Soccer Manager kicks off in China with launch of super league game

Soccer Manager – the Preston-based games studio backed by Mercia Technologies PLC – has launched its first game in China.

Live Super CSO is now available for download on a range of Chinese app stores and is due to be released in countries throughout Asia, and in Russia. The launch comes a year after Soccer Manager signed a multi-million pound deal with Crazy Sports, the Beijing games publisher which is the official partner of the Chinese Super League.

Live Super CSO is the first of two games agreed under the deal, which is estimated by the Department of Industry and Trade to be worth up to £55.0million over five years. Since then the Chinese firm has requested two more.

The new game is based on Soccer Manager’s existing Arena game and has taken 12 months to adapt and launch into the Chinese market. Andrew Gore, CEO, explained: “As well as translations and amends to the design, we have had to adapt the game to suit the way people play and pay in China.

“Unlike in the West where a number of big players dominate the market, in China there are hundreds of app stores. Crazy Sports decided to work on 19 of them, so we have had to create multiple interfaces. The Chinese market is also more regulated and it can take months to get the right licences and approvals.”

Founded in 2004 by Andrew, his brothers Steven and Chris and their friend Peter Adams, Soccer Manager now has over 20 million registrations worldwide, with around 700,000 active players and 15,000 new accounts created every month. Crazy Sports is part of the V1 group, one of China’s largest internet companies whose own sports platform has over 100 million users. Andrew added: “Although we already have players worldwide, the Chinese market is very difficult to penetrate. Crazy Sports has a very strong foothold in the market. This is a huge opportunity for Soccer Manager and one that will eventually allow us to reach games fans throughout the whole of Asia.”

Soccer Manager, which now employs 29 people in Preston, received initial support from Mercia in 2013 in the form of a £100,000 loan from Rosebud Finance, which is managed by Mercia on behalf of Lancashire County Council. Since then Mercia has invested a total of £2.0million. Mike Hayes, the former CEO of SEGA games for Europe and America who is now Head of Digital and Digital Entertainment at Mercia, said: “With over 600 million players, China has now overtaken the US as the games capital of the globe. Having worked with Soccer Manager and supported their growth for the past five years, it is great to see them take the first steps into the world’s biggest games market.”

Lancashire-based ecommerce company EKM.com supports women’s initiative

On the 60th anniversary of new laws allowing women to sit in the House of Lords for the first time, EKM.com’s Alison Chesworth visited the historic site to promote a new women’s service by The Prince’s Trust.

Alison was part of a delegation of businesswomen invited to London to mark the launch of the charity’s Women Supporting Women initiative.

With the overall wellbeing of young people at its lowest level since 2009, and the confidence and self-belief of young women alarmingly low, this new programme was introduced to nurture, inspire and empower the young women in the UK.

Alison, who is head of business development at Lancashire-based ecommerce specialist EKM.com, discussed and debated prominent issues with Marnie Millard, chief executive of soft drinks business Nichols; Sally Penni, barrister and founder of Women in Law; and Aoife O’Brien, property developer and managing director of Hurlston Hall.

Baroness Ruth Henig OBE DL and Suzana Sheldon-Edwards DL organised and hosted the event.

Alison said: “Discussing the launch of Women Supporting Women at the House of Lords was a fascinating way to acknowledge the great work that has been done to support women and their careers, but also to realise that there is so much more that needs to be done.

“The Prince’s Trust is the perfect organisation to launch this initiative. Through donations, corporate fundraising and one-to-one mentoring, this programme will reach many more than the 23,000 young women each year it currently supports.

Alison added: “Three in four young people supported by The Prince’s Trust move into work, education or training and if we can carry this level of success over to Women Supporting Women then real progress will not be too far away.”

Clare Crabb, north regional director at The Prince’s Trust, said: “The incredible support we receive through initiatives and collaborations like this allows us to continue to do the work we do, as we strive to connect with those hardest to reach and achieve our goal of helping one million more young people over the next 10 years to live, learn and earn.”

Baroness Ruth Henig OBE DL said: “I was proud and privileged to play host to a group of successful, likeminded businesswomen from my native North West at the House of Lords.

“It’s more important than ever that we empower the next generation of women to be confident, ambitious and believe in themselves. I was inspired to hear about the Women Supporting Women initiative launched by The Prince’s Trust, and encourage everyone to get involved.”

Sub36 Awards 2018 to support young people with new mentoring programme

The Sub36 Awards, now open for entries, have returned to recognise the best of Lancashire’s young business talent with new categories, more networking opportunities and an all-new mentoring programme for the winners.

Tearing up the script on traditional awards ceremonies, the annual event, organised by Lancashire Business View magazine, has swapped sit-down-dinners for socialising and networking over street food, and introduced innovative prizes including growth mentoring from established local businesses.

The new-style competition was introduced when the organisers rebranded the project from Young ‘Uns to Sub36 – a name which demonstrates its focus on those 36-and-under making things happen in business across the red rose county.

John French, managing director at headline sponsor Fat Media said: “I am delighted that Fat Media are a key part of the Sub36 Awards 2018 as we are a true believer in developing young talent.

“Lancashire has some fantastic young entrepreneurs and employees who are doing truly amazing things in business and the awards rightly shine a spotlight on these stars of the future.

“As a former winner myself, I can say first-hand how good it feels to be recognised for your achievements and I am looking forward to hearing the accomplishments of this year’s candidates and support their progress through mentoring.”

Two new categories have been added in 2018, ensuring stars of the creative industries and professional services sector making their mark in accountancy, law, marketing, property and more get their due recognition.

And all winners will now be granted exclusive access to a bespoke mentoring programme with Community & Business Partners who deliver the Northern Mentoring Programme. Each winner of the awards will be matched with a suitable mentor from the heavy line-up of awards sponsors to help their future development.

Jaydee Davis, operations manager at Community and Business Partners said: “This is an excellent opportunity to support our younger entrepreneurs in Lancashire and we are delighted to be the mentoring partner with Sub36.

“With over 30 years heritage delivering mentoring across the region for programmes such as BOOST Business Lancashire, we are passionate about mentoring, the benefits it can bring and sharing best practice. To have the ability to learn from an experienced businessman or women is invaluable and this is an excellent opportunity for anyone entering the awards this year.”

Back with a bang for 2018, Lancashire Business View can also announce a hot line-up of sponsors including headline sponsors Fat Media and category sponsors including Begbies Traynor, Blackburn College, EKM and Lancashire Skills and Employment Hub. The campaign is also supported by Empine Group, Northcote at the Rovers, Winter Gardens Blackpool and With a Twist.

Ian McColloch, director at Begbies Traynor said: “The Sub 36 awards are a fantastic opportunity for young professionals across Lancashire to showcase their many and varied accomplishments, and we are delighted to lend our support for another year.

“We believe in celebrating and rewarding success and see the Sub36 awards as the perfect way to recognise the valuable contribution made by the upcoming generation of business professionals across our region.”

Claire Shore, senior business development manager at Blackburn College, said: “The Sub36 Awards celebrate the talents and achievements of some of Lancashire’s leading business professionals under the age of 36 who in turn will become our future business leaders.

“Nurturing young talents and inspiring young minds is at the heart of Blackburn College’s mission to transform students’ lives and our community, through outstanding education, training and support.

“We are proud to sponsor the awards and recognise the achievements of those set to be nominated.”

Head of business development at EKM said: “It’s great to have the opportunity to sponsor the 2018 Sub36 Awards. With so many awesome businesses and fantastic talent calling Lancashire home, it’s fantastic to get directly involved in celebrating the Sub36 community.

“With EKM being a proud Lancashire business with a young team, it’s a natural fit for us and something we take great pride in supporting.”

Dr Michele Lawty-Jones, director of the Lancashire Skills and Employment Hub, said: “A priority for the LEP is driving talent through the engagement of businesses and employees in apprenticeships, which now also includes higher level and degree standards.

We are looking forward to celebrating apprenticeship talent from across the Lancashire area and the impact that apprentices have on business productivity and performance.”

Hard-working employees and inspirational business owners alike have until September 3 to submit nominations across 11 categories. Employers may nominate staff on their behalf.

Four shortlisted individuals from each category will then meet with the judging panel to showcase their achievements before winners are announced on October 18 at a one-of-a-kind ceremony held at Blackpool’s iconic Winter Gardens.

Richard Slater, publisher of Lancashire Business View and organiser of the awards, said: “The Sub36 Awards bring the county together to celebrate the best of the best and we’re very excited about the changes we’ve made for 2018.

“We have designed the awards to give attendees the best opportunity to meet new contacts. It’s not just about celebrating with friends and colleagues – although I’m sure there will be plenty of that, too.”

Richard added: “The awards themselves are something to aspire to for all young people in business – both employees and entrepreneurs. We’ll shine a light on these individuals and the businesses that support young talent and development.

“We know the mentoring programme will be popular and we look forward to working with Community and Business Partners to deliver it.

“Those aged Sub36 have until midnight on Monday 3 September to get their entries in at sub36.co.uk”Sub36 Awards 2018 to support young people in business with new mentoring programme

Blackburn agency wins 4-way Lancashire Tea pitch

Lancashire Tea has awarded its social media account to a Blackburn agency, following a 4-way competitive pitch.

Twentyone based its winning idea around the concept of #HowLancashireAreYou, a celebration of local language, mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, places, people and moments.

Working across graphic design, video and user-generated content, it will run across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“As a proud Lancastrian company, we are exceptionally pleased to be working for Lancashire Tea.  The #HowLancashireAreYou campaign will be a proud celebration of what it means to be Lancastrian – either living in Lancashire now or as an expat, yearning for a taste of home!” explained Twentyone managing director Sam Fletcher.

Ginette Monkcom, Lancashire Tea’s brand manager added:

“We were looking for a true Lancastrian voice to represent Winning Cuppa, Twentyone really shone through as a great fit for the brand. We look forward to working with them and developing the #HowLancashireAreYou campaign.”

Via Prolific North.

BGF backs highways tech firm with £2.7m boost

A highways technology company headquartered in Lancaster has secured a £2.7m investment from the BGF to further expand its services.

Gaist – which is also expanding into Keighley – captures and analyses continuous, high-definition imagery about road conditions and the network. It has developed this into proprietary software, which can be imported into the asset management systems of highways network operators, local authorities, mapping companies, major utilities and other blue-chip businesses.

It has been working closely with the Department of Transport to develop a smarter approach to the identification, management and repair of potholes and has collected more than 1.5 billion megabytes of imagery over the past ten years.

Gaist‘s technology, known as HighwayView, has been attracting attention from the likes of the Middle East and Asia.

Founder and chief executive Steve Birdsall, managing director Paula Claytonsmith and director of innovation and research Stephen Remde will use the investment to accelerate its information and machine learning research within HighwayView and expand its teams to support its proposed growth.

Birdsall said: “Domestic demand for our services continues to grow. At the same time, we are delighted to see our AI-driven technology gain international recognition. Both of these areas represent significant opportunities.

“To date, we have self-funded investment into the company and in collecting and productising our data sets. Bringing BGF on board as a non-controlling investor will allow us to accelerate our growth plans and respond to the growing demand for our services and expertise.”

BGF investor Pinesh Mehta added: “Improving our roads has been a burning issue in recent months, but there is also a growing and longer-term requirement – from both the public and private sectors – for access to accurate and detailed data to better understand the behaviour and utilisation of our road networks.”

Via Insider Media.

Lancashire entrepreneur’s royal invitation to charity event

Lancashire entrepreneur, investor and motivational speaker Antony Chesworth attended a summer gala hosted by Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, to raise awareness of OnSide Youth Zones.

The black-tie, invitation-only event was the prince’s first official engagement since his high-profile wedding, and was held within the gardens of the 17th century Kensington Palace.

It was organised in recognition of the work done by the OnSide Youth Zone, which helps around 40,000 8-to-19-year-olds around the UK by providing a safe environment and activities such as dance, drama and sport.

A special dinner included comedy from the multi-talented David Walliams, speeches by Prince Harry and charity founder John Roberts, before 80s pop-star Rick Astley closed the evening with his music.

Both supporters and patrons of the charity as well as youngsters who have benefited from its services were in attendance, many of the latter showing off the arts, music and dance skills learned through OnSide’s many projects and services.

Chesworth, who founded Fulwood-based ecommerce specialist EKM.com from his bedroom and turned it into a multi-million-pound, international business, attended the event with friends and colleagues from the business world.

Chesworth said: “The gala was an incredible event where I met with so many inspiring people – and of course it was great to be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Prince Harry!”

OnSide Youth Zone expanded its services into Chesworth’s home county of Lancashire last month, when a new £4.8m facility – named ‘Inspire’ – opened in Chorley.

He added: “The OnSide Youth Zone is a great project doing very important work for the country’s youth. It deserves recognition for all it has achieved so far and to see the prince take such a keen interest in the kids and their projects made for a wonderful event.”

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Preston e-learning firm to create 36 jobs after £250k investment

Preston’s eOrigen Learning and Communications will create 36 new jobs after securing £250,000 funding from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

The company, which creates digital media and bespoke e-learning and training content, will use the funding to help launch and grow its new INPIN platform. This brings training providers, organisations and employees together onto a single “eLearning eco-system”.

Founder and CEO Mike Mulvihill said: “We are privileged to have the backing and support of NPIF with this investment. It is an opportunity for the company to grow and achieve its rapid growth strategy to establish INPIN in the global learning marketplace.

“It is forecasted that by 2020, 50% of all training will be online. With our company scope and capabilities, we are at the forefront of this transformation and are proud to be driving this from our head office based in Preston.”

The company creates actor-led training films, 3D animations and interactive multi-media e-learning courses for clients including British Airways, AMEC, EDF Energy, Sainsbury’s and the NHS.

The funding has been provided by NPIF – Maven Equity Finance, managed by Maven Capital Partners and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

Martin Clark, investment manager at Maven, said: “We are delighted to support EO’s innovative L&D platform. EO is exactly the kind of business that NPIF is looking to support – its unique platform has a wide potential reach and is highly scalable, with two complimentary income streams and a blue-chip client base.”

Via Prolific North

Lisa Moizer on Developing the first Local Digital Skills Partnership

Lisa Moizer, the Strategic Coordinator for Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’s Skills and Employment Hub, has a great post on the Government’s Digital Skills and Inclusion blog, Developing the first Local Digital Skills Partnership (Local DSP)

The Digital Strategy, published in March 2017, talked about increasing collaboration between public-, private-, and charity-sector organisations to help address local digital skills needs in more targeted and innovative ways. This was music to our ears in Lancashire, and so I began a conversation with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) later that year.

We were keen to find out more about the aims of the national Digital Skills Partnership (DSP) and to understand how Lancashire could work with DCMS through a Local DSP model, as at face value it appeared that our approach to digital skills and ambitions were alike.

Fast forward to 18 April and I’m standing in the impressive foyer of EKM, one of our key digital businesses in Lancashire, on an unseasonably warm and sunny day; we are about to welcome a fantastic host of digital stakeholders to our Lancashire Digital Skills Summit, and to launch Lancashire’s Local DSP – the first in the country.

Read on…

Motionlab behind ecommerce site for cosmetics brand

Motionlab has created an ecommerce store for emerging cosmetics brand, I Love Cosmetics.

The Lancashire agency built the site on Magento 2 to help the brand increase visibility and conversions.

“Prior to this project I Love Cosmetics already enjoyed an impressive global fan base, but our radical transformation of their website and the accompanying marketing we’re utilising is helping them push new boundaries with scent, reinvent their brand perception and acquire new audiences at home and abroad,” explained Motionlab CEO, Simon Iredale.

“Our focus now is on further developing the brand’s online presence to increase sales, through various channels and digital tactics – so watch this space!”

According to the agency, since its launch, the website has had a 93% increase in web visits and more than a 1000% uplift in social traffic. This has been supported through content marketing, paid advertising, display, social media adverts and targeted emails.

“Our mission from the very beginning has been to become one of the UK’s best-selling beauty brands. The new digital platform crafted by Motionlab massively strengthens our online presence and is befitting of a world-class beauty brand. It better positions us to standout in this most competitive of digital landscapes,” added marketing manager, Donna Robinson.

Via Prolific North.

Lancashire firms can benefit from hundreds of exporting opportunities

Hundreds of exporting opportunities exist from which businesses across the North West can benefit, the acting head of UK Regions for North West and Northern Powerhouse at the Department of International Trade has told Insider, especially in the US and Canada.

The DIT has a 50-strong team across the region, with Paul Stowers having worked for the organisation for 20 years. During this time, he said, he has seen his “share of standout achievements”.

Two recent examples include Salford-based Swifty Scooters and Paintglow in Cumbria.

Read more at Insider Media.