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DMU grads set up own software business – and secure £150,000 investment


A software development company run by two De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) graduates is set for even greater success after securing a massive £150,000 investment – with the potential of even more money coming their way.


Computer Games Programming graduates Derry Holt and James Heath, of Birmingham-based Stormburst Studios Ltd, secured the money from investment company Mercia Technologies who have taken a 16 per cent share in the business.

Derry and James have praised the work of DMU’s Campus Enterprise Opportunities team for helping them start out in the world of business.

And they have kept their DMU connections going by taking on a student intern, Alex Granatowicz, for a year to help him gain vital experience.

Derry said the investment could not have come at a better time for Stormburst Studios.

Recalling the day they pitched their idea to Mercia Technologies he said: “Our pitch was at 11am and we were told we’d hear back by late afternoon.

“Naturally we were prepared to endure probably the most nerve-wracking five to six hours of our lives.

“Once we’d finished I went to the bathroom to collect my thoughts. It was a good pitch but I felt really unsure as to whether or not the board would see the same things the chap we’d been dealing with had. 

“I buzzed to be let back into the office and James had a small wry smile on his face. I asked him what was up when he let me in and he simply said “we’ve got it”.

“My first reaction was to jump at him and hug him - having 18 months of hard work lead to that moment is a feeling of euphoria I’ll never forget. We were prepared to give it up after Christmas if things didn’t work out. It’s safe to say that’s not going to happen now!”


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Stormburst Studios is a software development company specialising in gamified enterprise technologies. This means Derry and James apply what they know about creating enjoyable video games and transfer this appeal to conventional business software with the goal of making work more engaging, productive and, ultimately, fun.

They’ve spent the last 18 months developing Spirit, which helps sales leaders move away from the age-old formula of spreadsheets and whiteboards and instead presents teams with a real-time, always-online platform for monitoring performance, running incentives and publicising important information.

Mercia Technologies was looking for a Business 2 Business company in the gamification arena and decided Derry and James  fitted the bill.

Derry said: “We approached 5-6 investment groups to begin with but got pretty frustrated at the unresponsive nature many of them displayed. Mercia was quite a breath of fresh air - very responsive, very friendly and they even approached us first!

“In return for their cash injection Mercia are receiving a 16% stake in the business. Perhaps what’s most exciting is that they’re looking to make further investments in 2017 and 2018 - more growth, more success!”

So what advice would a successful entrepreneur have for students at DMU?

Derry said: “There’s an incredible amount of support out there for would-be entrepreneurs. Free mentoring, office space, grants… It’s all there, you’ve just got to find it! Check out the Crucible Project at DMU or look up Entrepreneurial Spark.

“Joining the latter was hands down the best call we made as a business and DMU’s Crucible Project kept us afloat for our first year. 

“My best advice would be to just go for it. Realistically, what have you got to lose? We lived on pennies for 18 months. Even if it had all failed I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve learnt so much and could happily walk into a job in January feeling like I’ve experienced something special since graduation.

“But you must be aware that running your own business is not easy.

“I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve cried over the stress of money, managing people, not meeting expectations and losing valuable clients. Equally I’ve never felt as ecstatic as when we secured our first client. It’s a rollercoaster ride with all the highs and lows attached. So brace yourself!”

*Alex Granatowicz, a Computer Games Programming student at DMU, secured a one year internship with Stormburst Studios Ltd after speaking to Derry at a DMU careers event.

He said: “After attending a careers event focussed on the games industry that Derry was speaking at, I spoke to Derry about the possibility of applying. He told me to send through my CV, which I did, and then I was offered an interview. Being the last applicant they had to squeeze me in after all the other interviews but I apparently "blew them away" and was offered the job later that evening, despite them having more interviews to conduct at a later date.

“I've learned so much in my first 6 months; probably due to actual real-world application as opposed to 'engineered' university scenarios. I think the most valuable experience is simply getting an 'in' into the programming industry. Students with placements are preferential to those without, so it's a great opportunity for me looking forwards.

“I think that Stormburst and Derry & James' progress is a great testament to how having the right attitude is the most important thing when you finish university. The success of Stormburst is definitely inspirational. They have achieved so much is such a small period of time.”

Posted on Friday 10th February 2017

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