In this interview, we sit down with Dan Wood and Chris Filip from the Creative Enterprise programmes to find out more about the two new stands of Accelerate Games initiatives just launched. Accelerate: Game Developers and Accelerate: Games Tech and Services both aim to empower, grow and champion innovation, tech and support in the games industry. Here, we take a deep-dive into what participants can expect to take from the experience and who these initiatives are predominantly targeting.
First of all, can you tell us a bit more about your own professional background?
Dan: I’ve been in the games industry for around 11 years – a lot of that time with Ukie and now with Creative Enterprise. My roles have really been focused on how to provide support and how to grow games businesses in the UK, including early-stage businesses and startups. I’ve been involved in a lot of industry-wide projects – leading Ukie’s original tax breaks proposal response. I’ve created things like the RaiseTheGame Diversity Pledge. Now I’m working on the business support programmes at Creative Enterprise, bringing expertise to the UK games businesses that really need it to help grow the sector even more.
Chris: I come from the games industry, where my background is games design and production. I have worked for AAA companies, indie companies, mobile companies, PC and console companies, all the while doing a few stints in things like transport technology and marketing technology. Before joining Creative England, I also spent a couple of years putting together events for the Tentacle Zone and helping create the Tentacle Zone Incubator Programme – a programme for early-stage company founders who come from underrepresented backgrounds. That programme was also supported by Creative Enterprise, which was a happy coincidence.
What does your role on the programmes involve?
Dan: My role on the Creative Enterprise programmes is Games Associate, so what I’m responsible for is shaping the initial programmes, putting them together from the Games Scale Up (which we launched last year successfully) and now putting that into practice through the earlier stage of the games accelerators. That is shaping the programmes, consulting with the industry to find out whether or not it’s the right content for people, pulling together high-level speakers and rolling out to people in the best possible way.
Chris: I help co-curate the programme of events for the accelerators and I’m also there on the day. I’m also the point of contact when it comes to wanting to engage with the wider organisation – if there’s somebody who wants to meet the other cohorts, for instance, or have access to any of the other programmes, loans or grants then they can come and talk to me.
Why are Accelerate: Game Studios and Accelerate: Games Tech and Services needed for the games industry?
Dan: There are so many exciting games studios and support businesses in the UK and there’s a world of opportunity out there for games businesses. We want to help those early-stage businesses seize those opportunities. Our accelerator programmes are focused on business support because there are lots of businesses out there who know how to create amazing games, innovative content and brilliant platforms but we want to help people grow the most successful business they can. That’s what both strands of our accelerator programmes do.
Chris: I think when we’re looking at the games industry right now, we see a very large funnel at the beginning where young people or people who might be switching careers are starting games studios. They have an idea and they may have skills and access to a team but as time goes by, those teams tend to fold because either they didn’t have the necessary business skills or because the talent goes to work in bigger companies. A big part of us starting the accelerator programmes is to give those critical business skills to the company founders so that they can survive past the first year and the first product launch.
What can businesses expect to get from the accelerator programmes?
Dan: Both programmes will deliver a mixture of workshops, insights and opportunities to meet investors and clients. This will be delivered in bitesize, two-hour sessions and some of the topics will differ slightly across the two strand. For Game Developers content will be tailored to businesses trying to make or launch their first game: how you work with publishers, how you make your game as efficiently as possible, what alternatives sources of funding are out there, and so on. The Games Tech and Services programme might be better suited to those interested in equity investments because there’ll be some great tips on that. Both will have ingredients of team building, fundamentals of finance, fundamentals of setting ambition and vision, and strategic thinking as well.
Chris: The programmes are first about getting access to Creative Enterprise’s ecosystem. Access to all of the companies we’ve helped in the past, including our own support when it comes to things like regional business support programmes, grants and loans – that’s the main thing we hope businesses will get when it comes to the bigger picture. Focusing in on the programmes themselves, it’s more about understanding and answering those questions that, when you’re in the heat of the moment, you don’t necessarily get time to think about. ‘How should I structure my company?’, ‘Should I offer shares to my employees?’, ‘What should my finances look like?’, ‘How should I pitch a game?’ – things like that.
The reason why we split the programmes into two strands in two – one being for those looking to start a games studio and the other for games companies who are looking to offer their services to the games industry – is because they have different needs. This is especially true when you look at how their product and service offerings are being structured and their financial needs. With games studios, it might be that they need a large chunk of money at the beginning and then to allow them to work on their game before supporting towards the end with things like marketing, publishing deals and contracts. Whereas for games tech and services, they’re looking more at maintaining a stable cash flow and turning prospects into a long runway of clients. We’ve structured the programmes with each of these business types’ needs in mind.
What types of businesses are you looking to attract with the two different programme strands?
Dan: We’ve deliberately created two strands because there are two distinct needs. So, for Accelerate: Game Developers, we’re looking for games studios who are early-stage but serious about careers and setting up a business in the sector. That could mean they’ve made their first game and they want to know how to publish it, or they’ve got a core team of early hires, or they’ve formed and registered their business – any key indicators that the business is early-stage.
For Accelerate: Games Tech and Services, we’re looking for any business whose core activity is supporting the games sector. That can be a tool or a tech platform or it could equally be a marketing or PR agency whose sole focus is to support the games industry – the same criteria as before: early stage, looking for funding, looking for early hires or first clients. It’s all about showing you’re committed to your path in the industry.
Chris: When we’re looking at the two different strands, with Accelerate: Game Developers, we’re looking for people who have a product in development and who have a team. We’re more interested in the team and your commitment than the specifics of the product. That’s what the application process is all about – showing us that you understand who your clients are and that you have a strong team behind you or that you, yourself, are strong enough to pull it off.
When looking at Accelerate: Games Tech and Services, we are looking for anybody who either offers services to the games industry or wants to offer services to the games industry. That can be anyone who creates games trailers to someone who can create a website that aggregates jobs in the games industry. If you are a coder studio, if you are a PR company, if you are a recruitment company, if you are a localisation company or a QA company, as long as you cater to the games industry but don’t produce a game as the main activity of your business, then we’re looking to hear from you.
Who are you hoping to work with through these programmes?
Dan: We’re looking to work with some of the most exciting content creation studios and some of the most innovative technology and support services that we can find. We know there are lots of them out there and we would love to have your applications in so please do send them in or drop us a line for more information.
Chris: When I joined the company, my main reason for joining was behind our ethos: talent is everywhere but opportunity is not. We want to work with companies who are out there at the edges being innovative or want to make a big break; companies who want to grow sustainable and profitable businesses. By targeting these types of programmes at the talent market we already know is out there, we want to bring the kind of opportunities that may not necessarily exist in local regions to grow and expand.
What’s the benefit for the games businesses who get a place on these programmes?
Dan: The biggest benefit of joining either strand of the accelerator programmes is that it’ll provide a real jumpstart for the business and give the boost needed to really seize the opportunities that are out there for the games industry. We know the skills are out there to make amazing games and same with the tech and support services – they’ve got the core skills and ambition to succeed – but having the business skills to really grow and accelerate a sustainable business is exactly what these programmes set out to do.
Chris: The biggest benefit is the combination of business support, meeting potential clients, publishers and investors and opportunities to apply for funding to get the business to the next stage of its journey.
Applications close on 1st December 2021 at 9am. If you have any questions about your application, please contact Sarah Jones by emailing email@example.com