Enterprising students realising potential with Create

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Lancaster students are achieving excellence in business with the help of Create, an entrepreneurship development programme run by LUSU, and the University’s Research and Enterprise Services (RES).

Lucas Gordon, a Masters student in Management set up is his own company, Night Leaf two months ago with seed funding from Create. The company, which specialises in developing gaming applications for smart phones, released an iPhone game called YOMP in Week 25.

Gordon said: “Everything started when I had an idea for a game based on a case study we were looking at as part of my New Venture Planning module. I was advised by my lecturer to contact Create […] and they put me in touch with people in Info Lab who could help me realise the project.”

Gordon was also put through a presentation style training course, and gained £1,300 after going in front of a Dragons’ Den panel. The start-up funding allowed him to fund his main game project, which is currently under development. Through Create, Gordon was given guidance and support as well as business contacts, which, he said, “have made everything seem realistic and achievable.”

He explained, “Of course, anyone can start a business, but it helps having someone to point you in the right direction. It’s great to learn lessons yourself by making mistakes and moving forward, but if you can skip a few of these early pitfalls with the help of more experienced individuals, it can really give you a good head start.

“Without their help and advice I wouldn’t be where I am now. They have also helped me get into Squeak, SCAN and have put me in touch with the University press office. All of this exposure has been hugely beneficial to downloads,” he added.

YOMP, which costs £1.19 per download on Apple iTunes Store, is a simple game leveraging on iPhone’s tilt sensor. The company’s debut game, Volcanic, was released a few weeks earlier and is available for free download.

When asked how he started developing these games, Gordon said: “I experienced difficulties with the software developer working on my main project, so it was postponed for a while. In the meantime I became acquainted with a piece of software that allowed me to create games for iPhone. Using this, I made Volcanic and YOMP, and have some more games in the pipeline. I quickly became proficient at the basic game development, so it feels quite natural to make these simple, addictive games.”

Gordon said that he has always been interested in business and sees himself as “quite creative.” Gordon previously studied Music Technology in Lancaster and had a small business selling items on behalf of other sellers on the online marketplace, eBay. However, he considered this mobile game development business his “first proper venture.”

“So far the business [Night Leaf] has seen quite a bit of success. Volcanic has downloads in the thousands, and we’ve just started making money from YOMP as it was released on Friday [of Week Five]. I expect a lot from YOMP as I worked hard on it.

“Volcanic still has work to be done before I’m entirely satisfied, therefore I’m relying on customer feedback to see what can be improved. It will be free until a final permanent design has been settled on, so lots of users will hopefully download it to encourage feedback. If anyone fails exams from spending too much time playing YOMP, I will accept full blame and responsibility because it’s entirely understandable,” he said.

Create offers advice on business planning, access to mentors and business contacts as well as start-up funding. The team, which consists of manager Joe Buglass and student enterprise coordinator Lizzie Whatley, operates from an office at Alexandra Square. The duo regularly runs workshops for aspiring entrepreneurs on campus.

A Dragons’ Den-like panel of professionals has been helping Create with business advice and contacts as well as with deciding on funding business ideas. Among other businesses that Create has helped were Fold, a recyclable furniture company, and Bay Stormers, a cheerleading club.

Fold, founded by Rick Casson, makes customised low-cost flat-pack recyclable furniture. Through Create, the MSc Engineering student was introduced to his business partner Martin Horner, who also runs The Borough in Lancaster. Casson won £1,400 funding through a competition with his business idea.

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