PhD student Kuly and her partner Caezar won Best Idea in the flare competition for their business, Alley Cat Games, which produces science-themed board and card games that are both fun and educational. Their first board game, Lab Wars, was launched on Kickstarter in June 2016 and has since accumulated 1,640 backers, pledging nearly £50,000 to bring their project to life. Here they tell us how they got started.
As a student at the University of Hertfordshire I was introduced to flare by a member of the enterprise team. I was advised that there was expertise and cash prizes on offer for the best start-up ideas. We hurriedly wrote a script detailing why our board game publishing company should win flare based on what our business had achieved already plus what we hoped to achieve in the future. After a few weeks: success! We had been formally accepted onto the flare competition.
What we did
Our company was the two of us (Caezar and Kuly) working on it from home in our spare time. We’re massive board game geeks and researchers. There were a few science board games out there but they were targeted towards the parent and educational market. Essentially there was nothing out there for scientists to enjoy and poke fun at the silly things in science and research. By creating a game that was fun first and educational second it could combine the two effectively, therefore, our game, Lab Wars was born - a game of building up your lab, conducting experiments and sabotaging your competitors all based on real life events or equipment.
We moved from the start of the flare campaign to the semi-finals by writing a clearly thought out business plan with financial projections. It was this process that made us realise that we could actually turn this idea into a business reality. Without this stage who knows where the idea could have gone? It was a long agonising few months wait for the result but YES, we were accepted into the final! After a great deal of time building up a community of fans for the game and harassing multiple reviewers and journalists, we launched our Kickstarter campaign. We were featured in the Wall Street Journal, Nature News, Science magazine, The Scientist and a whole host of other magazines and websites which had a profound effect on the exposure of the campaign. In the end we raised £49,000 during the month long campaign, almost 10 times the amount we originally needed to fund the game.
The Enterprise Team arranged a great day learning from top professionals, advising us on how to pitch - we also got to meet the other contestants. This was an awesome day. As finalists we were invited to take part in a professional video shoot to be shown at the flare final. We then had a gruelling Dragons’ Den style interview asking us specific questions after a two minute pitch to an expert panel. While the interview was nerve racking it was a great and fun experience all round.
Finally, after a month long wait the official flare final happened. We were given a free poster board and business cards and a stand to promote our business. We met many local businesses at the event and swapped many business cards. They then played out the ultra-flashy videos of each of the contestants and when it came to the Best Idea award - we won! We were totally gobsmacked. The other contestants were of such high quality that this was a real honour for us. They even gave us a shiny glass award for our efforts! Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed being part of flare and would highly recommend entering the competition if you have a business idea.
To find out more about the flare competition at the University of Hertfordshire, visit our website: http://www.herts.ac.uk/flare