Ever wished sales was as exciting as a fantasy league? The Pitch finalist Stormburst Studios is leveraging development experience from building games like Angry Birds Go! to reinvent how sales people are incentivised. We spoke to founder Derry Holt to find out more as part of the latest profile in our The Investibles series.
1. What is your investment status?
We’ve been approved to receive £150,000 SEIS funding either just before Christmas or just after.
2. Describe your business in one paragraph; what’s its vision and what problem does it solve?
Stormburst Studios’ vision is to bridge the gap between the video games industry and conventional business software. We want to use the knowledge we’ve gained from developing internationally successful mobile titles (Angry Birds Go! and Heavenstrike Rivals) to create engaging software for the workplace that drives productivity and ultimately makes work a little more fun.
Right now we’re solving this problem for sales teams with Spirit, a gamified performance management platform for target-driven environments. Our cloud-based solution eliminates the need for outdated whiteboards and spreadsheets, and instead provides a real-time platform that draws inspiration from fantasy sports leagues to bring an innovative concept to sales teams; staff pick teams of co-workers, rack up points for their performance and compete in an entirely new way that drives camaraderie, healthy competition and productivity.
3. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
We initially set out to create mobile video games. However, it’s a risky business; only 10% of games break even or turn a profit. Rather than spending 12-18 months developing a game that may crash and burn immediately, we decided to apply what we knew about building games to conventional business software. A muttered thought of “what about playing fantasy football in sales teams..” led us to where we are today!
4. What’s your addressable market?
Our market consists of low margin, high volume sales teams of 10 or more staff. In the UK there are just shy of 1.4 million employees in our three core markets – recruitment, insurance and telesales. We estimate approximately 560,000 of these 1.4 million employees are inappropriate environments (target-driven, the capability to go real-time, lots of data etc.) and a 1% market share would equate to £128,500 monthly recurring revenue.
5. What’s great about your team and do you have a mentor?
We like to think our background not only inspires our product but also inspires the company. We’re young, fast-moving and always looking to challenge convention. We’re very dev-heavy at the minute but in the new year we’ll see the team grow by four more staff - one dev, two sales and one marketing - bringing our headcount to seven. It’s going to be awesome.
As for a mentor, we’re days away from acquiring a chairman and forming a board of advisors – we have a good range of less formal mentors through the Entrepreneurial Spark programme.
6. What key challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Transitioning from programmer to CEO (AKA business development guy…) was tough. Neither my business partner nor I wanted to step away from our keyboards, so picking up the phone and cold calling wasn’t an enjoyable experience. However, we persevered and here we are today in discussions with some very exciting names (watch this space).
7. How have you funded your startup and why did you choose this route?
We were fortunate that our old university provided a 12-month bursary to enable us to get the company off the ground. The six months since then have been a bit rough; we won some award money to tide us over (which we spent on another programmer) and otherwise I’ve kept my involvement with competitive gaming up to sustain myself but it’s been a crunch!
We chose to seek investment as we believe that we need to scale quickly before international competition enters the UK. The gamification of sales is a relatively new concept (four years old in the US) and so we need to get moving or we’ll find ourselves falling behind to well-established competitors. We’re looking to take on a further investment round of £300,000 in June 2017 before pursuing a Series A in 2018.
8. How do you market your business and how successful has it been so far?
Marketing isn’t my forte so conventional marketing has been weak. We’ve run social media campaigns, rebuilt our website a few dozen times, blogged a bunch and attended exhibitions. None have been massively effective; the most effective thing thus far has been pitching.
Getting into finals of competitions across the UK has got our platform a lot of interest from attendees and opens up doors through networks we didn’t believe it would. Learning to pitch our business effectively in under a minute has been really useful for conventional networking too!
We suspect that next year when we have a budget for marketing as well as a dedicated marketing manager we’ll see inbound marketing be a huge driver for us – we can’t wait to get started with it.
9. What are your plans for the future?
More investment, more staff, more clients! In all seriousness, we want to push Spirit to be the go-to product for sales gamification around the world and would love to establish ourselves as leaders in ‘game-led gamification’ – will we achieve that? Who knows? It’s about baby steps; the UK first, then Europe, then Asia (a very interesting market).
10. If you started again, is there anything you would do differently?
Move quicker. Be more decisive. Hindsight can be a gift and a curse and for us it would have been a huge gift. Given it’s our first startup we’ve made a number of mistakes and wasted time in places we didn’t need to; misdirected product iteration, dealing with cowboys and not wanting to say no.
11. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs that are starting a business?
We’re fortunate to be in a time where support for entrepreneurialism is at an all-time high. Join an incubator, network your heart out and remember that sometimes advice is just that – advice. In your gut you know what’s best for you so run with it and if it falls down at least you know it was your decision.