Newcastle-based gaming startup Grid Finder has been acquired by US-based motorsports venture group, RAFA Racing Club, 19 months after first receiving local angel investment. 

The company has been bought for an undisclosed 7-figure sum in a majority-cash deal. 

Grid Finder was started by Tom Stapley-Bunten as a hobby project in late 2020 with the aim of helping online racing gamers find communities to race with across Playstation, Xbox and PC on games such as F1, Gran Turismo & Forza. 

It remained a passion-project until late 2021 when CEO Stapley-Bunten met his co-founder Nikhil Patel (CTO) at a tech networking event put on by Ignite at By The River Brew Co on the River Tyne. 

At the same event, they met local serial tech startup founder, Kevin Beales, who went on to lead Grid Finder’s pre-seed investment round of £200,000 in April 2022.

The company started building the gaming platform from their spare bedroom until moving to Newcastle co-working space Floe in mid-2022.

Grid Finder built an MVP of their community management platform throughout 2022 before opening a £1.5 million seed round in Q4. The team received £425,000 in Safenotes from Creative UK and RAFA Racing Club’s venture arm, Maximo Capital. 

The cash was used to hire their third co-founder, Chris Honniball (CIO), and build out a tech and marketing team.

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The platform has grown to host over 3,000 racing communities and had over 500,000 drivers use the platform to find online racing. The team recently hosted activations with Formula E and Porsche Motorsport North America and is currently working with several gaming studios to build direct integrations between their games and Grid Finder. 

RAFA Racing Club is building a network of venues, content and experiences for motorsports and sports car fans around the world. Starting in Houston and Austin, and expanding to Europe in 2024, the clubs will provide a space for motorsports fans and drivers to share their passion for racing. 

The clubs will play host to a suite of facilities including gyms, sim racing training centres and more. 

The Grid Finder team plans to scale the platform throughout 2024, providing more tools for sim racers, league managers, livery designers, modders, engineers, broadcasters, commentators and stewards. In addition, the team will become pivotal in building tech capability across the whole of the RAFA family of brands. 

The current team will remain in place for the foreseeable future and continue to be based in Newcastle whilst they grow the team and build the platform. 

“Becoming part of the RAFA family of brands opens up huge opportunities for the team and the platform,” said Stapley-Bunten. 

“Grid Finder now has the resources and supported vision to provide immense value to the online racing space. I’m incredibly proud of our entirely self-taught team for building something with so much potential in such a nascent market. With RAFA Racing’s passion, vision and resources, we’ll be able to scale our product to serve a global community of racing fans.

“I am so grateful for the tech and startup support ecosystem that is being championed in the North East of England. It’s been great to feel part of a growing movement of creative thinkers in Newcastle and I’m so glad that we’re able to continue to hire from our local talent pool.”

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Patel added: “As a gamer, I’ve been able to work on something that I love. In addition to building a platform, I’ve been able to build a team of developers that all love the community we’re building for. 

“I’m looking forward to the opportunities to scale the team and the platform as part of the RAFA family.”

Jo York, CEO at Ignite, said: “It’s been a pleasure working with Tom and Nikhil over the pre-accelerator and accelerator programmes. Their progress has been incredible – from working as a new team on day one of our 2022 pre-accelerator,  to now completing a seven-figure exit.

“From the first day of the pre-accelerator, Tom and Nikhil reacted really well to being challenged, pivoting their idea in response to new customer insights. They absorbed all the content and made the most out of every opportunity put in front of them.

“It’s wonderful to see Tom and Nikhil now supporting and mentoring other founders now, as they have become invaluable members of the North East tech community.”

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