Lightspeed, a venture firm with $18 billion under management, has hired Moritz Baier-Lentz as its latest partner to lead the firm’s gaming practice.
Baier-Lentz is joining the VC firm’s consumer team as a partner to lead Lightspeed’s gaming practice and expand the firm’s presence in Los Angeles, where he is currently based. He will lead investments in gaming, game studios, platforms, and technologies.
The move underscores a greater interest in game investing at a time when gaming is outgrowing other categories of entertainment and it is making its mark on culture (as evidenced by Sunday’s launch of The Last of Us television show on HBO).
“It’s clearly a vote of confidence for the attractiveness of the gaming industry,” Baier-Lentz said. “Lightspeed is serious about gaming. This is a firm effort with a core team and extended support members.”
The company will help the startups it funds with marketing, talent acquisition and other tasks.
Lightspeed partners like Jeremy Liew have been investing for more than 15 years of investing in gaming, from early commitments and successes with Kongregate and Playdom, to more recent partnerships with game studios and adjacent platform and technology companies including Epic Games, Tripledot Studios, and Stability AI.
Nicole Quinn, general partner at Lightspeed, said in a post she has known Baier-Lentz since 2014, and most recently, worked together on our joint investment in Methodical Games.
“What stood out in our conversations with many of the exceptional founders he’s previously partnered with—and who have been leading the creation of popular games like Fortnite, Call of Duty, League of Legends, Apex, Overwatch, Valorant, StarCraft II and Warcraft III — is their appreciation for Moritz’s expertise, network, and relentless support in his role as investor, board member, and friend,” Quinn said.
Baier-Lentz’s has a unique background at the intersection of gaming and finance, Quinn said. Growing up in rural Germany, he has been a lifelong gamer and spent the majority of his teenage years competitively playing Blizzard’s Diablo II, culminating in a global No. 1 ranking among 13 million players in 2003, and — approximately two decades before non-fungible tokens (NFTs) entered the mainstream — trading the digital swords and armors that he earned in-game to afford his tuition at Stanford Business School.
Baier-Lentz went on to become a vice president at Goldman Sachs, where he built and co-led the
firm’s global gaming practice. During his tenure, he advised many of the world’s leading gaming and technology companies across PC, console, and mobile platforms such as Google, Meta, Microsoft, Activision, Electronic Arts, and Take-Two on over $300 billion in transaction volume across over 40 M&A, IPO, VC, and other strategic transactions — including Dell’s $67 billion acquisition of EMC and IBM’s $34 billion purchase of Red Hat.
For the last three years, Lightspeed interacted with Moritz in his role as partner and management team member at Bitkraft Ventures, Quinn said. Together with the founders, he scaled the firm to become the most active gaming VC and lead investor of 2020, 2021 and 2022.
At Bitkraft, he led many of the funds’ marquee deals including Inworld AI, Theorycraft Games, Horizon Blockchain Games (his only blockchain gaming investment), Raid Base, Lightforge Games and Tripp, among others.
Like a video game, Moritz is in constant search for the next challenge. This includes his
participation in ultra-distance races, including the 251-kilometer long, self-sufficient “Marathon des
Sables” through the Moroccan Sahara.
Lightspeed’s other gaming partners include Paul Murphy, for game studios and platforms, and Shan Shan, for growth gaming. A previous gaming partner was Amy Wu, who went on to head gaming at FTX.
Interestingly, gaming partner James Gwertzman said yesterday he was leaving A16z, a prominent venture fund that raised $600 million to invest in gaming.
The things to come
Baier-Lentz said Lightspeed’s game investments will focus on game studios with good game design, experienced teams, talented game designers, a clear understanding of the audience and a smart thesis.
“Any value in gaming, at least for game studios, stems from creating long-lasting, sustainable, retaining and engaging experiences,” Baier-Lentz said. “If you come to me with a Web3 game, or blockchain game, which is certainly included in our investment scope, I will first and foremost evaluate it as a game. And we can talk about whether blockchain is used or not as a means of value distribution or engaging the community.”
While gaming is hitting a trough like every other game business now, Baier-Lentz believes that focusing on the fundamentals of making fun games is how it will recover. He said the investments will focus on game studios and game platforms (whether they are social networks or consumer platforms). And he said the fund will focus on game technology, like the underlying tech stack, game engines, procedural creation, generative AI, new forms of 3D creation, cloud gaming, AR and VR, and more. But the core will be game studios, platforms, and game tech.
“The piece that is blowing up most right now is generative visual AI,” he said.
He also thinks there are interesting companies doing intelligent non-player characters and creating visually stunning landscapes. Based on what he has read, Baier-Lentz believes that Apple will come out with some kind of mixed reality device.
He noted that games are increasingly defining pop culture, based on the success of shows such as The Last of Us on HBO.
“We see games turned into movies and shows versus the other way around. We see games set in pop culture all the way to fashion,” he said. “We see games integrate other offline and online activities, such as shopping, concerts, etc. And so there’s no reason why in theory should not continue along those lines. This is just digitization of life and digitization of entertainment.”