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Diary of a start-up

Diary of a start-up

The secret diary of Neon Play. Aged 39.

When you work in the digital industry, you know that NMA (New Media Age) is your industry bible.

So when Oli, our MD, called their editor Justin Pearce and suggested the idea of a “Diary of a start-up” and the instant reply was “YES”, it was a good news day.

It was then just a matter of writing the article and trying to remember what the hell happened last year as it all seems like a bit of a blur. Anyway, the first piece was written and it was then just a matter of time for NMA to put the diary live.

And it was with a very surprised chortle that the diary was the top news item/story/feature on the NMA website on launch day. See below.

NMA and Neon Play

If you want to read the first “Diary of a start-up” installment, then click here. Or if you’d rather just read it without clicking anywhere at all, just keep scrolling down.

Oli Christie, the Samuel Pepys of Cirencester (not really, but it sounds funny) chirped up, whilst holding his quill, “It’s a great honour to write for NMA and I hope it might inspire other potential start-ups when they realise that if I can set up a new company, then any old muppet can do as well.”

NMA Diary of a start-up


“Babe, I’m leaving Inbox to go and set up my own company...”

When your wife is six month’s pregnant and a touch on the hormonal side, this statement doesn’t go down particularly well. In fact, it went down rather badly.

And so it was. After nearly six happy years, I’d decided to take the plunge, leave a comfortable, enjoyable, well-paid job and go off on my own, like a clueless lemming going off a cliff. Shit.

Black piece of paper

So what next? I have no staff, no clients, no name and not much of an idea, but I know one thing. The iPhone has changed the landscape - you could make money by creating games and engaging apps - and that is what I wanted to do. Having made over 200 viral games for InboxDMG and Panlogic, I knew what people liked, so I thought and hoped that I could translate that onto the iPhone.

Could we produce the next Doodle Jump or Angry Birds? Unlikely, but you never know. And as well as making our own iPhone apps, we could start working with agencies and clients and get paid to make apps for them as well. So there was potential and different revenue areas.

Number crunching

OK, so I know I wanted to make iPhone games, but now what? I’m told I need a business plan, which sounds grown up. And as I was a creative director, numbers, P&L thingies and balance sheets all sounded rather boring and scary. So I got out Excel and tried to work out what to do. That didn’t really go very well to be honest - I’d need help there.

Name of the game

You need a cracking name and an available URL for a new company, so I wrote down a whole bunch of words to do with games, playing, cool words, different words, etc that I liked and that worked well as a URL. After hours on, Neon Play was my new company’s name - plus the word “Neon” had lots of potential for a nice looking site.

Geek needed

How about staff? Mmm, tricky one that, especially as I was setting up in Cirencester in the middle of the Cotswolds. It’s not exactly Hoxton. Normally people start a company with a partner or two and that of course would be ideal. But after a false start or two (it’s a long story...), I decided to post a good old job ad online for an iPhone developer.

The response was thin to say the least (one CV), but the only chap who did apply turned out to be my future business partner. He had worked in the games industry for 10 years and had just returned to the Cotswolds after five years in the USA working for Midway Games. That was a stroke of luck I needed. So Mark joined Neon Play as technical director, aka The Wizard. We could now start to actually make an app...

Next week...creating the brand, company culture, finding office space, setting up a company.

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