PS: What is Elixel and what are you guys about?
ELIXEL: Well, we all started together at i-DAT, on their Digital Art and Technology degree course. Over the four year course, we’d worked together on a variety of projects, but it all started with a module where you had to pitch a game idea to a real client. i-DAT is great for bringing industries into the course like that. So the four of us went away, came up with an idea and pitched it to a company called Wild Futures. We won the project and did a live launch with all our equipment in the Mall and loads of kids playing our game! It was pretty cool.
We’ve been working as a team for a few years and we’ve really gelled into our roles well. There’s me (Paul) who’s on design, Christian (or Cookie) focusing on app coding, Becky focusing on website coding and then the brains behind it all, Gavin, although he won’t admit to that.
It was in our fourth year, after a year of being on placement, that Elixel really began to become a reality. We all had a module called Venture Culture, where we had to create a business or product idea, that we then had the opportunity to make into a reality. We then had to pitch our idea to a group of ‘dragons’ or business leaders. It was nerve-wracking but definitely worth the prize, which was free space for a month at the Formation Zone based in the university. They help young people in the creative sector with their business ideas. We hadn’t even come up with the name until about three days before the pitch!
PS: Well, that brings me nicely to my next question, what inspired the name, Elixel?
ELIXEL: We’re all nerds basically! It’s based around elixirs, giving life, as they do in games, and also the pixel, and since breathing life into pixels is what we do, it seemed to fit! It took us a long long time to come up with it though and even now people say it wrong. We do try and push the whole pixel side of things so it makes a bit more sense when you say it, haha.
PS: How’s business then?
ELIXEL: Business is good! Turnover is up, which is always a good sign! We are doing well at the moment, and we’ve recently added a business advisor to the mix. Contradeals is a great way for us to keep afloat, such as our premises. After Gavin’s time at Silverstream, which is based in the same building, they told us they had some free space and wanted to encourage a creative hub. So that’s where we came in. So when we were first starting up, in the first six months, we only paid for two months rent which is a great help at such an early stage. Good way of saving our money when we really need it.
PS: You designed and developed an app for UP:SU, can you tell me more?
ELIXEL: We developed an app for the Student Union, and it’s been really successful. It’s a tool for the SU to be able to get feedback from students as well as be able to direct offers and discounts their way as well as the ability to share experiences with other students over social media. They can find out what’s going on, and it really allows for a personal experience tailored to the student. We’ve already had interest from other SU’s about this project, so that’s really exciting, and something to keep an eye on for the future!
PS: You also have a new app in the works, can you tell me more about Artory?
ELIXEL: Designed and developed by us alongside i-DAT, Artory is working with a huge selection of creative companies in the city, including Plymouth Arts Centre, Barbican Theatre, Theatre Royal, Peninsula Arts, Plymouth University and The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art, it ties in all the various events and activities available in the city and puts them in one place. It allows the user to leave feedback, share events and earn Art Miles to exchange for offers at a variety of venues across the city. It goes live on the 30th of January, so check out the website www.artory.co.uk for more details.
PS: What made you guys stay in Plymouth?
ELIXEL: We all love Plymouth. It’s beautiful with its connection to the moors and beaches nearby, I think that’s what made me want to stay here. There’s a lot of green space and that’s always appealing. It’s very student and university focused however, and you really see this over the summer as it turns into a ghost town, which is a shame since that’s when Plymouth really turns beautiful!
PS: What advice would you give young people trying to start up their own venture?
ELIXEL: It’s so much easier to start a business as a student. It’s less commitment in the sense that you’re fully committed to your work load and there’s not a huge amount of distractions to get in the way. Don’t be afraid to call in favours and pull strings and get your friends and family involved in the process. We started out with £20 each and our own computers, so anything is possible! We got a lot of help from Outset Plymouth and Outset Finance which helped us secure a business loan, as well as the Starter for 10 initiative, which allows 10 young businesses the opportunity to pitch their business idea for a total of a £10,000 grant prize. We’re lucky we got the funding we have, and if you can keep a business going throughout the recession, you should be okay!
PS: Got any last minute advice?
ELIXEL: Under promise and over deliver! Don’t make promises on projects you can’t keep, keep them to yourself and shower them with surprises at the presentation. No-one wants to be promised the world, only to have it half assedly put in front of them.