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Vinny Lingham-backed AR game wows with Bitcoins

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South African-born Internet entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, Vinny Lingham.
South African-born Internet entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, Vinny Lingham.

South African-born Internet entrepreneur turned venture capitalist Vinny Lingham's backed augmented reality (AR) mobile game's initial crowdfunding has raked in more than $500 000 (R6.7 million) in just 24 hours.

The mobile game - Augmentors - was originally created by Michael Deon and his partner Kyle Haffenden, who then pitched their concept on Shark Tank South Africa. The TV series allows entrepreneurs to go up in front of a panel of successful South African business moguls, known as the "sharks", who are willing to invest their own money and time in deserving and potentially lucrative business ideas.

The trick is convincing these highly critical and experienced sharks that it will be worth their while to bankroll the business, product or invention. It is at Shark Tank South Africa that Lingham bought into the AR game.

Augmentors is the first blockchain-based AR mobile game. As one of the world's leading Bitcoin analysts and CEO of blockchain-based identity start-up Civic, Silicon Valley-based Lingham says he knew this game - a 3D-modelled cross-platform mobile AR fantasy game backed by Counterparty crypto tokens that run on blockchain - had unique appeal.

He says Augmentors' initial crowdfunding 30-day round has been the most successful game initial coin offering (ICO) in history, with half of its $1 million crowdfunding target reached within 24 hours.

An ICO is a popular way to raise money for a new cryptocurrency project by distributing a percentage of the initial coin supply among the early supporters and backers.

At the time of publishing, Augmentors had raised 584 Bitcoins with a value of $577 000. It closes on 28 February.

Once the initial ICO crowdfunding round closes, the Alpha version of Augmentors will be released at the end of May 2017, with the Beta version set to follow shortly thereafter. Augmentors will be available for download on the Google Play Store and App Store.

The game consists of 50 rare creatures known as Augmentors that are each capable of unique attacks, spells and movements. They have their own origin, backstory and can be trained, traded or swapped between players.

Seed funding for the development of the game came from Lingham's start-up angel investment firm Newtown Partners, which he co-founded with Cape Town-based venture capitalist Llew Claasen, who is also executive director of the Bitcoin Foundation.

Fellow Shark Tank South Africa investor Gil Oved, group co-CEO and co-founder of The Creative Counsel, is also an angel investor in Augmentors.

"Augmented reality and blockchain technology are two of the most exciting sectors in tech right now, so to find a start-up that combines both in such an innovative manner is an extremely exciting prospect for us as investors," says Claasen.

Following a successful pre-sale offering, which showed significant appetite for the game among both gaming and cryptocurrency communities, Newtown Partners sought to crowdfund an additional $1 million to complete the game's development. This was done via an ICO of the game's Databits crypto tokens.

Game creator Deon explains Augmentors has made available a total of 100 million Databits for the ICO, at a ratio of 15 000 Databits to one Bitcoin, which will increase in cost by 1 000 Databits every five days throughout the ICO period.

"Of this, 70% have been made available to backers via the ICO. The remaining 30% will be used for game development and marketing," he adds.

Early backers of Augmentors receive specially priced Databits, as well as a selection of rare, one-of-a-kind creatures based on the size of their participation in the ICO.

"The Databits will be locked, which means no more can be issued after the ICO. After the crowdfunding sale, all remaining unsold Databits will be burnt, instantly shortening the supply of Databits in circulation," continues Deon. "Early backers can then use their Databits to purchase creatures and relics once the game is launched, or can sell them off to other players for any other cryptocurrency tokens."

"We partnered with the team behind the original game ICO - Spells of Genesis - for this campaign and their input has been invaluable. The Augmentors crowdfunding campaign is now the most successful game ICO ever," says Lingham.

The Augmentors game concept has also piqued interest worldwide, with the biggest ICO backing coming from participants in the US, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia, Norway, Romania, Netherlands, Canada and China.

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