Video game company founded at Georgia State expands with major venture capital investment
written by Jeremy Craig | photography by Carolyn Richardson | published on March 9, 2017
Kynton Stephens' long-time idea for a video game now has a major shot in the arm to become a player in Atlanta’s entertainment industry.
The company he founded at Georgia State University, Spray ‘n Pray Studios, has received a multimillion-dollar injection of venture capital funds, the lifeblood needed for startups to grow to prominence.
Stephens, a senior majoring in film, said the funding will allow his company expand to further develop his video game, called RAVEN, as the first installment of space adventures in an episodic series of first-person shooter games.
“Because of the funding, and ramping up operations from the funding, we’ve had to redesign the art and the programming and systems involved in social aspects of the game,” he said. “It’s opened up a wealth of possibilities that we weren’t as able to pursue before.”
Stephens said Spray ‘n Pray, which operates out of the CollabTech business incubator at Georgia State, will expand to 40 employees thanks to the funding.
The company will be able to roll out the game on more than just the originally planned Xbox and computers running Windows. RAVEN will also be available on Macs, computers running the Linux operating system and on PlayStation video game consoles.
Thanks to new funding, Spray ‘N Pray will also be able to add additional functionality, including virtual reality and the potential for an augmented reality version of the game.
Venture capital is money invested by individuals who take a risk and see potential to help get fledgling enterprises off the ground.
The company was able to prove RAVEN’s uniqueness and show how Spray ‘N Pray can make the game a reality.
“It’s extremely difficult to get people to notice you,” Stephens said. “Not only do you have to distinguish your product as a unique idea, but you have to demonstrate your ability to deliver on those ideas.”
The attention the company gained during a contest at South By Southwest Interactive (SXSW) in March 2015 added to their business case. Word also got out about it through the national Student Startup Madness competition, where they pitched to judges from Google, Samsung, Dell and a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.
“It definitely gave us a sense of notoriety, and drew interest from people who might not have given us a second look before,” Stephens said.
And as the SXSW Interactive competition taught him and his colleagues, even if you fail to win the top prize, it still helps you in the end.
“The experience that starting the business has granted me is extremely useful,” Stephens said. “I won’t need to look for a job straight out of college, and I have an extensive repertoire that you just can’t build by going to classes alone.
“Even if something crazy happened, that experience is more valuable than anything,” he said.
Read a 2015 profile about Stephens and Spray ‘N Pray Studios at https://www.gsu.edu/2015/02/17/film-student-builds-video-game-company/.