Scottish Games Network – Diary Of A Startup – Part 1

SGN 001One of the major things goals for the all new Scottish Games Network is to operate as a viable business.  This does not mean as a profit-driven private company, but as a sustainable company (or social enterprise or charity – whatever makes the most sense) in the long term.

As I said at all three launch events, there’s a lot of support and expertise unique to Scotland which helps entrepreneurs and start-ups companies in the interactive sector.  From Business Gateway, local chambers of commerce and various incubators and accelerators to Scottish Enterprise, the Cultural Enterprise OfficeInteractive Scotland(?) and…?

I want to utilise this infrastructure and take the SGN – as a business – through the process of a start-up company in its own right.

Where do you start?  In summer 2013, when considering the idea of setting up the SGN, I explored the type of organisation it should be.  I wanted to explore whether the new SGN should be a charity, or something similar. However, charities have very strict rules about what can and cannot be done by a charity.  Trustees must be appointed and you have to outline up front what the organisation will do.  Since the whole idea of the SGN is to explore strange and interesting new ideas and as it’s part of a very rapidly evolving industry, pinning down what the plans are seemed a little restrictive.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 15.48.43There is an alternative.  Social enterprises are companies which benefit people, communities or the environment.  The Scottish Games Network is a community, so I contacted FirstPort, an organisation which supports new social enterprises in Scotland.  After a fairly detailed phone call, it turned out they didn’t think the new SGN would be a social enterprise.  It might be a community.  It might be a charity, but they didn’t think it qualified as a social enterprise.

So, company it was.  The benefits to setting up a company are that it’s fast, simple and cheap to do.  It also allows the organisation to change in the future, so a social enterprise or charity is entirely possible, if that makes sense at some point.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 15.50.37I approached Companies House in August and was told I needed permission from the Scottish government to call the company the ‘Scottish’ Games Network.  I approached several people within the government and public sector and received a letter granting permission and stating eminent domain very quickly. Which was great, as I might otherwise have had to call it the Icelandic Games Network which would only have confused things…

The Scottish Games Network (company no: 457188) was incorporated as a company limited by guarantee on 20th August 2013.

The next step was to let the world know.  I created a press release and sent it out to the world at large in early October.

Since then I’ve nearly spoken to business gateway twice (it got a little busy) and following conversations with a couple of companies which are part of the Entrepreneurial Spark programme, they recommended it very highly.  It offers mentoring, office space, expert support, education and access to various funding opportunities.

In December, I spoke to one of the team at ESpark and described the Scottish Games Network and my ideas for the business.  I was encouraged to apply for the early 2014 intake (applications closed the following day).

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 15.39.09Five days after submitting the application, I found myself in an office building in South Gyle, giving a 60 second pitch to a room of around 70 other entrepreneurs, start-ups and new businesses.  These ranged from nail bars and bakeries to a number of digital companies.

Thankfully, I’m not phased by talking to a room full of strangers, or fitting a lot of information into (a very strict) 60 second time limit.  Which really does help.

My pitch focused on the the size of the global games industry, the huge potential for interactive media to change the creative industries and the opportunity for disruptive business models to help the sector achieve even more.

I got through.

The following week around 50 of the new companies had been invited back to a series of high speed, high pressure interviews with ESpark team members.  2.5 minutes each, focusing on the industry or sector your company works in, the opportunities available.  The revenue streams and business models and the goals for the industry.

As I had just completed the three launch events, explaining exactly these topics to the industry at large, I could answer everything fairly easily.  Plus this is something I am genuinely excited by and think  I understand.  There are plans for the company itself, ways in which we can help the industry as a whole, ways in which we can work with the public sector and – potentially – create disruptive business models to help the industry grow and thrive…

Again, I got through.

The Scottish Games Network is now an official ‘chicklet’ within the Edinburgh ‘hatchery’.  Things kick off in late January with an intensive five day boot camp, aimed at introducing the the chicklets to the latest advice, expertise and experience to help create successful and sustainable businesses.  Making it creative, innovative and fun, as well as actually practical and useful, will be down to me – and the rest of the games sector.

One of the secondary goals of taking the company through this process is to highlight the help available and make the support infrastructure in Scotland  more visible and accessible to start-up companies in the games sector.  Expect more blogs, more social media and more updates as the Scottish Games Network progresses.

What can Business Gateway, or the CEO, or Interactive Scotland offer the SGN?  Where do we go next? Is there funding out there?  Can we access it?  Just where will the whole adventure take us?

We’ll let you know.

In the meantime, wish us luck…

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