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Childhood dreams fuel the fastest growing company in the North East

Video gaming company Coatsink was the overall winner of the Ward Hadaway 2022 North East Fastest 50 Awards. Also picking up the award for fastest growing medium business, Coatsink has achieved rapid growth since it was established over a decade ago. Here, we speak to CEO Tom Beardsmore about childhood chats, creativity and that competitive edge.

“Can you remember when you were a youngster with your friends, talking about what you want to do when you grow up?” asks Tom Beardsmore, CEO of Gateshead-based video gaming company Coatsink. “Paul and I met at 12 years old, and we fast became best friends and avid gamers too. We often talked about our plans to start a video gaming company that brought games to life in the way we wanted them to. We used to talk for hours but at the time, we never thought that fantasy would come true.”

Those childhood aspirations are now a reality for Tom and CDO Paul Crabb, co-founders of Coatsink. With a 6-people strong senior leadership team, who all hail from the North East, Coatsink boasts a turnover growth rate of 121% and works on multimillion pound projects creating high profile games such as Transformers: Battlegrounds, PHOGS! and Jurassic World: Aftermath. In 2009, Tom and Paul were both working in the video gaming industry and felt disillusioned with the larger gaming studios. “We craved creative independence,” explained Tom. “I said to Paul, remember all those hours we spent together talking about how we’ll become gaming masters and do things our way? Let’s do it, let’s make our own games.”

Coatsink, the winner of the Ward Hadaway North East Fastest 50, expects to grow its team to 150 by the end of 2023

Coatsink was officially established in 2011, making mobile games initially. “At the beginning, making a profit was a long-term goal and not the priority. Growth was slow. We were a small team, under 12 people, working steadily and making enough to pay the bills and the wages. Three key things then happened. We signed a small game with PlayStation and, shortly after that, we started working with Oculus on its virtual reality (VR) hardware. Two years later Oculus was acquired by Facebook and, in turn, our budgets for game development became much bigger. Lastly, we partnered with Sheffield-based Boneloaf to develop a game called Gang Beasts which has been hugely popular with million copies sold worldwide.”

And, ever since, Coatsink has continued to grow – and rapidly. By 2015, the firm employed around 25 people which doubled every year until 2019. In 2020, it was acquired by video game holding company Thunderful Group, based in Gothenburg, to enable continued expansion. It currently boasts 130 employees and expects to have a team of over 150 people by the end of 2023. One thing is clear: Coatsink has firmly put the North East of England at the forefront of the video gaming industry, leading the way with innovative and emerging technologies.

“And that’s what makes us different,” says Tom. “Our focus on new technology in creating innovative video games as well as our passion for creative independence enables us to deliver quality games, and quickly. Add to this the culture we have built at Coatsink, which is one based on transparency, inclusivity and compassion, differentiates us from other gaming developers not just regionally but internationally. At Coatsink, we’re a team and we each play a unique and valued role within the company. I often say, together we make it work, but without each other it wouldn’t work. Togetherness and shared values are so important.”

With a state-of-the-art studio in Abbott’s Hill, Gateshead, employees have the choice to work from the studio or remotely and enjoy a wide range of extended health and wellbeing benefits. Coatsink is certainly doing something right as revenue for 2022 is set to be £17 million, rising to £20 million within 12 months.

Matt Cormack, a partner in the commercial team at Ward Hadaway, said: “Coatsink is a great example of the innovation, creativity and skill that drives the North East’s technology sector. The story of the company’s journey and success will hopefully inspire many more smaller businesses on the path to growth and development, which is a real positive for the sector and the region as a whole. Of course, growth brings with it many challenges, including managing IP portfolios, growing a team and dealing with more clients. At Ward Hadaway we are proud to support many of the Fastest 50 growing businesses like Coatsink as it continues to grow. Congratulations to the whole team at Coatsink, this year’s North East Fastest 50 winner, your achievements are thoroughly deserved.

“Financial success in my opinion is a side effect of passion,” adds Tom. “Those who start a business or chase growth simply to make money never succeed. It’s the passion driven businesses and the purpose-led growth that truly prospers.”

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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