gave it because there’s probably not that many gaming conferences generally. And it’s, it’s huge. I remember talking with Volpe and loving the idea of a video game studio because it reminded me of like a Hollywood movie studio.

Chris Bergman 19:04
It’s very, it’s it’s structured very similarly. Yeah.

Jay Clouse 19:07
Can you talk about that a little bit?

Chris Bergman 19:09
Well, I mean, it’s, it’s structured in many different aspects, right? Like you have pre production, you have a pre production cycle, where you’re trying to figure out what is the thing that you’re actually trying to make? You’re doing storyboards very early on, you’re writing scripts, I mean, you know, except you’re writing, you know, for us, we have about 10, 12 levels. And so we’re writing essentially 10 to 12 movies, right? But you’re, you’re pulling in a lot of the same talent. I mean, all of our voice actors are full time actors as well. You know, you’re working with primarily creative people. And then even I mean, if you want to get into the real mechanics, we’re kind of structured differently, but like, primarily, the investment is royalty based and based on the entertainment model.

Jay Clouse 19:51
And so how does when you look at this as a venture capital type of investment, how can you be sure that what you’re creating is going to find an audience? Because it is kind of like a hit makers type of business. Right?

Chris Bergman 20:03
Yeah. Wow, that’s a great question. So one, I don’t think video game studios are particularly venture cap, venture bankable. So I want to start there, you know, Gylee Games was built to live for indefinitely, like, like m&a is not something that’s interesting to us at all, we are about having a portfolio of creative content that millions of people love, right. So I don’t think that model actually works really well, for a lot of venture. But I do think, you know, as far as investment is concerned, like I said, the structure is different, you typically get a guaranteed return assumption of some sort, and then an indefinite royalty on top of that. So it’s less risk in that sense. In regards to audience, there’s, I mean, you know, this day, there’s no such thing as build it, and they will come, right. Like, there’s all sorts of marketing content community, Twitch streamers, YouTube creators, you know, there’s, there’s an entire strategy around getting people to love the thing that you’re making. And I think in that, you know, in early pre production, we did a ton of research about the type of audience that we’re going after, and why we’re going after them and having a very clear understanding of who we’re creating for, before we ever did any production.

Jay Clouse 21:16
And how did you make that decision? Because there’s got to be any number of groups you could go after, how did you decide on this is the avatar that we’re pursuing with this first game, which is a gargantuan effort of time and energy upfront?

Chris Bergman 21:29
For me, it’s always sort of I tend to work backwards, where I think about the thing that I want to make this is just me as a creator, I, you know, kind of have an idea of what I want to make. And then is there a market for it? Right? So I had bought in 2008. I just loved the phonetics of it. And then over 10 years, I sort of developed the game in my head, right of Oh, these are cheerleaders with guns that are violent and fun and wholesome. There’s a lot of friendship elements, this is all stuff that’s going through my head. And so when we, when we get to a place where like, okay, let’s validate that as a potential game that fits a good market, most of the research was particularly around female video game players, which, by the way, is the largest segment of video game players in the US 36% of all video game players are women over the age of 18.

Jay Clouse 22:18

Chris Bergman 22:19
Right? So and they’re in, you know, if you look at it strictly from a business standpoint, right, like, if you look at it from from a market standpoint, it’s under addressed completely, it’s definitely under for lack of a better word spoken to, right. Like that experience isn’t there isn’t nearly enough content being created for that, right. And so, as I’m writing a game with a aka Fudo, who’s she’s an amazing writer, we’re writing it together. And we’re having all these conversations around identity and my personal my personal struggles that I want to put into the game, right, like I have an insane amount of imposter syndrome. It is it is, by far the leading sort of piece of my personality. So it’s so important for me to create around that around that challenge route. And realizing that that’s, that’s a huge epidemic across most of human behavior and human experience. Makes it easier to make I think.

Jay Clouse 23:16
You’ve selected one of the largest segments of the gamer market is the answer that I took from that for what I was asking.

Chris Bergman 23:23
Totally. Yeah. And it’s and it’s completely underserved. I think that’s the other piece.

Jay Clouse 23:27
If a game like this takes several years to develop, is that an advantage in terms of marketing, because you can start marketing the game and essentially socialize the concept for three years before it’s even like really on the clock?

Chris Bergman 23:41
I mean, get times always an advantage. Right. And I will tell you a downside to that, though. So yes, the answer your question. I mean, we’re, you know, we’re still a year from release. And we’ve just started our marketing strategy, you know, this past week with content that we’re creating, primarily around the Gylee team less about the game, because we want a lot of the game to be a surprise down the road. So the challenge there is like asset management, do we want to show this cool moment that happens in the game right now? Or do we hold that and let players experience it in the game? Ideally, as a creator, I want them to see for the first time in the game, so there’s some give and take there. For sure. And there’s definitely a challenge of like, when when do we show this? So the way our approach is like, well, let’s talk about the people that are making the game because we want to lift them up. Anyway. There’s also this whole other challenge in the gaming industry that like people don’t get credit for making these things, man. When you have so many people that are making games, their names don’t get attached to them the way that like a music artists, you you know, who’s who’s making the things. And so, we’re trying to be very intentional about lifting up the people on our team and talking about them as creators themselves. Right. I think that’s really important. But the downside of you know, a three and a half year cycle for a four player beat him up, is when we started this. Games like Streets of Rage 4 and Battletoads hadn’t been announced yet. So we didn’t Know that there were other people that were, you know, the best example that I can give DotEmu who made Streets of Rage 4 we had been working on a game for six months. And then that got announced and it looked phenomenal. And so we realized we had to go and redo all of our ar.

Jay Clouse 25:15
Because the expectations of the market were just so much higher than you thought?

Chris Bergman 25:18
Yes, they escalated it way higher, in rose the bar of what this type of game should look like. So like, there’s an example of like your, you know, it takes so long to get to market, somebody else can get to market before you and change the market dynamics completely,

Jay Clouse 25:33
And elevating the quality of the art, is that come down to the artists on staff? Or does that also have a cascading effect across development making development harder and longer?

Chris Bergman 25:43
So it’s a little bit of both.

Jay Clouse 25:46
I probably just probably making a separation is not even there.

Chris Bergman 25:49
Yeah, there. So to elevate the art, often, you need better talent, like, it’s just what’s fascinating about artists is they can cap in, you know, it’s it’s sort of like, Hey, man, you got to go away for five years and come back to hit the standard that we’re now setting, we had to have that conversation, it was very, very hard conversation to have, and I did not enjoy that at all. And I know he didn’t either. So there’s definitely like, Hey, we need to we need to up our talent to meet the standard that the market demands. On the art side, I think on the development side, it’s it’s, it’s more about, you know, hey, I think we have to change the way that we’re handling this asset, or adding new special moves or whatever. And, and much of the development of the game so far has been just getting the engine in place and getting sort of the very basic elements of a video game in place on sort of a back end, dynamic adding AI for for enemies. And so you have to build a whole system and a whole set of set of tools to get any enemy AI to work, right. And then once it’s in there, then you have a year to tweak it and make it fun. But the first couple of years is primarily just getting getting all that stuff in place.

Jay Clouse 27:01
Something else I learned from Volpe was that games are built mostly on like unreal and unity as engines, right?

Chris Bergman 27:07

Jay Clouse 27:08
And that is also what AR and VR is typically using. And so it sounds to me like there’s probably more of a strain on just like the overall available engineering resources globally, to do games like this if AR and VR is starting to take off.

Chris Bergman 27:24
Absolutely, man. I mean, I you know, it’s been fascinating. So we’re built in unity, but we’re kind of like breaking unity as well, because it’s a 2d game. Like it’s not, you know, he doesn’t handle what we’re doing. We actually have a 2d game that sits atop a 3d mesh so we can get characters to move around in the environment. So it’s we’re sort of using it in ways that it’s not supposed to be used. As far as engineering talent. It’s been fascinating because like, where I see like in Cincinnati, you have a ton of digital agencies that are doing work for P&G and Kroger, which P&G and Kroger specifically are leveraging VR a lot to kind of do models of their retail stores or whatever, right and creating those those sort of digital experiences. So they have there’s a high demand for specifically unit unity developers in Cincinnati. But what I have found is when a unity developer gets to choose between building a Kroger store virtually, or making a video game about his cheerleaders, it’s pretty easy choice.

Jay Clouse 28:26
That’s a good point. That’s a good that’s a good point. So you’re saying most of your team, if not all of your team is based in Cincinnati?

Chris Bergman 28:32
Correct. Yeah.

Jay Clouse 28:33
Finding that talent locally. Or are they are they coming to Cincinnati?

Chris Bergman 28:36
Yeah, we’ve had a couple people move here. Yeah, we have one that we’re we have a production artists that the rest of my art team is trying real hard to get to move here. She lives in Boston right now, I think, which is just fun to watch. But yeah, I mean, I mean, we’ve had quite a few people move here have people from LA have people from Boston, Austin, I forget where else. And then a lot locally, like a all of our engineering talent is has been found locally.

Jay Clouse 29:03
Wow. The economics This is blowing my mind because this sounds like a ton of fun. I would love to do something like this. It also seems like I’ll be putting so much pressure on this first game to do well to recoup what must be like a huge investment. What do you feel that pressure?

Chris Bergman 29:18
Um, I got very good at feeling pressure is how I answer that it took a lot of effort and a lot of work and a lot of therapy, a lot of therapy. To get good at handling the pressure. I think we have a killer creative IP. I’ve had the advantage of spending a lot of time at Disney. We had an office at Walt Disney Studios for four years. And so spent a lot of time in that environment and understanding the entertainment business directly. And so when I think about our IP and I think about transmedia and sort of how this manifests itself into comic books, animation, whatever else I see, I see a lot of value there. Also, you know, a, this is sort of like a double A indie game is what it would be kind of described as and like the lifecycle of games today are pretty long man. I mean, you have the initial launch, then you have a bunch of, you know, launching on different platforms, like one platform may have exclusivity. And then you have after that you have DLC and maybe a skin or two that you’re you’re selling as well. And then steam sales start, you know, and so you’re already like in year three, or year four of revenue for one particular skew. And then game pass exists. And so then it can go live on game pass after the fact. And then once the game lives on game pass, then you have more DLC. And so you can get six to 10 years of revenue out of one out of one skew. So I think it takes a long time to make it but the tail of value for that is much longer than you would think.

Jay Clouse 30:46
Is the strategy to go out with a bang and try to get a bunch of play. Of course, you want as many players as possible from day one. But is that like, is that the model for indie studios are what what does that look like? Is it is it paid acquisition? what’s what’s the model?

Chris Bergman 31:00
Yeah, I mean, there’s, there’s a really good paid acquisition model, because you have a very clear idea of what your LTV is for your user. Right. So so you can you can run that model pretty easily and know what your outcomes going to be early on. For us. I think I think the biggest advantages that we can have are in platform position. So like, where does our game appear at launch on the store of like steam or Xbox? or what have you? Yeah, I think that’s one of the biggest advantages for customer acquisition early on. And then Twitch, man. I mean, I mean, just having streamers and influencers, play your game, live your game for us, like our characters are very cosplayable. And that’s super intentional. You know, we want people to live out there, whatever adventures they want, with our characters in their own minds, right, like, so all of that is super helpful as well, I think. So yeah, of course, of course, you want launch day to go well, right. But there’s there’s that that longevity of a creative IP that doesn’t exist in an app.

Jay Clouse 32:04
Love how much how many layers of intention you put into this, like the idea of making something cost playable? And then Okay, we know that Twitch, Twitch streamers can change the game for us on this. And what’s the lead time of development? Can you just like be trying to build those relationships and be dripping out a little bit of information to those people all time.

Chris Bergman 32:21
And it helps that I’m a fan too, right? Like I love I love the content that they’re putting out already. So it makes it super easy to be like, Hey, I love you.

Jay Clouse 32:29
Is there a precedent for Twitch streamers to be minority stakeholders in games?

Chris Bergman 32:34
I have seen that in the past. What I’ve seen more of I think this is actually directly correlated with the fund Midwest, because there’s a company that we’re looking at that we’re really excited about that a Twitch streamer is one of the co founders. I think it’s more in you see it more in tech than you do in Game Studios.

Jay Clouse 32:52
interesting to look at opportunity,

Chris Bergman 32:54
For sure. Absolutely.

Jay Clouse 32:56
Well, let’s transition I it almost hurts me to transition because I love talking about this stuff. But our whole premise here was to talk about The Fund Midwest. So how did this enter your world of opportunity?

Chris Bergman 33:08
I last year was in EIR at TechStars and I worked at MetLife digital accelerator. This is all while running guiley primarily because like I very much enjoy making video games. But I also am hyper passionate about tech, especially like young tech founders and mentorship and their mental health and how to survive the chaos that is running a company right. So I joined MetLife digital accelerator accelerator last year and the managing director there is Ted’s Verbinski. Ted at the time, he was a partner at Detroit Venture Partners and led the series A for ChoreMonster. So he’s been on my board for a long time. We’ve known each other for a long time. We’ve been very good friends. He’s out in Detroit. So we did MetLife together. And that went really well and got to mentor some awesome, amazing companies in that cohort. And then afterwards, I just get a random text from him. He’s like, Hey, I’m doing The Fund Midwest. Do you want to end as a GP? And it was like, yeah, that was it. That was the whole conversation. And then like next week, we’re on a call with with Jenny Fielding, who’s the founder of the fund, or one of the founders of the fund. And so we split it up extremely quickly. I think he and I have a real passion for founders, especially like pre seed stage founders. And we brought on Jennifer Frieda, out of Chicago is the CEO of Explore Surgical. She’s brilliant. We brought on Lindsay Campbell, who why can I she’s out of Pittsburgh, she had a dope company ShowClix that she sold. She’s brilliant. You know, for me, it’s I’m always just looking for excuses, to hang out with super smart, brilliant people and talk about starting companies and entrepreneurship. And so it was a great opportunity. And then also unlocking capital in the Midwest specifically is super important to me, I think. I think the Midwest has the most dormant capital in the country. I think there’s an immense amount of old money that’s just being you know, burned in GameStop stocks, and should be, should be put to work in in higher risk higher reward. scenarios. I think the part of the fund that really resonated with me is the first 50 LPs in our fund our founders. So it is a fund that is primarily financed by founder operators, not traditional LPs. So when we make an investment into a new CEO, we surround that CEO with 50 other founders, local guys like Charlie Key who’s who’s, you know, a good friend of mine and somebody that he and I constantly compare notes about whatever we’re working on, and he’s super brilliant. Eron Bucciarelli, who’s also here was is he’s got a new company called Tixi, and he was the drummer in Hawthorne Heights. Yeah.

Jay Clouse 35:38
Looks suspiciously like was the lead for Maroon five.

Chris Bergman 35:41
Oh, yeah, he does. He does. I can’t really guy’s name but yeah. 100%. And he’s just as Jack too which is

Jay Clouse 35:48
Suspiciously like, yeah.

Chris Bergman 35:50
I’m like, why are you so handsome man, I get nervous being around you. You know cuz he still he looks like a rock star. Anyway, you know, but but guys like that, and and people that that really, truly have helped me along my journey for years, to be able to leverage them and their expertise into new founders, I think is really important. And it’s for Cincinnati. Specifically, there’s been a vacancy of our generation of entrepreneurs, and the generation below us coming up and us not being able to click and connect. And I think COVID is a big part of that. Because you’re not having meetups, you’re not you know, there’s a lot of traditional things that are taking place. But at minimum, here’s an opportunity for us all to auto connect to get together and help each other.

Jay Clouse 36:32
I was looking at The Funds website, and they have chapters in New York, Los Angeles, London, Australia, Rockies, Midwest, so how do they decide when it’s going to be like a city like Los Angeles versus a region like the Rockies? And why was the Midwest the Midwest and not The Fund Detroit? The Fund Cincinnati?

Chris Bergman 36:53
Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of that has to do with deal flow and capacity. For the fun Midwest. We have a hypothesis around sort of this this. Gosh, I’m gonna do Ted Verbinski has a has a great blog post on what he calls the Star of the Midwest, which is and he draws a star between like.

Jay Clouse 37:10
It used to be called the diamond.

Chris Bergman 37:11

Jay Clouse 37:13
I was gonna say if it’s gone from the diamond to the star, I would love to know what the four points were. And what the fifthpoint was.

Chris Bergman 37:16
I think it is the diamond. I think you’re right. But it was Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit and Pittsburgh. Right. And and I would add indie to that as well. I mean, especially with like, stuff that high alpha is doing. They’re I mean, they’re they’re creating an entire ecosystem, in my opinion. So but like, sort of that as a as a an investment thesis along the whole, I think that was just sort of the approach, like, could we have done an individual? Could we have done a Cincinnati fund? Detroit Fund? I mean, I think that would have been totally possible. But for fund one, you know, how much effort Do you want to put in fundraising? And the best part about raising the fund? Is it split across all of our GPUs? So I’m only having to raise a quarter of it, as opposed to all of it right, which isn’t, I mean, I run a video game studio. That is my number one priority. And I think I think for the fund Midwest, in particular, it’s built to where founders can operate it sort of sort of spreading the heavy lifting.

Jay Clouse 38:17
Is that the model for the fund, generally across all the regions.

Chris Bergman 38:20
As far as I know, yeah, I mean, I know that most of the GPs and investment committees are people that are they have their own companies, their their founders in their own right, doing other stuff.

Jay Clouse 38:31
What is the investment thesis of the fund Midwest, what type of founders you looking for what type of stage?

Chris Bergman 38:37
Yeah, so primarily pre seed and seed stage, we like to live within, you know, a three to 5 million cap pre money, we write checks between 50 and 100k. We’re hoping to do 30 to 40 investments over a two year deployment period. And our only criteria outside of those sort of, you know, financial mechanics is that you’re in the Midwest, so you’re in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, and western Pennsylvania. And we sort of split the Midwest as well, right? Like, like, we’re not doing Wisconsin or St. Louis are some of those other places. So I expect to see, you know, another fun pop up in that I hope somebody takes that region and goes after it. I think it’s worth going after.

Jay Clouse 39:24
Has it been easy to get if you’re if you’re a quarter of the fundraising responsibility for the Midwest, and you’re saying there’s all this dormant old money in this region? Have you had an easy time convincing people to take these riskier positions and these companies?

Chris Bergman 39:41
Well, for The Fund Midwest I mean, it’s you’re primarily talking to founders, so you’re not talking to that type of capital.

Jay Clouse 39:49
I see. Funded by founders, run by founders.

Chris Bergman 39:51
Yes. So funded by founders and run by founders. So you’re talking one, it’s a pretty approachable minimum requirement to make an investment in the fund. Which makes sense sort of for the people that that would be in it. It’s kind of just like a text message like, Hey, I’m doing this, you should be a part of it. We’re going to go hang out with a bunch of new founders and help them be better, better humans and better CEOs. It’s a pretty easy, yes. Because it’s people that genuinely care about helping others.

Jay Clouse 39:51
Do you guys plan to lead rounds?

Chris Bergman 39:53
Likely no. No. So so we’re primarily follow on? You know, I think our advantage is, we tend to be the smartest money coming in, if it’s not a strategic investment, we’re, you know, there’s no, it’s not like a typical angel investment where you have a guy that runs a car dealership, that’s trying to tell somebody how to run a tech company, right, like you’re getting actual good advice about running companies from founders that have done it before. And so I think we find a lot of, we sneak into deals that maybe we wouldn’t be in normally, because of sort of the intellect behind the money and provide a lot of value there.

Jay Clouse 40:52
I saw on the TechCrunch piece, Ted said, he thinks the fund is unique because of its speed, it intends to invest in two Midwest companies a month for two years, 24 companies in two years. What does that mean to you and the folks who are involved in like vetting these companies in terms of your own time commitment, running your own company, you got to find 24 companies to invest in less than next two years. That sounds like it could be a lot of time.

Chris Bergman 41:17
It’s all inbound. So far, nobody’s had any challenges with deal flow. And I think part of that is because what, here’s what tends to happen when you’re a founder, you I’m sure you’ve seen this, right. So you become a founder, you get written up in your local business career, everyone thinks you’re famous. And so then you get 20 other entrepreneurs that are reaching out to you for advice, which like I love, I love, I love, I love I love, I want to talk to them, I want to mentor them, I want to give advice. And I give bad advice constantly. So and like you’re seeing these, but but but up until now I’ve not had any place to be like, Hey, I can actually write you a check, I can, I can give you something that’s liquid that’s beyond just advice. And so now being able to do that, and then you you multiply that by 50 people that are LPs in the fund. So they’re all they’re all bubbling up their own companies that they’re mentoring and advising and that kind of thing. And so, one, you get visibility into the founders that you would never ever, ever get as a traditional VC, right? Because you’re having very intimate conversations around running a business. So it’s a lot easier for us to have a deal come to the table and have an LP or one of our ourselves like, like the deal that we’re in our first investment that we’re that we’re making, which isn’t announced yet, so I can’t talk about it. But like the first one, like I’m, I was a person that was a part of the due diligence for the lead investor. Right. So I had I had already gone through the due diligence process for because I was helping out another venture venture firm. And so like, having that kind of visibility makes it very easy to have a quick yes or no. And we really rely on that visibility. And it’s worked out really well so far.

Jay Clouse 42:56
Totally. I love this wave of programs. We’re seeing like spearhead where it’s like, Hey, we think founders can actually surface some really great investments, because they’re already really close these people and have these intimate conversations. I love to see more of that. And that makes some sense. Do you anticipate any tension between getting this inbound meeting founders that you really love as people and you think they might be able to do it, but then having to wear your investor hat and saying, I don’t think this makes sense, given that you love giving advice?

Chris Bergman 43:22
I haven’t run into that yet. When I was fundraising for my companies, the second best thing I could hear was a no.

Jay Clouse 43:32
A quick one, right?

Chris Bergman 43:33
Yeah. Because I can move on and focus where I can. And so anytime I think that it’s a no for us, there’s typically like five other funds that come to mind that might be a better fit for them. And it’s pretty easy to say, hey, let’s let’s go chase these down, right? Because, you know, there’s our I mean, I’ve already seen a lot of deals that like their, their valuation is just too high. And we can’t make it make sense. And that’s not where we’re living. But I can point them to people that can can help them. So I think that’s how you solve for that.

Jay Clouse 44:01
You’re the only GP in this fund that’s in Cincinnati, right? The others are in different cities around the Midwest. Yep. Yes. Is there any? Is there any competition around that?

Chris Bergman 44:08
Oh, yeah. We’re always fighting for our companies. Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I mean, that’s the fun of it. And, you know, our investment committee, we’re all close friends, and very, very much enjoy each other and enjoy debate. And so it’s really good. And I think the other piece is we all very much respect each other. at a level where you can really listen to the other person, you can really trust their judgment and you can trust why they’re, you know, I know, they will never waste my time with any deal ever. Right? Like, because they wouldn’t do that to themselves. And so when you can be that intellectually honest on an investment committee, it’s pretty easy to get on the same page.

Jay Clouse 44:50
When you were when you were fundraising if you put yourself back into this the seat of like 2011 ChoreMonster Chris Bergman, did you understand the difference between raising from an operator as somebody who’s been a venture capitalist their whole life.

Chris Bergman 45:02
No, not at all I learned I mean, safe notes didn’t even exist back then. I had no concept of what smart money was what you know, you know what I mean? I got very lucky with my investors that they ended up being amazing and kind and actually cared about who I was and how I was, you know, how, like, how all this was affecting me, I got extremely lucky in that, you know, I think I could totally see that going a completely different direction, man, like, I hear the horrors. I feel so bad because like, I didn’t experience any of the horror stories. Like my I love my investors, I still hang out with my investors and text them regularly. I got a bunch of congratulations. When the Midwest fund was announced, where they were all like, oh, you’re one of us. Now, you loser. You know what I mean? So I, but had I known I would have been terrified.

Jay Clouse 45:50
Well, this has all been fascinating, we mannered, mannered all the way through the story here. Is there anything about The Fund Midwest? I’m not asking that you think I should have asked or that you think is worth saying?

Chris Bergman 46:01
If you have an interesting company or a founder that’s interested in being an LP shoot me an email Follow me on twitter @ChrisBergman follow @GyleeGames that actually follow that one before me that’s more interesting. Better content anyway. My stuff’s all random. I don’t, I rant about my kids playing Fortnight. It’s Don’t follow me on Twitter. And yeah, I think we’re we’re excited to unlock some capital in the Midwest and help founders succeed.

Jay Clouse 46:30
Eric, do you know what my favorite part about podcast advertisements is?

Eric Hornung 46:34
That people actually listen to them?

Jay Clouse 46:36
Wow you read my mind. It’s almost like we’ve done this twice now. Yes, that people actually listen to them. Look, you’re listening right now, dear listener.

Eric Hornung 46:43
and me I’m listening to I’m listening to you, Jay, here on the Upside podcast.

Jay Clouse 46:47
And if you have a message that you want to share with the upside, audience, people who care about startups, investing the middle of the country, this is a really great place to put that message.

Eric Hornung 46:56
Because people will listen to it. And if you have an event, or you just wanna get something out about your brand, you’re hiring. This is the perfect place for the That’s our classified ad that can run on one to five podcast episodes.

Jay Clouse 47:13
That’s right. Typically, we lock in sponsors for longer sponsorships, but we wanted to make this accessible to you and your message. If you have a message to share with our audience, go to, and get your ad on the airwaves.

Eric Hornung 47:33
Alright, Jay, we just folk actually hold up. Look at that. You just spoke with Chris from The Fund Midwest. And man, I’m I’m excited to listen back to this one. I haven’t pre listened yet. But I kind of want to interview you about The Fund Midwest and kind of get your feel on it. What you what you take away?

Jay Clouse 47:52
Well, here’s the thing. You think I interviewed Chris Bergman of The Fund Midwest, I actually interviewed Chris Bergman of Gylee Games.

Eric Hornung 47:58
It’s so hard having dual personalities.

Jay Clouse 48:00
I just had so much so many questions. There’s there’s a guy we talked about in the interview named Chris Volpe here in Columbus, and he talked to me about video game studio models. And I love it. It’s such a fascinating business, but also such a terrifying hard thing to to run, because as Chris said, it’s gonna take three years to get this product to market. He has an employee roster of 40 people. That’s a crazy model. And he raised funding from a group that had previously invested in ChoreMonster, pretty crazy thing and to think through levels of Okay, now we’re designing these characters. So that can be cosplayable, and we want something that can be streamed on Twitch like he’s doing business development in real time for three years before the release of this game. But they put so much money and investment into. It’s wild. And I couldn’t help but say it but dig into it.

Eric Hornung 48:48
Is that besides that, I mean, the three years is obviously a longer timeframe. But from the like, fun side of things, that’s not that different is it I mean, to raise a fund to like launch a fund, you need to go out you need to raise a bunch of money, it takes an average 18 to 24 months to do that. And then as you’re making investments, you need to think about how the market is going to receive the investments you’re making to make follow on investments in them. So I feel like there’s some transferable skills there.

Jay Clouse 49:14
There’s definitely some transferable skills there. But it really strikes me that and actually Chris call this out he said he didn’t think that gaming studios like this are typically venture bankable. And that this was a little bit of a different situation with his investors. Because it’s not like a problem solution type of situation. It’s much more like entertainment, where you think you have something very, very interesting and unique, and that people are really gonna like but it’s not a painkiller, necessarily. But he has some really interesting perspective on it. You know, he’s developing a game for what he says is the largest segment of the gaming population that he feels is very, very underserved. He’s thinking about the different levels of Okay, how does this live as a comic, how does this live as cosplay. How does it live on Twitch? edge? How do we get this into the right discovery sections of the different gaming console, so when it launches, it has a really good chance. But he also brought up a lot of the long tail opportunity of games that aren’t necessarily present in other markets. So it was it was something really, really fun to dig into and talk about, that was not The Fund Midwest.

Eric Hornung 50:19
Let’s take this a different direction than we normally would for an outro. Because I don’t have anything, not even anything insightful. I don’t have anything to add here to the end. So how does this for the listeners who are familiar with what we’re building at the Upside network? What did you learn in this interview that can apply to the world of like, an audio podcast studio?

Jay Clouse 50:39
Good question. The thing about audio is we can just develop so much faster. You know, a lot of what he talked about the reason they have so many people on staff and also your present for this, a lot of almost all of their people that they hired are from Cincinnati, because there’s apparently a lot of VR and like people developing in unreal and unity, and Cincinnati for big companies like Kroger, but it’s way more fun to work for a video game company than the Kroger. The thing is, they have to develop so much underlying technology to put the front end graphic technology on it. Like they’re they’re breaking the engine, so to speak, is what he said. And with audio, you can build an iterate so so quickly and sped things up a way, way, way quickly. He’s not really looking to do multiple. I know, it’s different than a typical network. And he’s not looking at building a portfolio of games just yet. Like they’re really focused on one game at a time, which is a huge investment in time and energy.

Eric Hornung 51:37
So that’s the difference between the venture model, which is invest in X number of companies over three to five years, and hope that one of them is a big hit, versus invest all your time and energy into one thing, and hope that’s a big hit.

Jay Clouse 51:52
We did talk about The Fund Midwest a little bit. So we can we can talk about that a bit.

Eric Hornung 51:58
I’m trying here, Jay, I’m trying.

Jay Clouse 52:02
I like this, because this is a fund that is funded by startup founders and operators and also managed by startup founders and operators. It’s smarter capital, and the way that the people that you’re receiving money from have a lot of operating experience. They even have experience raising funding from other investors. And I think it’s a really cool opportunity. You know, Chris was very casual and low key about it, like even raising the fund. And as one of four partners in the GP. He was responsible for raising a quarter of the fund. And he said it was pretty much just texting his different friends who are founders around the Midwest region saying, hey, do you want to be a part of this? And then they can surround their founders that they’re investing in two per month for the next two years? With these really great seasoned operators?

Eric Hornung 52:54
How do you, you or Chris, think about the trade off between offering that seasoned operator advice to other companies and founders, and spending that same amount of time building your own company or his own company?

Jay Clouse 53:10
Yeah, I did ask him that. He didn’t really think that there was much of a conflict, because he was already doing a lot of this anyway. It’s kind of the ethos of being a founder in the Midwest where there aren’t a ton of people like you, relatively speaking, you know, at least talking about like an overall human demographic, where you’re going around, a lot of your friends are working day jobs, or a lot of people around, you just don’t understand what it’s like to start a company. And these founders are already talking to each other. So he’s already he’s already doing a lot of that. He thinks a lot of this will be inbound as far as interest goes. But yeah, I asked him about that tension, because it does seem like you could be putting more time into your company, or you could be helping these different founders. And I think there is a degree of founders helping founders, that happens all the time. Anyway, this is just a level of added help on top of it, which is capital.

Eric Hornung 53:57
I tend to agree with that. And I know I asked for both your opinion and Chris’s opinion, but I tend to agree that the benefits of consistently talking with and helping other founders will outweigh the hours spent on your own company in the mid to long term, especially.

Jay Clouse 54:15
And you and I are both bullish on models like spearhead where we think that founders typically have a really good year to the ground and know who to back in who’s got some traction anyway, I think we, we have that beyond some investors, if you’re in the right circles, because there’s a trusted network of people and you’re, you’re having really candid conversations with each other about what’s going on in your business. And that gives you unique insight into what might be a good company and good timing to get in.

Eric Hornung 54:44
Well, Jay, thank you so much for jumping in here as I worked through my calendar issues which are now stronger thanks to our new sponsor SavvyCal. You’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the upcoming episodes. Dear listener, if you have any thoughts about This episode if you wish Jay asked more questions about The Fund Midwest, you can reach out to us on Twitter @upsideFM. Or if you have something a little longer a guest recommendation, perhaps you can reach out to us at and we will talk to you next week.

Jay Clouse 55:19
That’s all for this week. Thanks for listening. We’d love to hear what you think about this episode. So tweet at us @upsideFM or email us Hello@upside.FM and let us know. You can learn more about us and browse our entire back catalogue of episodes at And if you love our show, please leave a review on Apple podcast that goes a long way in helping us bring high quality guests to the show.

Interview begins: 7:58
Debrief: 47:33

Chris Bergman is the founder and CEO of Gylee Games and a General Partner at The Fund Midwest.

Gylee Games believes in building big worlds. They believe in games that can be enjoyed in smaller chunks, not requiring hundreds of hours, but a delightful experience in short bursts. Gylee Games creates games for PC, Console and VR.

The Midwest Fund was born from The Fund, an NYC-based venture capital group. Founded in 2018 by an all-star cast of Jenny Fielding, Scott Hartley, Katie Hunt, Adam Carver and Matthew Brimer, The Fund has since expanded with micro-funds in Los Angeles, London and the Boulder/Denver region. And with each expansion, local founders and investors are tapped to lead each region.

We discuss:

  • ChoreMonster 9:26
  • Gylee Games and The Fund Midwest 10:19
  • Chris Bergman as a game developer and creator 11:56
  • Surrounding yourself with people that are really good 13:35
  • Funding a gaming studio 16:59
  • Game Studio Aspects 18:41
  • Gaming and Venture Capital 19:51
  • Pre-release marketing 23:27
  • Pressure on the first game 29:03
  • Strategy on acquisition model 30:46
  • Twitch to become stakeholders 32:04
  • Entering The Fund Midwest 32:56
  • Investment Thesis 38:31
  • Funded by founders, run by founders 39:50
  • Raising as an operator vs as a VC 44:50–

Learn more about The Fund Midwest:
Learn more about Gylee Games:
Follow Chris Bergman on Twitter:

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