NESTA discusses how the Creative Business Mentor Network can aid developers

Filling the business gap in games

More good news this week as the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) extends its already successful Creative Business Mentor Network to the games industry.

Successful applicants to the programme will receive one-to-one business mentoring every month for a year from successful industry experts. “The aim is to improve the growth capacity of games businesses” says programme manager, Angela Pugh.

“Lots of games developers are in the business because they have a passion for producing games, not because they want to run a business. This causes problems later on when they want to grow. Mentoring is a great way to point them in the right direction”.

Mentoring tackles the common issue facing games developers (and many other creative industries) the lack of tailored business development training for management teams working. According to recent research carried out by NESTA, in 90% of creative businesses, over half of the senior management team have not had any business development training and only 35% of creative businesses have set business revenue goals. Let’s face it, the majority of games firms are filled by people with a passion for developing games, not experienced business men or women.

Looking at the bigger picture, the industry is gaining recognition as a key potential growth sector in the UK. Games are, as we know, big business. However, harnessing this potential is not always easy. Even with the best ideas and most talented creative teams, there is no guarantee of commercial success. But there are measures that can help improve the odds. The Creative Business Mentor Network is designed to match creative businesses with top industry mentors.

The programme is not just for games developers. By joining up with TV production, advertising, film, video games, design, animation, music, digital media and publishing, it’s a network that offers collaboration with likeminded individuals from across the creative industries.

To apply, you need to have been established for at least three years and have revenues of over £250,000. The mentee companies receive expert, one-to-one business mentoring on a monthly basis for twelve months and also have the chance to forge links with other businesses taking part in the scheme. Companies mentored over the last year have reported an increase in business acumen, felt in better shape for growth and exit and felt better equipped to deal with future challenges.

Who are the mentors? Let’s start with what they aren’t – they’re not your average consultants or generic business support. They are industry leaders who are behind the UK’s excellence in the sector and continue to trail-blaze new approaches to keep the UK at the top of its game. Some of the mentors this year include Tim Gatland, Fund4Games, Patrick McKenna, Ingenious Media Group, and Peter Bazalgette, New Baz Limited.

Alongside the monthly mentor meetings, the programme also provides executive coaching to help the companies taking part maximise the development of core skills. Think of the mentors as supporting the businesses and the coach as supporting the individuals to get the most out of the mentoring relationship and the programme. Rounding it off four structured industry workshops, allow participants to meet likeminded companies experiencing similar challenges as well as the other mentors who can provide further industry insights.

The programme ultimately is about growth and about the creative industries giving back to the creative industries. It’s a lonely job running a company. This programme gives you someone to say that they’ve been in your shoes and the confidence to trust yourself. The mentors have all been there and are keen to give back. For them it’s something that they wish they’d had access to when they were growing their businesses.

For NESTA its clear that the programme fills a much needed space to ensure that the expertise existing within the industry is maximised to take advantage of new opportunities. It’s also about encouraging UK talent and keeping a stake in the game for UK companies.

Applications for the Creative Business Mentor Network are now open for those companies meeting the criteria outlined here.

NESTA is the largest independent endowment in the UK. Its mission is to support innovation to drive economic recovery and solve some of the UK’s major social challenges. NESTA is a world leader in its field and promotes innovation through a blend of practical programmes, policy and research and investment in early-stage companies.

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