THE Scottish entrepreneurs behind Dundee games company 4J Studios are seeking new investments in commercial property and data analytics.
Chris van der Kuyl and Paddy Burns, who are estimated to share a net worth of around £300 million, already have a multi-million pound investment portfolio that includes offices and scale-up businesses.
The pair, who are lifelong friends, opened a new grade A commercial office development at Dundee’s waterfront last June called Water’s Edge. It was developed from an old dockside shed used for short-term storage of cargo in transit.
“We’ve actually created a product in Water’s Edge that is exactly what people should be looking for in a post-Covid environment,” Mr van der Kuyl said. “It’s smaller units with shared services that are well suited to the flexible way people are working now, with a bit of work from home and work from an office space. So we’ve got our engines fired up and we’re looking for more opportunities in commercial property.”
Mr van der Kuyl said the duo were looking for good opportunities in areas that previously would have been deemed more peripheral, because these were where people now wanted to live and work.
“There’s loads of opportunity locally,” Mr van der Kuyl said. “So we’re talking to Dundee, Angus and Perth and Kinross about what locations they’ve got where they see the demand for the kind of product we’ve built here. If we saw two or three great opportunities, we’ll be happy to do that.”
Mr van der Kuyl and Mr Burns are equity investors in television analytics business TVSquared and meal delivery business Parsley Box, both based in Edinburgh. Two investee companies are based alongside 4J Studios and ten other companies in the Water’s Edge building. These are insurance technology start-up Broker Insights and games developer Puny Astronaut. In July, Mr van der Kuyl and Mr Burns announced they were investing in Ace Aquatec, a Dundee-based aquaculture technology specialist. Other investments include Edinburgh-based ADV Holdings, which operates Dundee’s Foxlake aqua park and other water-based adventure sites in Liverpool and Cheshire.
“They’re here in Dundee, but they’re going into other communities and we’ll see the positive effect of that, so we want to see them succeed,” Mr van der Kuyl said. “It’s not just about maximum return, it’s about place-changing investment.”
On future potential investments, Mr van der Kuyl said conversations were ongoing with a number of different businesses.
“We’re fairly focused around high growth, data analytics, as well as games,” he said. “Investments like Parsley Box and Ace Aquatech look outside of that. Except they’re both businesses which, in time, will be really impacted by technology.”
4J Studios employs around 50 staff and is best-known for developing the console versions of Minecraft, the best-selling video game of all time. With more people playing computer games than ever, Mr van der Kuyl said the games industry had probably had its best-ever decade. He predicted this would be eclipsed by the next ten years.
“It’s a real bonanza time for the games industry and Scotland couldn’t be better positioned,” he said. “I can’t see anything other than more investment finding its way to Scotland, and more great companies building on the back of it.” Scotland’s legacy in the sector includes the launch in 1997 of Grand Theft Auto, which is now developed out of Edinburgh by New York-based Rockstar Games and is one of the most successful entertainment properties of all time.
Scotland’s priority as a small economy must be to “massively over-invest in education and young talent,” Mr van der Kuyl said. “If we totally focus on that, I think we’ll look back in 20 years’ time and say, there’s the best investment we ever made.”