Many of the world’s most successful businesses have worked when the right people come together – often by chance. Facebook, AirBnB and Instagram all started by accident and have rapidly flourished into household names.
This is one of the ways in which Falmouth Launchpad builds its successful graduate start-ups – by putting the right people into the right teams.
Polargryph is a gaming start-up owned by Johanne Bergill, Ross Everson, James Hellman, Oscar Værnø and Georgia Higgins. They’d all studied at Falmouth University’s Games Academy, but would never have started a business together had they not applied for the Launchpad programme.
Johanne, who is Norweian had previously worked within Launchpad and says: “I learned first-hand what the programme was about, and decided to apply myself.”
Ross knew about Launchpad through friends, but after launching his own game and going through the difficulties of having a business without support, he decided this was exactly the programme he needed to realise his dream of owning and running his own company.
James came to the programme after initially considering either joining a company, doing a masters or setting up on his own, but he says: “The fully funded Masters, links with the industry giants and the stipend made so much sense which is why I finally applied. Plus, I convinced several of my friends to join as well which helped me settle in.”
Georgia has a background in maths and physics, and was told about Launchpad by a number of friends. She says: “I looked into it and thought it would be a great opportunity. I was happy in Cornwall, but wasn’t sure there was a big enough games industry here to reach the market. I was very wrong.”
Oscar, another team-member from Norway, joined Launchpad after trying to start his own games business after graduating from a bachelor’s at Falmouth University and found there was so much he didn’t know. He was attracted to getting the Masters to increase his confidence and help him with the skills needed to run a successful business. Oscar says: “I got far more than I bargained for. Launchpad really challenged me in many ways and I learned so much about working with people and managing projects. I was tossed into business development head-first and learned to thrive in stressful situations.”
According to Ross: “Cornwall is becoming a hub for games development in the UK, and much of that is to do with tech companies in the county collaborating and innovating together. There are also numerous networking events, which people can attend in person or remotely.”
With technology allowing companies to meet and work together wherever in the world they’re based, you can see people choosing where they want to live much more carefully than before. Cornwall is very attractive from that point of view, according to the team who certainly see the county’s attraction.
The team agree that they all felt both the stress and challenge of starting a business straightaway and the first few months were a huge learning curve.
This is when all new teams on the Launchpad programme meet with industry partners like the BBC, Amazon or Sony. They are then given three industry challenges, which could be anything from helping a company create new content or establish news ways of interacting with clients.
The teams have to then decide which of the challenges they’ll be able to tackle, often by designing a software solution that will have potential to be customised for other similar companies. This gives the team the basis for their business, which they can then build upon. While teams build their businesses to an identified market gap, they also undertake a Masters in Entrepreneurship.
James says: “Balancing the coursework and business is a very difficult process, as you can easily focus too much on one and end up struggling to catch up on the other. Getting over my “imposter syndrome” was and is a difficult ongoing battle as every day presents new challenges that leave me unsure if I can do it, though from working with my team and pushing through I keep managing to overcome these challenges.”
But they all agree working with Falmouth Launchpad to build their business is an exciting opportunity, especially when many of the previous cohorts have created and manage successful and profitable businesses.
And they all have ambitious plans for the next five years of their business careers. With the backing of the Launchpad coaches, mentors and industry partners, the team plan major things for their five year plan:
James: I see us creating a company that works with the community in producing the highest of quality games, ensuring that our customers stay happy, whilst also maintaining great employee health by eliminating crunch culture, and promoting equal opportunities.
Ross: In five years I see us creating our third game with a growing thriving company that game developers want to work for.
Oscar: I have a solid team that has been forged into the strongest steel with trust and openness being at the core of our business philosophy. My colleagues inspire me every day to continue to strive for success and Launchpad has absolutely created a culture of cooperation and collaboration that stands as a fundamental pillar for our daily operations.
Johanne: In five years I can see us working on fun and unique projects that spark joy and imagination in our audience. I want us to set an example that a game developer doesn’t have to sacrifice their physical and mental well-being in order to make great products.
Georgia: In five years time I can see our company developing its first debut title with a team of diverse and talented individuals. With which we will set an example of certain AAA studios, by encouraging a culture that puts the health and wellbeing of our employees first.