Mobile gamer Animoca Brands says access and equity exposure to artificial intelligence startups is the reason for a $1.5 million investment in a Hong Kong-based accelerator.

After a difficult period, Animoca (ASX:AB1) has become one of the ASX’s best performing small cap tech stocks, with its shares up 464 per cent compared with a year ago. This morning’s news gave the company a slight 4 per cent bump to 9.8c.

Though its major focus of late has been blockchain, Animoca told investors this morning it was increasing its exposure to AI startups and talent through a strategic investment in Venture Classic, the investment arm of Hong Kong-based accelerator Zeroth SPC.

The company will pay $1 million cash contribution earn-in and $500k in Animoca shares.

It will hold 67pc of Venture Classic when the deal is finished.

Animoca Brands (ASX:AB1) shares over the past year.

Zeroth is an AI accelerator that has accelerated 33 startups, with investments in eight blockchain-related companies.

Animoca invested $715k in Zeroth in December last year and its fitness and AI spin-off OliveXis a graduate of the Zeroth acceleration program.

Venture Classic acts as the investment manager of Zeroth SPC.

Yat Siu, Animoca co-founder and chairman, said the transaction would create “significant” cross-selling and corporate development opportunities.

“We were impressed by Zeroth’s rise as one of the most influential AI accelerators in Asias as well as a major investor in blockchain,” he said.

“As we continue to expand our AI and blockchain initiatives, Zeroth provides us with an excellent strategic match, invaluable resources and access to high-potential ventures and technologies.”

Tak Lo, Zeroth founder, said Animoca would help his company scale.

“We believe AI will be the biggest force multiplier for tech companies in the next five years and the strategic and managerial skillsets of Animoca Brands will greatly increase Zeroth’s operational discipline and development opportunities as we expand efforts in the AI and blockchain industries,” he said.