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Case Study – Tom Beardsmore from Coatsink

Continuing our series of case studies, we have asked another of our previous clients to answer a few questions about the grant application process, working with Tenshi Grants and to pass on some advice and insight to others who may be looking to apply for grants. This post features Tom Beardsmore from Coatsink, a passionate and talented games development team working on games for PC, VR, console and mobile.

Q1. What challenges or needs did you face that led you to search for a solution?

We have income from clients and publishers who fund us to develop games, however we also develop our own games for which we need funding. We can fund some of our games from the profits from our work for hire business, but that money is always tight and we are always looking for extra funding. At around the same time, we realized that along with our games we were making technology that could be useful to other developers as well as ourselves, which could be a secondary revenue stream for us if we could find the funding to develop the technology as well as our games.

Q2. What attracted you to working with the Tenshi Grants team to assist in your application writing process?

We heard about Tenshi Grants when we met one of their team at an event, and found out about technology innovation grants, which seemed to fit with our desire to develop technology.

We decided to work with them because not only did they have a good track record of writing and winning applications, but they actually understood our industry and market. The team were from the games industry and run their own businesses as well as doing Tenshi Grants, and when we had our first call to discuss the project, it became clear that this knowledge would made them easy to work with, and able to show our project in the best light in the application.

Q3. What has been the most valuable part of the Tenshi Grants service for you?

The fact that they really make the application process easy and clear. They were in regular contact, but didn’t take up anywhere near as much of our time as I thought they might for a process like applying for a grant. They also were very good at explaining what was needed, and really helped us to refine the project and our offering as we went along.

Q4. What sort of companies would you recommend Tenshi Grants to after working with us and seeing first-hand how we can help?

Any company who is developing technology around games or similar industries and needs funding. I would recommend that those companies just contact them and have a chat, as you may be eligible for funding and not be aware of it. In particular if you haven’t had much experience of raising funding or public grants then getting Tenshi Grants to help would be strongly advised – I don’t think we would have had anywhere near as much chance of getting our grant if they hadn’t helped us.

Q5. Throughout the process of searching for relevant grants through to the application process, what did you learn that you feel would be useful for others applying?

That grant applications are all about saying the right things in the right place. Knowing how to do that comes from experience as well as skill, so getting someone on board who can do that massively increases your chances of success.

Grant applications also tend to be very long winded and time consuming, which isn’t something we wanted to spend our time on, we felt it was better to give it to someone else to do.

Q6. What advice would you give to others thinking of applying for grants?

If you are eligible for it, go for it! It is free money and can help you to raise more funding by building your credibility. But make sure that your project does fit the grant you are applying for, make sure you are clear about what you are aiming to achieve with the project, and make sure you have the time to deal with (or get help with) the application process and the admin once you have received your grant.

Q7. What have you been able to achieve after your successful grants application?

We are just completing our first grant funded project, which we will release as our first technology product in 2017, providing our second revenue stream and enabling us to fund the development of more of our own games.

Q8. What advice would you give to individuals/companies who are unsure if the right type of funding exists for them?

Speak to the guys at Tenshi Grants, they are really helpful and will quickly tell you what might work for you.

 

Case Study – James Henderson from Brightbook

As part of our new series of blog posts, we have asked some of our previous clients to answer a few questions about the grant application process, working with Tenshi Grants and to pass on some advice and insight to others who may be looking to apply for grants. First in our series is James Henderson from Brightbook, a book keeping solution for small business owners, freelancers and contractors.

Q1. What challenges or needs did you face that led you to search for a solution?

We needed funding to take our startup to the next stage (it had been entirely bootstrapped until that point). The money we required was too small for VC’s and too large for Angel Investors so that made things challenging. I discovered InnovateUK and their Smart awards but felt that we’d struggle to apply successfully without help.

Q2. What attracted you to working with the Tenshi Grants team to assist in your application writing process?

I was introduced to Tenshi by a colleague with a great deal of knowledge of the InnovateUK application process.
I knew that Tenshi partners had experience having been through the process themselves as well as then helping entrepreneurs with their applications. Knowing they had huge experience on both sides of the fence was really attractive as I knew they’d add value.
At first we had a call where our concept was interrogated in detail. Following a few emails and another call Tenshi said that they would take our project on. (Being ‘chosen’ by Tenshi felt like an endorsement of the idea even before we’d applied for the grant).

Q3. What has been the most valuable part of the Tenshi Grants service for you?

By far, extensively testing the validity of what we wanted to do. The whole process forced us to articulate our thinking. They’ve been so easy to work with, they felt like part of our team and did the majority of the heavy lifting.

Q4. What sort of companies would you recommend Tenshi Grants to after working with us and seeing first-hand how we can help?

Obviously any business involved in SaaS Fintech. Though actually, I’d recommend any technology business; any business that is doing something novel but needs help articulating it in the simplest terms.

Q5. Throughout the process of searching for relevant grants through to the application process, what did you learn that you feel would be useful for others applying?

Grants are not easy; most of them are massively complex and not suitable or attractive to startups. They’re very hard work and take up a significant amount of time, just to apply. Even applying you have a very small chance of being successful so you need to be absolutely sure your idea is valid and that it is truly innovative. Tenshi helps bring you that insight and clarity (and importantly, reassurance)

Q6. What advice would you give to others thinking of applying for grants?

Winning a grant will help you get a step closer to your goal. Applying for a grant is not simply about filling in a form. Yes, they’re complicated and it requires hard work, but don’t be put off because that’s exactly where Tenshi specialise.

Q7. What have you been able to achieve after your successful grants application?

It just adds fuel to our already burning motivation. It’s helped generate some traction. We’ve been chosen to join the Open Data Institute’s Start Up program and Web Summit have just selected us to participate and exhibit on the ALPHA startup track in Dublin. All of these things put us on people’s radars and helps instill confidence.

Q8. What advice would you give to individuals/companies who are unsure if the right type of funding exists for them?

On thing is certain, there is funding out there that is an ideal fit for your business. You just need to do some research to find it, and understand what it entails.

SMART – A Closer Look

SMART grants are one of the grants available from Innovate UK (Technology Strategy Board) that provides public funding to small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) that are looking to use technology, science and engineering to push borders and redefine boundaries. Previously known as the Grant for Research and Development scheme, it was designed to do just that, encouraging companies to engage in R&D projects, from which valuable new products, processes and services could be created to contribute to growth of the UK economy.

Technical innovation
Your project must involve technical innovation. That means it is a leap-forward over the current state of the art.

Commercial innovation
Your project must have commercial innovation. That means it must have the potential to change the way that businesses in your sector operate.

Is it risky?
Is your project technically risky? It should be. InnovateUK expect that SMART projects involve technical risk and that they may well fail. If you have a ‘sure bet’ then look for other funding sources.

Of greater benefit    
Will your project help companies other than your own? SMART funding exists to help the UK companies, not simply to benefit you and your business.

For the future
Does your technology have the potential to deliver social, economic and/or environmental benefits? Does it cut carbon emissions, help disadvantaged people in society or help reduce waste for example?

Money
Most of your team need to be direct employees on a PAYE scheme, not contracted. Likewise, director’s dividends do not count as allowable staff costs.

Risky R&D only
Do not aim to take your product/service to market with these grants; they are intended for early stage, risky R&D. InnovateUK would expect that you will fund follow-on product/tech development and market entry with other sources of funding after your SMART project has completed.

SMART support
If you can fund this yourself, do not apply, SMART grants are intended to help fill a funding gap and you must to be able to show that the project would not be undertaken as well or at all without SMART support.

Cashflow
Do not expect to cash flow your business with a SMART grant, it is matched – meaning that you need to find 40-55% of the project costs yourself – and the grant is paid every 3 months after you incur the costs.

Costs
Don’t include any sales, marketing or business development costs. These are not allowable.

Milestones
Be prepared to provide project plans, updates, milestone reports, proof of deliverables and cost claims on a regular basis. Make sure they are accurate otherwise your grant will be delayed.

The SMART scheme has already been of huge help too many UK companies and with funding rounds announced until March 2016 and a further batch planned, will continue to help SMEs to fund R&D projects.

If your company is in the business of “pushing the envelope”, Tenshi Grants can make the application process simple and cost effective for your SME, by helping you to write your application to ensure you meet all the criteria and present your project as effectively as possible. Contact us to talk about SMART grants.

Public Funding – Access Hints & Tips

We are fortunate to have quite a lot of public funding available to the games, digital and creative sectors in the UK. Accessing this money however can take a lot of time and effort; most public funding has certain requirements you need to fulfil, such a job creation  or innovation.  Our funding team has put together a list of tips to try to help you navigate the public funding landscape.

Understand why the grant exists

All public grants have a reason for existing and it is not to make profits. They always have a remit of some kind – the key is to understand what that remit is. Many regional grants are about creating or safeguarding jobs, so they will require you to commit to numbers of jobs you will create. Others are about making the UK more competitive in some way, e.g. innovation. Make sure you address this in your application and that your project genuinely fits their goals. Do your research; understand why the funding exists and who the organization is that administers it.

Understanding the application process

Take the time to understand the application and assessment process. It is your job to adhere to this. Do not expect the assessors to make a leap of faith if you have not properly responded to every question. Check, check and check again!

Make sure the grant is suitable

Understand whether the funding is best suited to single companies or consortiums. For example, InnovateUK SMART funding is for a single applicant that has all the necessary skills and experience at hand whereas many EU funding schemes are geared towards multinational consortiums that complement each other’s capabilities.

Make sure you are eligible for it

Understand the eligibility criteria. You do not want to spend days or weeks writing an application you are not eligible for because of geographical, sector or other reasons.

Be prepared to manage the project and admin

Public money often takes time to raise, can be a minefield and can be admin heavy. Make sure you prepare for this and have someone who is willing and able to handle the project management and administration.

Do not apply for a grant to cashflow your business

Public money is often not suitable to help cashflow a project. Almost all public money is match funded meaning that you need other sources of funding in place (e.g. angel investment, VC, loans, debt). It is often paid in arrears (you incur the costs and claim some of it back afterwards).

Understand the people who will be assessing your application

Don’t assume that the people you are applying to know your industry or market. Avoid industry-specific jargon and acronyms.

Use the right type of language

Do not use overcomplicated or flowery language. Whilst you should aim to use the entirety of the space available (many grant applications have fixed character limits) do not pad for sake of it. Assessors will spot superfluous text and your core message gets diluted.
Back up all your facts
Evidence any facts, figures and assertions with quotes and references to credible and recent sources. If your market is “growing rapidly” then you need to quantify that (e.g. “10% per annum over last 5 years”) and then evidence that with a credible source such as a trade association or government economic report.

Use a positive tone and be credible

Use a confident and positive tone (“we will enter the market in X”) but do not over-promise (“we will gain 50% market share in 3 months”)…assessors won’t believe you.

Be responsible

Remember that public funding comes from taxpayer sources. The funding body has a duty to protect the public purse. You have a responsibility to use the funds in the way that you said you would. Failing to do that will likely end up in you being required to repay some or all of the money.

Tenshi grants exists to help you gain access to funding for technology innovation projects such as InnovateUK SMART grants and Horizon 2020 funding, so please drop us a line at grants@tenshi.co.uk if you need help with applying for these grants. We can help save you time and money.

Grant writing – A few of the common problems explained

At Tenshi Grants we see a great many grant applications so we’ve asked our experts to put together a list of common faux pas, highlighting a few of the problems and throwing in some tips to help ease what can be a lengthy and challenging process.

Not reading the instructions and guidelines clearly

Not all funding programs provide clear and concise instructions. Some are very extensive and unwieldy. Whatever they provide, your chances of success are greatly improved if you have read every word several times and sought to understand exactly what is required. We have seen applications fail because they went over word limits, missed mandatory appendices or failed to cover required information. Failing ‘on a technicality’ is painful waste of your time.

Applying for inappropriate funding

Funding generally exists to foster particular industrial activity or to support a particular sector or sectors. SMART funding, for example, is intended to support UK-based, SMEs (small to medium sized businesses) in undertaking early-stage technology research and development. If your organization does not meet all of those elements then you are unlikely to be able gain funding and your efforts will be wasted.

Many companies apply for grants because they are in need of cash. There is sometimes an assumption that ‘grants are easy to get’. Some can be relatively trivial to acquire, that is true.  Other grants (and this most definitely includes SMART and Horizon 2020 funding that Tenshi Grants specialises in) are anything but easy and their assessment criteria will weed out any applications that are not very well suited. A SMART or Horizon 2020 grant is not suited for a company that needs funding to cover a cash flow hole. You are much bett er advised to focus on resolving that issue in more conventional ways such as with an overdraft or by renegotiating creditor payments.

Not devoting sufficient time

Most grant applications will take up a lot of your time if you do them well.  If your main role revolves around delivering projects for paying clients then it is unlikely that you will be able to free up the required time to write a top-class application. When push comes to shove and choices need to be made, paying clients inevitably take priority and your grant application is put off or, worse, you submit a poor application.

Leaving it to the last minute

Never plan to submit close to the stated deadline. It is almost inevitable that the application-writing will take longer than you think and that other priorities will crop up just when you least expect them too. Similarly, it is unwise to assume that the post will deliver your application on time or that the funding body’s online system won’t go offline at the worst possible moment. It happens. We have seen it!

Having the wrong person write the application

Writing a strong application requires a mix of qualities that not everyone has. These include diligence, attention to detail, strong written communication, the ability to be self-critical, research and analytical abilities and creativity. Just because your finance director is great with numbers does not mean he or she is best placed to write your grant application.

Equally, the person who is best equipped in your organization may actually be far too valuable to take away from their normal duties.

Not doing your homework

Sometimes (often) funding comes about because of some local or national political imperative.  Understanding the real reasons why the funding exists and understanding the way a grant-funding body works can be crucial for a successful application. If, for example, the core ambition of the funding body is to create local, full-time employment, then failing to realize that and, perhaps, basing a project plan on utilizing an overseas development team, will inevitably cause problems.

Understanding the assessor as well as the process

Understanding who assesses your application and what process they will apply could offer you better placement when to comes to winning a grant. Is it someone who understands your industry for example? Should you avoid using complex terminology and sector-specific abbreviations?  Will that assessor know what you mean by DAUs, MAUs and ARPPU?

Not understanding the competition

Grant funding is more often than not heavily oversubscribed. Competition to get that ‘free money’ is, thus, highly competitive. Ask yourself; “Is our project or company a good match for this funding?” If your gut feel is that you are grasping at straws then you are probably right.

Get people to review your application

Get as many people as possible to review your application during early drafts and as it approaches its final form. Let them ask dumb questions. It is very easy to be focused on certain aspects and to miss others when you are locked away in an office writing that application. Let others help you improve it.

Always support assertions

If you state that your technology is going to be the best, you must be ready and able to explain why that will be the case and prove it with data. If assessors think that you are making claims that you cannot support they will quickly adopt a very conservative approach to marking your application.

Avoid unnecessarily flowery prose

Do not try to baffle assessors with a stream of techno-babble.  Adopting unnatural language will do far more harm than good. Keep it simple, clear and concise. You are not writing a great work of literature you are simply trying to convey why your project deserves funding. Assessors may be up late. They may well be doing this on a salary or even on a voluntary basis. Do not make then think you are treating them like idiots. You will fail.

Many people out there will happily take a nice generous day rate to write up your application. To what extent is their success aligned with your own?  A good funding specialist will often offer to share risk with you. This generally means that initially you are only liable to cover overheads (cost of sale, marketing, office costs etc) followed by a success-based fee. If the grant funding opportunity you have identified is truly a good match for your project and company then consider hiring an organization that specializes in winning grants and that has the necessary resources to go about applying properly.
If your company’s sphere of activities is in creative media, digital technologies or videogames then having people who have worked in those sectors will bring significant advantages when it comes to constructing a solid funding application.

This is why Tenshi Grants exists. We work with your to write grant applications and share risk on its success. We have the experience in games, creative and digital sectors to really understand your project.

Funding for SMEs (startups, small and medium size businesses)

This is a list of funding opportunities for UK games and digital projects; this does not include grants, they are covered in our post on grant funding in the UK . We have lightly touched on equity investment options, but only where they are project focused, government supported, or offer equity investment as part of a broader offering.

There are many funding opportunities aside from grants available to UK companies. Where grant funding requires match funding, sometimes these funding options can be used as that match, and many companies access multiple different sources of finance for their business growth or specific projects.

We try to make this list as comprehensive and up to date as possible, if we have missed any please contribute and contact us .

 

NATIONAL

Tesseract Fund and Kuju Startups: These both offer project financing using SEIS. SEIS is the UK Government’s Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme that offers tax relief to investors who invest in startup, higher risk companies. Whilst SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) is for equity investment, SEIS funds have been setup as project financing, where a Special Purpose Vehicle company is setup to hold the project and it’s IP, and it is in this entity that the SEIS fund and the company owners take equity. SEIS has a limit of £150k, most funds take an admin charge from this, so funding tends to be around £120k-140k.

Standfast Interactive: Project financing for games, larger amounts available compared to Tesseract or Kuju Startups.

Games tax relief: UK Government tax relief against games production. Companies and their projects must pass the ‘cultural test’, which looks at whether the game is primarily being produced in the UK, and if it has other cultural relevance. Companies can get 25% of eligible expenditure back, and can claim during production, they do not have to wait until the project is complete. For more info see UKIE’s guide to UK Games Tax Relief

R&D tax credits: UK Government tax relief against technology R&D. In many cases games companies now use games tax relief as offers more relief against more of production, however for specific technology research and development, this tax relief is still useful.

UK Government startup loans: The UK Government does offer startup loans; however, these are personal loans, not business loans. Up to £25k available, not interest free.

Banks: Can be an option, but often require established companies or a lot of security. Overdrafts, loans, credit cards and invoice finance (where they advance you the money on an invoice you have already sent out) are the most common. High-street and online banks both offer various options.

Enterprise Finance Guarantee: This scheme, run by the British Business Bank, and aimed at helping companies to get business loans, particularly where they have been turned down due to lack of security.

 

REGIONAL

Finance Wales: Provides funding in the form of micro-loans, loans and equity investment. From £1k to £2m.

S4C Digital & Commercial (Wales): Invests up to £150k in companies in return for equity, but they as well as investing in projects that have primarily commercial potential, they also invest in projects with public value and those that assist with their digital strategy.

Finance Birmingham.

Have various funds for Birmingham based businesses including:

Birmingham City Council Loan Fund: From £100k to £1m loans for businesses to grow and create jobs.

Various Equity Funds: For different stages from early stage tech companies to larger established businesses.

North East Finance Microloan Fund: Offers various funding from loans to equity investment, including loans from £1k to £25k to new or existing businesses in the north east.

Screen Yorkshire’s Yorkshire Content Fund: Can match private investment with equity or loans.

 Creative England business loans: currently closed but another round may open. Interest free loans over 3 years, up to £200k. This Option is not available for companies in the South East.

Scottish Enterprise

Runs several programs, including:

Scottish Venture Fund and Co-Investment Funds: where they invest in companies alongside private investment partners, providing up to 50% of the funding.

 Scottish Loan Fund: Providing loans from £250k to £5m to Scottish companies.

 

CROWDFUNDING

 Defined as the use of small amounts of capital from a large number of individuals to finance a new business venture, Crowd funding has become increasingly popular with game concepts like Star citizen raising $70+million and Pillars of Eternity reaching nearly $4million from 73,986 backers. Although crowd funding can be very effective, it is by no means an easier option. Most crowdfunding is investment in a project, but some is equity investment into a business.

 

 

ACCELERATORS

 Accelerators are typically 2–6 month program aimed at preparing your startup for investment. There is some funding available through accelerators but the real focus is on mentoring, support and networking during and after the program. Most of these programs have access to extremely experienced mentors and an extensive network of investors and publishers.

Grant Funds for SMEs (startups, small and medium size businesses)

Grant Funds for SMEs (startups, small and medium size businesses)

This is a list of current grant funding opportunities for UK games and digital businesses.

There are many different grant-funding opportunities available for small to medium size UK businesses in the games and digital space. However, all have specific things they are looking for, all come with various requirements and many require match funding, so the funds you consider applying for should be carefully selected.

We try to make this list as comprehensive and up to date as possible, if we have missed any please contribute and contact us.

National Funding

InnovateUK (previously Technology Strategy Board – TSB)

Currently runs several schemes, the most relevant of which are listed:

IC tomorrow: runs contests throughout the year on specific topics, with around £35k awarded to winners who work with a large company to develop their digital solution.

SMART: Supports tech R&D projects, through Proof of Market (up to £25k), Proof of Concept (up to £100k) and Development of Prototype (up to £250k). Match funding up to 60%.

Innovation Vouchers: Up to £5k to pay for an external expert to help your business grow.

Launchpad initiative: Up to £100k to turn an innovative idea into a commercial project. Run in different areas around the UK 3 times a year.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP): Up to £80k to work with a university, which covers part of the cost of a graduate working in your company n a specific innovation project, as well as getting support from university researchers. To apply for this, you should contact a university and organise it with them.

Horizon 2020: A large EU Research and Innovation program, with a section for small to medium businesses, and a focus on technical innovation. Suitable for projects that are fairly advance in prototyping, have piloted their technology and want to take it to market.

Creative England: Run various funding competitions from £25k – £150k, mostly regional but covers many regions. Match funding usually minimum 50%, and usually judged on job creation or safeguarding.

Creative Europe: This fund covers all types of media with specific calls, including calls for video games. The amount of funding varies, but is often between €10k – €150k, 50% match funded.

Regional funding

Scottish Enterprise Runs various schemes for Scottish companies or those who will have an impact on Scottish employment. The most relevant are:

Regional Selective Assistance (RSA): Up to 35% of operating costs, for projects that will directly result in creation or safeguarding of jobs in Scotland.

R&D grant: for development of new projects to improve competitiveness and benefit Scottish economy.

SMART: SCOTLAND: Support both feasibility studies (60-70% match funding) up to £100k, and R&D projects (35% match funding, up to £600k).

Creative Scotland Has various funds that support projects including:

Open Project Funding: From £1k to £150k.

Targeted Funding: Specific funding calls that run across the year, including those run by partners of Creative Scotland.

Regular Funding: Minimum £150k funding over 3 years.

Northern Ireland Screen ‘Project Development’ Fund: Between £10k-£200k for project development. Between 50%-90% match funding.

UKTI: Provides support for export, including part funding for attending events and marketing materials. UKTI funding is run regionally; contact your local UKTI representative, they will be able to help you find out what you might eligible for, it may vary depending upon you location.

Welsh Government’s Digital Development Fund: This fund will 50% match fund a project for companies based in Wales, up to £50k.

Birmingham Post Growth Fund: in Partnership with Bournville College, Funds from £10k – £100k, providing 25% match funding, for projects that will create new jobs and help businesses grow. Its available for companies in Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull. The current round of funding closes on Friday 11th September 2015.

Let’s Grow North East / Let’s Grow North East & East Yorkshire: Funded by the Regional Growth Fund, this grant varies slightly in the two regions, but can provide £25k+ in funding, which can be between 10-30% of total project costs.

Ella Romanos to lead expansion of Tenshi Grants

Tenshi Grants today announces that games industry consultant Ella Romanos will lead the expansion of their Tenshi Grants service, which helps companies to access grant funding.

Tenshi Grants works specifically within the games and digital sectors, offering support for applications for UK and EU grants, including InnovateUK SMART grants and Horizon 2020 EU grants. The team are all experienced in the industry and in running their own businesses, which gives them a unique ability to understand what companies need, as well as having a proven track record in successfully winning grants.

“Tenshi Grants has a great legacy of successfully supporting developers with grant funding applications, which gives me a great opportunity to work with the team to expand their offering and help a larger number of companies in games and digital” says Ella Romanos.

“Ella joins us as an experienced games industry consultant and developer. By combining Tenshi’s track record and depth of knowledge with Ella’s experience in growing and assisting small and medium sized digital businesses, we can offer significant added value to our customers and the industry.” Ian Baverstock, Tenshi Director

Tenshi Grants has to date helped companies such as Coatsink, Whispering Gibbon and Brightbook, and works with all types of companies, from startups to larger more established teams.

To get in touch to discuss grants, please contact Ella on 0203 287 3022, or email grants@tenshi.co.uk

For press enquiries please contact Clement La-Touche on 07957 595234, or email c.la-touche@tenshi.co.uk