Start-up stories: GWOF

Start-up stories: GWOF

Games Without Frontiers’ founder – or Player 1 – Tim Dew, explains how his business takes an OK business team and makes them brilliant in a single day.

BQ and Atom Bank are hosting the inaugural National Entrepreneur Festival at the Boiler Shop in Newcastle upon Tyne on 21 November 2017.

The festival will see the presenting of the Emerging Entrepreneur Awards, which will highlight the tenacity, creativity, innovation and determination of the nation’s entrepreneurs.

And remember, you can still get your tickets for the festival, here.

Tell us about your business, what does it do?

GWOF’s first product ROCKET is a virtual business simulation game: we have developed the software and face-to-face game environment that takes a maximum of 15 people on a journey. The players parachute into an ailing company and are tasked with making it phenomenally successful. Playing 26 weeks trade (6 months) in 26 minutes, with breaks to assess activity and self-created team strategies, they play 4 rounds or two years trade. By the end of a day the players are whooping and cheering and feel empowered to take their strategies back to their own business.

What did you do before you started this business?

I was a business doctor and business broker: brought into a business to handle their acquisitions, mergers, sale or transition to a new management team or board members.

What inspired you to start up?

Each and every business I visited had the same problems to differing degrees. It usually revolved around silo thinking and poor communication. Having sat through countless hours of “death-by-PowerPoint” delivered by well-meaning consultants or the option of an “away-day” of team bonding usually involving building a raft or attempting an assault course in the pouring rain, I knew there had to be a better solution.

How would you describe your business to a novice?

ROCKET takes a good business team and makes them great. ROCKET is our first business game which has been developed using our own proprietary cutting-edge software with elements of artificial intelligence. We put a team of 15 individuals in a room: split into 5 pods, each pod has a unique screen (marketing, sales, production, finance or management / MD). All 5 screens are interconnected to one central screen managed by the game facilitator.

The central screen shows the game progress with cashflow, orders coming in, orders awaiting invoice or payment and there is a news feed to throw in the occasional curve ball - it all feels very real. In the first round everyone is getting used to their role; very focussed on doing a good job and not really communicating with each other. Through the challenges each successive round brings lessons are learned, strategies created or tweaked and the level of business acumen and communication improves. ROCKET truly bonds a team and helps solve real business challenges in a risk free environment.

We have a number of other games lined up with both a reseller network and a global franchise network poised to take our games around the world.

Where do you get advice, support or help?

Our business networks include:

Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise (Scottish Government)

Mentors (CEO’s, MD’s and business consultants)

Every person that interacts with our game completes a feedback questionnaire; we need to learn from our clients and players how to make their experience even better.

Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?

We have used SEIS. It is an incredibly generous derivative of the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and was introduced in April 2012. Its aim is to encourage seed investment in early stage companies. Investors, including directors, can receive initial tax relief of 50% on investments up to £100,000 and Capital Gains Tax (CGT) exemption for any gains on the SEIS shares 

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

To have Youth Enterprise Scotland (used to be Prince’s Trust) give us accreditation to roll out ROCKET to all 600 High Schools across Scotland.

How do you differentiate your business from others?

“How do you want to do your management training?” asked the Consultant. “I want to listen to a guy, using 250 PowerPoint slides, tell me how to run my business “(said no one ever!)

What’s it like to be your own boss?

I love it. The team around me are the best supportive influence I have ever been involved with. Their spirit, knowledge and passion for what we are attempting to deliver is inspirational and I feel very lucky to be at the helm of this start-up business.

Where do you see your business in 5 years time?

It will have created a revolution in training and become a dominant force at educational conferences around the world.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Identify your core customer quickly, be patient and learn to listen. Don’t make assumptions, stay focussed and yield to the power of your customer. Learn to say no and stay positive.

Why did you enter the BQ Emerging Entrepreneur Awards?

To be part of a festival that celebrates entrepreneurship, celebrates business and especially the individuals that drive it. To meet like minded people, to learn, review and absorb anything and everything I can to help me build a better and more successful business.

What would it mean to you to win an award?

It would mean the world. GWOF may be a relatively new business, however of the 7 of us, only one is below the age of 40. We have all put our lives on hold to make this business the most successful in the world. We want to change education and we want to improve the UK GDP. In order to achieve this we need the platform to launch our ROCKET - the BQ Entrepreneur Festival is our answer.

For more information on the event, click here.