Case Study: Thumbfood

Case Study


Growth Start-up
One of the great benefits of working with the Hub is that you get to work with a mentor.

Thumbfood set to become major player

The support of the Business Growth Hub’s start-up team has proved ‘invaluable’ to a Manchester games designer, who less than a year after going into business has been nominated for a top industry award.

Thumbfood is a videogame company founded by Simon Smith on the back of 15 years industry experience with some of the UK’s leading games designers and advertising agencies. But while Simon had an in-depth knowledge of gameplay and high-end visuals, he was less sure about some of the finer points of running a business, so he signed up to a Start Smart Workshop.

“It was an invaluable experience,” explains Simon. “It gave me a great overview of the process for starting up a business, with some great practical hints and tips. I also found answers to questions I had about the set-up process, tax, and any legal issues I might face.

“I also met lots of other entrepreneurs,” he continues. “Networking is an over-used phrase these days, but meeting so many like-minded people can give you a real boost. It shows you’re not alone, and lots of other people are going through a similar process, with similar problems.”

With the basis for the business in place, Simon went in search of some specific information by signing up to some of the Hub’s master classes. These included a marketing workshop where he learnt about ‘telling his company’s story,’ and a corporation tax master class which helped unravel some of the intricacies of tax for a new business.

“The breadth of the services the Hub offers is superb,” he says. “It was great to have tax experts on-hand to answers my queries rather than having to search for people on the internet and make appointments to see them.”

One of the other great benefits of working with the Hub, he continues, is that you get to work with a mentor. In Simon’s case, this was Matt Jeffs-Watts, an advisor with a wealth of experience in digital technologies.

“It’s been fantastic to have someone like Matt to talk to, bounce ideas off and generally help make sure that the business is going in the right direction.”

Matt also helped Simon to concentrate on a very specific business goal.

“I’ve always wanted to develop new games but that is a very competitive area. So Matt encouraged me to focus on something smaller and more niche. I’d already worked on branded games for another agency, so in the end this seemed like the obvious way to go.”

Branded games are developed for specific businesses or organisations as a way of promoting the brand, or a particular service.

Simon comes up with the idea for the games, and then works in collaboration with freelance developers, art-workers and audio specialists to bring the games to life.

Since starting up, Simon has landed a number of key contracts, including work with Manchester City to create four games for the junior supporter’s area of the club’s website. And he’s now talking to other Premier League football clubs about making games for them on a similar basis.

Working with the Hub has also given Simon a new steely discipline. “My ultimate goal is to be able to make downloadable console games. It’s a big ask but it’s what I want to do. So now, every time I have an idea it’s got to fit in with achieving this goal. If it doesn’t, then I drop it and sometimes that’s a very hard thing to do.”

And Simon has capped a successful first year in business by being nominated in two categories at the prestigious games industry TIGA awards.

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