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Diary of a start-up

Diary of a startup 4

The fourth instalment of the gripping saga...

This month, lucky readers can find out all about how we kitted out our studio, bought our expensive Macs. Plus the value of using LinkedIn to network. Read the diary here.

Or if you’d rather just read it without clicking anywhere at all, just keep scrolling down.


Kitting out the office

So we have a company name, a logo, a website, our first app doing well in the charts, but we now need to kit out our office and get some computers.

We’d made our first game from my kitchen table, but we’d now found an office. So a bit like a young couple going to kit out their first flat, I headed off to the Mecca of Swedish furniture in a white van with my dad. Even when you’re small, it’s amazing how much kit you need. The obvious stuff like desks, chairs, shelves, but also cutlery, crockery, a fridge, microwave, pen pots, extension cables. The list is never-ending and, even if you do it on the cheap, it all adds up.

But the look of your office can really set the tone for your company, so it’s important. And I was 100% sure I didn’t want to make our studio look like an office. So no brown furniture anywhere. Everything would be white, black or brightly coloured – with the name Neon Play and being a games studio, I wanted to have a vibrant and fun working environment. A kindergarten, basically.

Neon Play studio

We didn’t have a big budget (or any budget, really) to kit out the office with anything too swanky and we had a rather bland magnolia-walled Victorian townhouse of an office. So my quick-fix solution to make it appear a bit more fun was to buy removable wall stickers, which I stuck over ever blank area. And it made a big difference straight away.

I also bought four extremely bright and comfy beanbags to brainstorm on. Also, I picked up odds and sods here and there, nicked some stuff from my kid’s playroom and our new studio was complete.

You need a printer/scanner. You don’t need a fax machine these days, and if you do, there’s always somewhere to borrow one from. The phone came from Argos, the office chairs from Viking and that’s pretty much it really. We had a kitted-out games studio.

Going Mac shopping

I’m a great believer that if you’re going to work in the creative and technology sector, you need to give your team the right tools to do the job. Nothing saps the energy of talented people more than having old, slow machines or outdated software. It’s like asking a good tennis player to play with an old wooden racket – he may be a great player, but he’d play a lot better with the latest graphite model.

It wouldn’t be cheap, especially as we would all be on Macs (you need Macs to make iPhone apps), but you have to start off in the right direction and build solid foundations. So Mark, my technical director partner, and I headed to the Apple Store at Cribbs Causeway, Bristol, with a credit card and a smile. We were after two MacBook Pros, as we’d always be on the go. I’d never had a Mac before, so I wasn’t one of those bores who bang on about how rubbish PCs are. But having used them for a while now, I can safely say it’s worth paying the extra for a Mac. Quite simply, they just work better. And if you’re presenting to clients, they look far sexier than a grey laptop.

Five months after we’d been to the very same Apple Store, it was very satisfying to be invited back to give a talk there about our early success on the App Store.

Neon Play talking at the Apple Store

When I started Neon Play, I was aware we’d need to shout very loud to be heard. We were new kids on the block in a new industry and no one had a clue who we were. I hate the phrase ‘If you don’t tell, you won’t sell’, but it’s so, so true. You need to do all you can and tell every contact you know about your venture and hope the word spreads. If you’re good, I really believe the word gets out there. But you need to prove you’re good and not just say it. So that might mean taking on a client for a low fee as a case study, or creating something yourself to prove you have the skills in your particular specialism.

Linking in

Facebook is for your mates (and I hate it when business acquaintances try to get you to be a friend on Facebook), but LinkedIn is Facebook for businesses. And it’s becoming more important to network via LinkedIn. If you’re an employer and one of your team starts getting lots of recommendations and new contacts, the chances are they’re about to leave. And that’s what you have to do though. Recommendations are a great thing and if you think that people might rate you, then ask them to give you a recommendation. They’re invaluable, I think.

LinkedIn Oli Christie

Trawl through contacts’ LinkedIn contacts and you’ll come across people you’ve worked with in the past. And if you have a Twitter feed (which you should, of course), then anything you tweet will be pulled into their updates, which is essential for that drip feed of positive news that I believe to be essential. If you do this, then when an ex-contact or client knows what you do, and the time is right, the phone will hopefully start to ring.

Next month: Outsourcing (finance, HR, recruitment, legal) and the value of PR

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