Young Innovators Success Stories: Elena Höge, Yaldi Games, Scotland
Since securing the Young Innovators Award 2020/21 from Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust, Scottish entrepreneur Elena Höge has taken her gaming company Yaldi Games from a mere vision to a budding business.
By using the living allowance provided by Innovate UK, Elena was able to focus 100% on growing the company and immediately deployed the grant funding to hire artists to support in bringing her vision to life.
Over the past 12 months, and by reaching out to other Young Innovators in her cohort, Elena is now in discussions with publishers to launch Yaldi Games‘ inaugural game to market.
Elena’s vision is to create digital education games with environmental, social, and cultural impact while inspiring young people to get outdoors and benefit from the natural world.
When she secured the award, she was armed with an ambitious vision and business plan, but needed crucial financial support to get her idea off the ground.
“Since winning the Young Innovators Award, I was able to build a team and an amazing prototype. The first milestone was getting my two artists on board – they have made the game stunningly beautiful, with a unique art style loved by our fans,” Elena says.
This led to Elena signing a contract with game agent Cassia, who is now supporting her in business development and deal negotiations. Bringing on two in-house programmers then enabled the team to progress at a much greater speed.
In October 2021, the team attended a renowned industry event to show off their prototype to developers.
“We’ve come a long way and so has the product – it has improved a lot from the initial vision I had,” Elena says.
Alongside hiring four team members, Elena has also secured a seed investment of £15,000 from the Edinburgh Tech Fund and won the Social Shifters Global Innovation Challenge. Yaldi Games has also participated in the RBS Accelerator and the London Games Accelerator as well as the Tentacle Zone Incubator programme.
The company now has an engaged community of more than 5,000 people across its social media channels.
Elena has just secured £50,000 in Innovate UK follow-on funding and hopes to secure investment of around £350,000 in a pre-seed round in mid-2022.
“We are now talking to publishers and investors to secure further funding,” she says. “I’ll be working on establishing partnerships with creatives, influencers, crafters, sustainable clothing lines, and craft supply stores to build out the content and metaverse of the game.”
In addition to the financial support, which Elena says has been central to the rapid progress made by the business, the wider programme of support led by Innovate UK KTN enabled her to establish a network with the other Young Innovators.
Elena says, “Having a cohort full of people with their own amazing ideas, products, and expertise has been the best part of the Young Innovators programme. I have connected with people that I hope to stay in touch with for a long time.”
Throughout the programme, Elena has been learning to lead both a company and a team, describing employing the first team member as an ‘important step’ for her.
She says, “I would describe myself as a persistent, creative, and passionate leader – and I know that I can put my vision into action with my team’s support.”
Elena adds, “Since joining the cohort, I have realised how important my team is and how amazing it is to exchange knowledge between each other.”