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Diary of a start-up

Diary of a startup 2

The second instalment of the gripping saga...

If you missed part one of the Neon Play Diary of a Startup in the digital industry's bible NMA, then you sure did miss something. OK, not really, but here it is anyway. 

And now it's time for part 2 on this intriguing tale on the little guys taking on the big nasty smelly Goliaths. Sort of. Read the diary here.

NMA and Neon Play

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


Creating a logo

It’s all very well having a company name, but then you need to create a brand (a bit like Stuart Baggs ‘The Brand’ without the delusion). And having spent 11 years as a creative director, it was probably wise that I didn’t create a bag o’ shite because no doubt friends and ex-colleagues would be waiting to see what I produced.

I’m a copywriter, not a designer, so I went to an ex-colleague called Jon, who lived locally, to design and implement our brand. As is traditional, I wrote a creative brief that explained what I wanted the Neon Play brand to represent. This is what it said:

“We want to be seen as an innovative, fun, cool, creative, technology-pushing company. We want people to easily recognise our brand. We want people to want to work for us and clients/partners to come to us. We want our Neon Play logo to be a stamp of quality. It needs to have good standout. It needs to look sleek and cool.” Easy.

So the first step for Jon and I was to look at the font for the logo – rightly or wrongly, it was a good starting point. And this is what Jon’s first font suggestions were:

Neon Play logo development

This was a good start and, following some first-stage feedback, this was the next round of designs. It’s quite interesting looking back seeing the logo evolve:

Neon Play logo development

These were narrowed down to two fonts and having Neon and Play as one word or two:

Neon Play logo development

Finally we had our logo and the fun of getting business cards, PowerPoint templates and so on was done. This suddenly felt very grown-up and we had to build a website next, even though we had nothing at all to show. This is how our logo looked on the iPhone:

Neon Play logo development

Making a website

Our website was clearly going to be our shop window so it had to look great, convince people that we were good at what we do, but also helping to sell the company to potential employees, partners, clients and journalists. For me, that meant keeping it fresh and full of new content, whatever that may be. Nothing annoys me more than a website with a button saying Latest News yet the most recent entry is six months old. And hopefully you can see from our website that the blog section has a lot of stories – over 70 to date in just eight months.

Company culture

As we’re a new company aiming to compete with some big game studios, I felt that a culture and ethos that stood out from the glut of corporate dullness would be vital. So I put down all my thoughts about the sort of company I wanted to create. I believe that any company is basically about its people and that people should enjoy coming to work – we are making games, after all. Click here if you want to read a bit more about our culture and ethos.

And then I thought I’d make it really clear what sort of place this is and drew up a list of ten reasons people should want to work at Neon Play. The full list is here, but the one that most people always talk about is our “posh bog-roll guarantee”. It’s not asking a lot really to have Andrex at work and it makes a difference to people even though it’s only for your bum. We also give everyone their birthday as a free day off, give 1% of our profits to charity (if we have any) and buy everyone beer on Fridays.

When you set up a company, you think there are a few things to do, but when you’re doing it all by yourself there are so many separate areas you need to think about that you didn’t consider when you started on the venture. I could have rewritten the Book of Lists with the amount of to-do lists I compiled, often at 4am when something triggers your mind. Again.

It wasn’t a classic time to be starting up a new company, with a new baby (plus six- and four-year-olds), but that’s just how it was, so I had to work around that. That meant working on the laptop in bed on Sunday mornings, working late every night and generally doing everything you could whenever there was a spare second. It was all-consuming and it still is, more so than I thought it would be, but I’ve loved every moment (mostly).

Affordable office

They say that overheads can kill a young company and for that reason I did all I could to find office space in Cirencester that wasn’t going to break the bank. And I got lucky, I can’t deny it. I asked a fellow dad at school who owns some property in Cirencester if he had any spare office space. And what do you know, he did. And he gave me a generous rent and rates deal, which was a great boost and enabled us to have a central starting base with a roof over our heads and it wasn’t going to cripple us financially. Phew.

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