Creative “event solutions” for agencies, brands and corporates involved in product launches, promotions and one off special celebratory events.

Founded in 2016, BlackCurve helps e-commerce companies find the optimal price for their goods and services through advanced pricing algorithms and machine learning.

One of the UK’s leading suppliers of video projection, high-resolution displays and audio, and lighting to the events industry.

The leading provider of custom 3D learning software solutions and serious games in Europe.

Mobile video advertising platform connecting brands to relevant consumers.

Avid Games’ trading engine takes the principle of a traditional printed card/sticker album and turns it into an interactive digital trading environment.

SockMonkey Studios, a Middlesbrough-based games developer, has secured £250,000 from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, to launch its first original game.

SockMonkey is set to bring Fish Tanks to market this summer. It will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC and mobile phone platforms.

SockMonkey was founded in 2013 by Darren Cuthbert and Bob Makin. They were later joined by Darren Falcus, who co-founded Optimus Software – one of the first video game studios on Teesside which was later sold to US publishing giant Acclaim Entertainment.

SockMonkey has seen rapid growth in recent years and increased headcount by 50 per cent in 2019. Its recent projects include adapting the popular PC game Deliver Us The Moon for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, as well as developing the Nintendo Switch version of Prison Architect.

The award-winning studio, which currently employs 18 staff, plans to create a dozen new jobs by the end of this year, and almost triple its staff numbers to 50 by 2021 to support growing demand.

As well as the investment, SockMonkey will also receive practical support from Mercia’s games expert Ron Ashtiani, the former CEO and now Chair of Sumo Group’s Atomhawk business.

Bob Makin, CEO, said: “Having created many hits for other games companies, we are excited to now be launching our first original title later this year, and have additional games already at the prototype stage. With the next generation of video games consoles due to be released by the end of 2020, there’s no better time to create the region’s first ‘superstudio’, putting SockMonkey – and the wider Tees Valley games development community – on the map. This funding, along with Mercia’s knowledge of the games industry, will help us to do that.”

Simon Crabtree of Mercia said: “SockMonkey is a successful studio with a talented and ambitious team. Developing its own games will allow it to benefit from ongoing royalities and add value to the business. With the gaming sector continuing to grow rapidly, it bodes well for the future of the company and the Teesside games industry.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “SockMonkey has played a key part in Middlesbrough’s vibrant digital and creative sector for years, and the latest welcome news of the launch of their first original game is set to drive its growth even further.

“Thanks to money invested via NPIF, SockMonkey is going from strength to strength. As well as creating real jobs for local people, it’s another example of businesses in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool going global with their products, showing our expertise on the world stage.”

Sean Hutchinson, Senior Investment Manager at the British Business Bank, said: “It’s fantastic to see a northern business establishing itself within the thriving gaming sector with its first original title. The NPIF investment will help SockMonkey realise its growth ambitions and create new, highly-skills jobs in the Teeside region. We are proud to work with Mercia and our other fund managers – particularly during this time – to encourage growing businesses to prosper.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

A former teacher who developed a software platform to help children speak and write more confidently has raised £250,000 from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund,

Chris Williams’ system Chatta is already used by almost 100 schools worldwide and has been named as one of the world’s best innovations of its type by the global education charity HundrED. Chatta, which is available free of charge to parents during the lockdown, uses pictures to engage children in conversation  and develop their language and literacy skills.

The platform is based on techniques developed by Chris during his career as a special needs teacher, and later working with Hull City Council to find ways to improve children’s language skills. Around a third of children aged five are behind expected levels of attainment in spoken language, which experts believe is due to families talking less because of computer games and social media. Chatta helps overcome digital distractions and promote conversation.

Chris launched Chatta in 2013 and now runs the Hull based business with software specialist David Waring, who is company’s CEO. As part of the deal, the company has appointed David Rasche, founder of insurance software specialist SSP and winner of the 2020 FTSE AIM Non-Executive Director of the year, as Chairman. The funding will allow them to further develop the software and expand in international markets.

Chris says: “Talk is the link between thinking and writing – if a child can’t say it, they can’t write it. Chatta creates opportunities to share stories and conversations within families and in schools. It gives children the confidence to speak to any audience and enhance their writing and vocabulary. In some cases parents tell us they’ve never before seen their child so strongly engaged with learning.”

Will Schaffer of Mercia added: “At a time when there are real concerns about the impact of digital media on children’s development, Chatta is helping to get families talking again and build children’s literacy skills. It is playing a particularly valuable role during the current lockdown, by helping teachers, parents and children to collaborate in remote teaching and learning.”

Grant Peggie, Director at British Business Bank said: “The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund is continuing to support businesses during these unprecedented times and this investment into Chatta shows the importance of funding for businesses in Hull and across the North. Chatta is really making a difference to families at this uncertain time and we look forward to seeing the company continuing to grow with this investment.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

 

We are pleased to announce that our portfolio company nDreams Limited (“nDreams”) has signed a contract with a leading global games publisher, to develop content for the rapidly expanding location-based entertainment (“LBE”) virtual reality (“VR”) market.

This latest contract win follows the announcement in November 2019 of a major VR contract award with a leading global company, and further underscores Mercia’s confidence in nDreams as it continues to consolidate its position at the forefront of global VR game development and publishing.

The global LBE VR market is poised to grow by $1.5billion during 2019-2023, progressing at a CAGR of nearly 36% during the forecast period, and predicted to make up c.11% of the VR industry.

Mercia currently holds a 36.4% fully diluted stake in nDreams.

Patrick O’Luanaigh, CEO and founder of nDreams, said: “We’re delighted with this new contract. This, along with the contracts we signed last year and winning the Game Critics Award at E3, demonstrates the confidence that the major players are showing in nDreams as one of the highest quality VR studios in the world. We’re also increasingly excited about the growth of the VR market; we’re on track to double last year’s revenue this financial year. Furthermore, with headsets like the Oculus Quest and Valve Index sold out for months ahead and multiple VR games now selling over 1million copies each, the VR market is growing extremely well.”

Julian Viggars, Chief Investment Officer of Mercia Asset Management PLC, said: “Alongside the growing home market, we are now seeing growth within the LBE VR market, with many new VR games and experiences appearing in arcades and shopping centres around the world. nDreams has once again demonstrated the leadership team’s ability to identify new opportunities, including joint solutions to drive growth, but importantly deliver both the requisite high-quality content and fully immersive consumer experience.”

Mercia Asset Management PLC the proactive, regionally focused specialist asset manager, is pleased to announce that its direct portfolio company, nDreams Limited (“nDreams”), is continuing to make significant commercial progress with the signing of a new contract to create virtual reality (“VR”) content for a leading global company.

nDreams is now recognised as being at the forefront of global VR game development and publishing. Mercia has supported the business since 2014 and currently holds a 44.6% (fully diluted 37.1%) direct stake in the company.

The new contract is for the VR at home market and follows the announcement of nDreams’ latest title, Phantom: Covert Ops, which the company is developing in partnership with Oculus Studios.

The reception for Phantom: Covert Ops, which was on show at this year’s E3 Expo in Los Angeles, has been outstanding and resulted in the team winning E3’s Game Critics Award for ‘Best VR/AR Game’, as well as six other award wins including Game Informer’s ‘Best VR Game’.

Patrick O’Luanaigh, CEO and founder of nDreams, said: “nDreams continues to grow at an exciting pace and this new contract is testament to the hard work of the talented studio team we are continuing to build. Phantom: Covert Ops has had an incredible reception so far and we’re looking forward to revealing more on this – and all our upcoming projects – in the coming months.”

Julian Viggars, Chief Investment Officer of Mercia Asset Management PLC, said: “Run by an industry leading management team that has worked for many of the biggest gaming companies in the world, nDreams is on an exciting growth trajectory. With new hardware releases, such as the Oculus Quest headset and Valve Index, and the ever-increasing quality of content, interest in the VR market continues to gather momentum. nDreams’ focus on building high-quality content alongside technical innovation is increasingly being recognised by the gaming industry and its accelerating commercial progress is thoroughly well deserved.”