Young Innovators Success Stories: Seyed Nasrollahi, Unifiq Games, London
Building physics-based video games to boost STEM learning
Seyed Nasrollahi had just started developing the second demo for his educational video game, Operation Outsmart, when he won the Young Innovators Award.
Operation Outsmart is the flagship product of Seyed’s company, Unifiq Games. The physics-based game aims to enhance STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning for young people.
Seyed hopes the game can boost interest in STEM, which is facing a crisis in the UK due to underrepresentation, poor perceptions and lack of interest.
The first milestone Seyed wanted to achieve during the Young Innovators programme was to develop a new playable demo, so the team could test it and get feedback.
“From December 2021 to March 2022, we worked tirelessly to develop the demo. We managed to test the game with 60 players in March,” Seyed says.
“The demo allowed us to show the game to our advisors, industry experts and publishers. This was one of the highlights of our journey as we could identify the weak spots of our product and act quickly on them.”
Seyed’s vision for Unifiq is to grow the team and become a sustainable business. To get there, he knew he needed confirmation that there was a market for his product.
“There is a common culture of ‘fail fast’ in the games industry, because it takes so many iterations to get the perfect recipe and build a great game that has a market. We were aiming to get the bad prototypes out of the way fast,” he explains.
“The programme allowed us to iterate through multiple prototypes and learn from user testing. We ultimately released two product demos, tested the product with more than 300 players, pitched to more than 60 publishers and achieved product-market fit.”
Seyed’s progress has enabled him to hire two additional staff members, and he’s quickly gaining recognition across the industry. The company was featured in the London Games Festival and has gained thousands of followers on social media.
Seyed credits the programme’s network and wider support package with helping him grow as a business leader.
“The boot camps were incredibly useful in getting to know other innovators in the cohort and see the exciting projects everyone was working on. Everyone was so passionate and it’s pushed me to work even harder for my vision,” he says.
“Through the Young Innovators support network, I also managed to visit George Freeman MP, the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that was only made possible because of this network.”
For future applicants, Seyed recommends showing how your business idea addresses a need in the UK and global socio-economic landscape.
“Make sure you’re putting forward a compelling business proposal with a potential market that would improve lives across the world. Start working on your application early, and don’t shy away from showing your application to experts in your network to get feedback,” he advises.
With several prototypes tested and his concept validated, Seyed’s ambition for the next 12 months is to secure a partnership with a publisher. Once this is in place, he can grow the team further, accelerate product development and release the first commercial version of the product.
“Before the Young Innovators programme, I was only entertaining a concept. But now, I’m in the real business of running a startup that has a very promising future and I can’t wait to see it grow into a sustainable business,” he says.
“Over this past year, my ambition and passion have only increased, and I have a line up of great plans to realise my vision.”
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Read the other Young Innovators’ success stories here.