For this series of entries, I will be explaining the steps I take in developing my startup during my placement year at the Northumbria Business Startup Hatchery. This entry is a reflective summary of my achievements and the difficulties I have encountered, in the form of a quarterly report. This includes identifying new skills or competencies I have acquired as well as explaining which existing ones I have applied or developed. To conclude I will explore areas for improvement, plans and actions for further work (e.g. learning, tasks, projects, etc.) which will inform my action plan for competencies and activities for the following quarter.
Achievements & Difficulties
In this quarter I made significant progress towards achieving the goals I set out in my action plan in Summer. However, I didn’t manage to get as far as I would have liked with some of them. Though I still have time to do so this year.
First of all, I dedicated time to create a more professional web presence. Since I had done some work for clients last quarter, I thought it would be best to advertise these services with testimonies, instead of using the single-page portfolio style format I had developed. I also took the advice of Chris Simpson, whose event I digital marketing seminar I attended in December. Chris encouraged me to implement analytics in my design, so I could track the demographics and behaviour of my audience, to better plan and analyse my digital marketing strategy.
Using the skills and tools I had at my disposal I managed to revamp my domain, infinity27.com, though this was not without its difficulties. I went in-depth into this in another blog post, but in brief, I found that I needed to spend a day learning the methodology and vernacular of multiple Google products before I could implement a working digital marketing campaign that uses analytics. Looking back, it is evident that this is an invaluable exercise that will help me monitor the success of the goals I want to achieve with my website. A quick glance at the analytics tools gives me insight into how my visitors view and interact with my website. For example, I can now see if the links I include in my e-mail campaign are visited by the recipients and how effective the landing page for that service is at convincing them to inquire about my service.
This bring me onto the second goal I set last quarter, to secure regular paid work which an sustain my startup full-time. Despite not being able to contract recurring work, I have been able to begin attracting clients who wish to pay for my services. While I continued to trial and develop the VR for Education service with Gateshead College, I created a list of local education and training providers who could benefit from the service and sent them proposals. This led to interest and negotiation with most of the higher education colleges I contacted.
At first, I found it difficult to price my services, using the method I had for the VR for Retail service. After consultation with my mentor and a detailed breakdown, I arrived at a selection of flexibly priced services that are tailored towards the customer needs and are offered in a modular structure. Looking at the cost of similar services, such as speakers and workshops, I feel I am able to offer this at a very competitive price, which should be attractive to potential clients.
Outside of this, I have completed a pro bono media production project for the Northumbria VRV, titled Newcastle 2065, which I also wrote about separately. This gave me the opportunity to prove my existing skills on a live brief for them and the arrangement worked well for us both. I now have evidence and testimony for this service on my website and they have a quality production, to their specification, delivered to a short deadline. On receiving the positive feedback they also mentioned that they are going to be getting back in touch in the new year with paid opportunities, working on other projects for their clients.
Another of my production goals for the quarter was to develop a VR prototype that I could use to attract clients who are interested in an emerging technology product. Since this is the basis of my startup, I looked to make time outside of my other work to focus on this in particular. I had mostly put this off, due to my other commitments, but also because I knew that Oculus Touch – controllers designed for VR – would change the course of development. Therefore I didn’t get around to developing my prototype until the start of December.
Unfortunately by that time I struggled to find the availability in my schedule I needed to produce a demonstration which I could package and present to people. In the end, I had spent only ten hours on this task. So, I have decided to carry this forward and make it the primary focus for the next quarter. I have decided to do so as I feel this is the keystone which will attract the regular paid work which I am most passionate about. Having an impressive, finished example of a VR demo that reflects my abilities, knowledge and creativity should go a long way toward convincing the right clients of my capabilities.
One good thing came from this setback, however. From the time I had exploring my prototype and the ideas I had for it, I was able to identify a dissertation research topic that interests me. Locomotion and movement; how players move around in a VR world/experience. This isn’t a neglected topic, and multiple solutions have been developed and utilised with the aim of tackling the issue of VR sickness (often referred to as motion/simulator sickness).
For the needs of my designs, I need something different. A solution that closely resembles the freedom players have in traditional first and third-person control schemes, but one that also reduces or eliminates the dissonant feelings that manifest when using VR to experience the content. To aid me I will be keeping a diary of any issues, ideas and solutions I identify during my development and production activities. This should give me a solid basis for addressing the issue in my final year dissertation at university.
New knowledge and skills learnt:
- Implementing and using analytics to track audience behaviour online.
- Proposal writing.
- Providing information, advice and guidance on careers in the industry.
Existing knowledge and skills being applied and developed:
- Speaking, delivering seminars and workshops.
- Project management, planning and time-allocation.
- Animation and character design.
- Compliant and responsive web design and development.
- Pricing services and identifying customer segments.
ACTION PLAN FOR THE NEXT QUARTER
- Complete development of a VR prototype and follow on to produce a demo that can be distributed to the public and potential clients.
- Contract enough paid work to break even until the end of the academic year.
- Increase my exposure across the customer segments in which my services target.
- Solidify a short-term and long-term projection for my startup; activities and finances.