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Neon Play has been working with the University of Gloucestershire since we started in 2010 as we’ve always been very keen to collaborate with them, give them studio tours, work experience and the end product of all this is hopefully jobs. And recently, we have been delighted to offer our first Uni of Glos graduate a role at Neon Play, which has been a big milestone in the relationship.
At the same time, our CEO Oli Christie has been truly humbled and surprised to receive an Honorary Degree at the University of Gloucestershire. Oli and his family went along to the graduation ceremony at Cheltenham Racecourse and over 1,000 students, university staff and families were there.
Vice-Chancellor, distinguished guests, graduates, ladies and gentlemen. It gives me great pleasure to present to you Oli Christie, upon whom the University is to confer an Honorary Fellowship.
Oli Christie is well known for his outstanding work in business and contribution to enterprise, innovation and business support in the county. He has also provided invaluable support and advice to our university. Oli set up Neon Play in 2010 and he is the CEO. Since then, the Cirencester-based company has achieved over 60 million mobile game downloads and 15 number one games in 160 countries. Neon Play’s hits include Paper Glider, Flick Football and Traffic Panic. He’s had a phenomenal 10 number one games.
Neon Play has won dozens of games and business awards since launching in 2010, including:
- The Queens Award for Enterprise – Innovation
- The Gloucestershire Business Awards - Young Business of the Year & Small Business of the Year
- The Smarta Awards - One of 100 Top Small Businesses in the UK
- Ranked by Mobile Entertainment as One of top 50 mobile innovators
Oli is very active and well networked within the Gloucestershire Business Community. He has been a great supporter of the University, working closely as a critical friend to the Computing and Technology School, advising on course content, helping with staff recruitment, and in many other ways. He is very enthusiastic about trying to help the University build up a high quality computing and games offer. He has given presentations to our student enterprise programme, and supports the work of the Growth Hub.
Oli has also founded the “Rock the Cotswolds” campaign, which is dedicated to challenging conventions, opening eyes and rocking the boat, at home and abroad, that The Cotswolds is a fantastic place to live, work and play, and isn’t populated entirely by the retired wealthy and estate agents.
Oli is also on the board of the Cheltenham Festivals and on the advisory panel for Farm 491 at the Royal Agricultural College.
Googling Oli, I found a picture of him having a Rock the Cotswolds tattoo on his arm, I don’t know if this one washed off or if he still has it. Maybe he’ll show us afterwards. But it shows dedication and passion. These are qualities that we encourage and support with our students and staff across the university.
According to his interview in Cotswold Life, Oli is against laziness and a seeker of the cool, the vibrant and the entrepreneurial around the Cotswolds. Oli left London not to sleep on a sofa in a little cottage here, but to strap a rocket to the region and light the fuse. Oli has certainly done that and he’s a great role model for us.
Vice-Chancellor, I now call upon you to confer the award of Honorary Fellowship on Oli Christie.
Oli made an acceptance speech, which was a touch nerve-wracking. Here it is, without the ad-libbing...
"Hi everyone and thank you Stephen for your very kind introduction. As my parents know, I wasn’t exactly a model student when I was at university, so to receive this honorary degree is very surprising, deeply humbling and a massive honour. Thank you to Stephen and to the university.
When I started my company Neon Play in Cirencester, I was really keen to collaborate with the University of Gloucestershire so that we could give work experience and hopefully jobs to graduates. Stephen has called me a “critical friend” of the games course, which is fair.
So it gives me the greatest joy to say that we’ve literally just hired our first Uni of Glos graduate last week. Hopefully the first of many to come. And another student who is graduating today - Hish - is currently with us on work experience too.
If it’s OK, I wanted to quickly share some life tips, many of which I wish I’d known 25 years ago when I graduated. One or two of them may hopefully help you on your journey through life and work.
- Smile. It really does make a difference.
- Manners matter - say please and thank you.
- Shake hands firmly. Look people in the eye. Remember their name.
- Compliment people. Words are free, but it will make them feel a million dollars.
- In business, network, network and network.
- Meet people. Introduce yourself. Don’t be shy. I’ve just sold my business to someone who gave me my first job in advertising - 23 years ago - so you just never know.
- Every industry is small, regardless of its size. And with LinkedIn, everyone now knows everyone. So don’t let your behaviour or attitude in a previous job come back to haunt you.
- Never forget your previous employer will be the reference you need the next time you want a job. So always leave jobs well & with dignity.
- Don’t forget, employers look at your social media profiles, so do be careful what you post.
- Don’t give up. It won’t always happen first time. There’s not necessarily a rush though. All in good time.
- Be ambitious. You can do it.
- Try and turn negatives into positives. The worst two things that have happened to me at Neon Play actually started a chain of events that turned into the best two things. At the time, I thought it was all over, but through a bit of lateral thinking, networking, grit, determination and a bit of luck, they changed the business.
- See your friends. And not just on social media.
- Be genuinely proud of other friend’s success.
- Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. It’s a long race, but in the end, it’s only a race with yourself.
- Memories matter. Put your photos into an album. All those photos on your phone or computer will either be lost or never see daylight again.
- Appreciate your parents and grandparents. Spend time and actually talk to them about their past.
- Things aren’t often as good as you think or as bad as you think. But you’ve got to enjoy the highs and then ride the lows.
- Say YES more. It’s very easy to say “no”. It’s more fun saying “yes” and it will open life up to more fun experiences.
- Travel lots, wherever that is. It will make you a more interesting and rounded human being.
- Laugh lots. It’s so important.
- Have a broad life CV - play an instrument, learn a skill, have hobbies, just do stuff. Nobody ever said I had a great night watching TV
- Use your mobile less. A lot less.
- Look up, not down. It’s surprising what you’ll see.
- Health is wealth. However rich or poor you are, if you’re not healthy, nothing else matters.
- So exercise. It will keep your body fit and your mind fit.
I want to finish with a wonderful quote from Mahatma Gandhi that sums up a great mantra for life. 'Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.’
Thank you for listening and a huge congratulations to everyone here who are receiving degrees today. Let it be the first stepping stone in the amazing journey that will be the rest of your life. Thank you."