YORKSHIRE entrepreneur Anthony Hall has secured Government backing to set up a new multi-million pound children’s animation business based in Leeds.
Mr Hall’s company Antyx will launch an interactive online virtual world for young children called “The Learning Monster Project” later this year.
Once this is up and running, there are plans for a cartoon series and a feature length animated film.
Antyx has secured £1.2m from private investors to back the business, which will launch later this month under the HMRC’s Enterprise Investment Scheme.
The Monster Project will be similar to Club Penguin, an interactive world where children can play games with other children,
Mr Hall says it will combine the fun and interactivity of a modern social gaming hub with educational benefits.
Like Club Penguin, the Monster Project will be a “freemium” site, which gives players free access to standard games with an option to pay to upgrade to a premium level.
Mr Hall says the Monster Project will differ from rivals as the games will have learning as the key objective, but they will also be fun. Parents are more likely to subscribe to the premium service if they believe it is educational.
It is also developing a cartoon series called Fantums and an animated feature film called Phobes.
Mr Hall said the company is forecast to generate a turnover of £1.9m in its first year, rising to £11.3m by the third year.
He expects the business to create 20 jobs initially, equally split between the office in Leeds and another office in North Lincolnshire.
In addition the launch is expected to generate significant work for sub-contractors which Antyx plans to source locally. Over £500,000 has been budgeted for the build and marketing of the virtual world. Mr Hall said he is looking for the best digital design company in the region to deliver the new virtual world.
“Yorkshire has a lot of talented animators and gaming companies, but they tend to work on a fairly small scale from home,” he said.
“As the first business to create and own the IP of its characters and games, we will be investing significant sums with local suppliers and we hope that this will help Yorkshire to become a hub of animation.”
Antyx has worked closely with GrowthAccelerator, the Government-backed scheme that exclusively targets high growth businesses.
GrowthAccelerator has provided the new company with access to finance as well as advice on the corporate structure and business plan.
“GrowthAccelerator is perfect for small companies like us which need support in order to fulfil our potential to grow,” said Mr Hall.
“As well as working with a business coach on wider aspects of our business strategy, membership has enabled us to benefit from specialist corporate tax advice from Grant Thornton and GrowthAccelerator to ensure that the company is structured in the best way and that, as a start-up, we benefit from the various Government incentives available.”
Neil Sengupta, partner in Grant Thornton’s entrepreneurial tax team in Leeds, said: “This is exactly the sort of business we like to get involved with at an early stage.
“It’s very positive for new business in Yorkshire that GrowthAccelerator is giving businesses access to expert advice from the outset, providing the vital support they need in order to fulfil their potential.
“Over the last six months, we’ve worked closely with Anthony to help him to structure his business affairs correctly, putting him in the best possible position moving forward.”
After joining GrowthAccelerator last November, the company was eligible to apply to the Intellectual Property Office for a £3,000 grant to cover the costs of carrying out of a full intellectual property (IP) audit.
Antyx’s application was successful and intellectual property lawyers from Leeds law firm Clarion have worked with Antyx from an early stage, completing an audit to ensure the IP rights of the new company are protected.
“The nature of our business being creative and online, means that we are particularly vulnerable to copycat companies stealing our designs and ideas,” said Mr Hall.
“IP is central to our business and ultimately our most valuable asset. However, being a new business, budgets are tight so it is reassuring for both us and our investors to be certain that our IP rights are fully protected.”