Enterprising agency increases net worth
FOUR ex-students have started a digital solutions agency and are showing the way for other entrepreneurs coming out of Plymouth University – and want to offer placements to undergraduates.
Gavin Jones, aged 23, Paul Bird, 22, Christian Cook, 23, and 21-year-old Becky Veater decided not to return to their home towns and look for work after graduating, and instead launched Elixel at the university's Formation Zone business incubation centre.
The company specialises in newfangled responsive web design – where one website is "resized" to fit on desk-top computers and on mobile devices.
"We are trying to be at the cutting edge," said Mr Jones, Elixel's managing director. "Usually people have one desk-top (website) and then have to buy a mobile site as well.
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"But it's better to have one that works across, you only have to update it once and it's consistent."
The quartet all graduated from the university's digital arts and technology course this year.
They started Elixel in their bedrooms and moved into the Formation Zone just last month.
Mr Jones is from Birmingham, Mr Bird, Elixel's creative director, is from Cambridge; Mr Cook, research director, is from Truro; and technical director Miss Veater is from Bristol.
But rather than join a brain-drain to the digital centres in London or Bristol they decided to stay in Plymouth.
"We wanted to make sure there was a digital solutions company in the South West," said Mr Jones. "People are moving away. But office costs are lower here, there's a high quality of life and it's still a good-sized city.
"It's got hustle and bustle but not the craziness of London.
"And the costs of running a company here mean you can compete with people in Bristol and London, because you can offer a good price."
During their course the quartet spent time on work placements with leading firms.
Mr Cook joined electronics giant Sony in Basingstoke, while Miss Veater worked at firms in Bristol and London.
But Mr Bird and Mr Jones spent time at Plymouth companies including games developer Remode, Silverstream TV, creative agency Fabric and publishing company Cornerstone Vision.
"Our course was designed towards enterprise," Mr Jones said. "It was tailored to get people to create a business."
He said that as students the team also worked with organisations such as the NHS, computer giant IBM and Cornish charity Wild Futures on projects.
And he said that if it hadn't been for the ethos at the university "I'd have ended up as a developer for another company".
"The university is helping a massive amount," he said. "It's pushing projects our way, and talking to us about teaching the students.
"We're looking at growth in our third year and want to be able to offer a placement opportunity.
"We did placements and learned new skills and now want to offer that experience. That's helping to give something back."