BFI-Endorsed UK Creative Content EIS Fund Invests In VR Studio Maze Theory

The UK Creative Content EIS Fund, which was set up last summer to back independent production companies and is endorsed by the BFI, has made its third investment, I can reveal.

Following previous investments in former C4 boss David Abraham’s Wonderhood Studios and Colin Firth and Ged Doherty’s Raindog Films, the Fund has now taken a step in a different direction by backing digital entertainment studio Maze Theory.

The production co is most known for its work in virtual reality gaming, having created experiences for franchise including Doctor Who and Peaky Blinders. The Fund said the money will allow it to significantly grow its user base.

“A key aspect of this investment is the enormous potential for Maze to develop VR (and other experiences) for premium film and TV franchises,” Fund head Stephen Fuss explained to Deadline. “This will create new revenue streams for those franchises and an exciting experience for fans. Maze has already been trusted with premium IP such as Doctor Who and Peaky Blinders. Together with the rapid expansion of the VR market, this puts them in a unique position to become a global leader in delivering these types of experiences for well-established film and TV franchises.”

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The Fund was set up in June 2019 to raise capital to back UK indies using the government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), which allows emerging companies to raise capital from investors whose financial commitment is offset by tax relief. The scheme was created to encourage the economy of startup ventures but has had a controversial link to the film biz, with claims it has been misused by some producers and financiers. In response, the government relaunched EIS a couple of years ago to re-focus on backing the growth of companies.

The Fund is being run by Calculus Capital and Stargrove Pictures, in association with the BFI (which has no financial involvement), and is looking to raise a total of $26M (£20M), investing around $1.3M-$4M (£1M-£3M) per company in overhead and development spend. Businesses must have been created in the last seven years to qualify.

Maze Theory has also received a second grant (the Immersive Technology Investment Accelerator) from the Government’s UKRI Audiences of the Future Programme, which included a match funding investment from Vive X.

“The world is facing challenging times right now, but the gaming sector continues to be resilient in times of economic uncertainty,” said Maze Theory CEO Ian Hambleton. “These investments and our new content initiatives enable us to grow our fanbase and drive our business forward. We remain as committed as ever to delivering brilliant gaming experiences.”

“Maze Theory has an impressive team in place, with a proven track record of developing and launching successful games,” added Alexandra Lindsay, Investment Director at Calculus Capital. “Having identified the opportunity through our network, we were attracted by Maze Theory’s ability to secure high profile IP, resulting in a strong slate of reputable titles, each of which have high commercial capabilities. In addition, the team’s ability to develop games across multiple platforms provides the company with diversification and exposure to larger markets.”

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