Synx Games & Oliver Whitehead, Sparkhouse’s Rising Star

Most second year students would be busy focussing on simply attending lectures and balancing nights-out with course work, however one of our newer Sparkhouse tenants has seemingly cracked the code to being able to balance everything and more. Whilst studying computer science at the University of Lincoln, Oliver Whitehead recently moved into Sparkhouse and we caught up with him to find out more about his journey, what he actually does and what his plans are for the future.

Synx Games builds servers for games such as Minecraft, including the creation of mini-games, added value and personalised worlds within games. The journey began in 2013, when Oliver played Minecraft as a kid and later discovered that he enjoyed building servers for his friends to use, and we he realised that people paid money to use them… a business idea formed. At 14 years old, Oliver began the idea of building servers as a service and despite briefly falling out of love with the area, when Covid hit in 2020 he rediscovered his passion amidst the surging popularity of online gaming. The combination of the increase in free time, and key people covering the 10th anniversary of the game, re-entering the Minecraft world made sense.

In 2021 Oliver opened the first server in collaboration with a content creator, this platform meant that the creator had a dedicated space to interact with their fans, viewers, and followers. By operating a free-to-play model with optional purchases, Oliver was able to generate notable income for his business as well as support the creator, which began the idea of turning the idea into a “real” business.

Synx Games was founded in 2022, as although the operation was already in place it didn’t make financial sense to set-up the business. Oliver had previously operated as a sole trader, with contractors and freelancers hopping in and out of projects as and when they were needed. Mid 2022 was when Synx got its name. Now keen to move away from using contractors, with a bigger focus on recruiting members of staff. With two members of staff currently working at Synx and two more on the way, the business is looking to scale-up their operation at an accelerated rate.

For something so niche, it can be monetised in so many ways. Subscription fees, cosmetics, skins, ranks and lootboxes are the primary models, but Oliver was keen to implement a few layers of purchase confirmation into his lootboxes as he didn’t want any of his customers to be stung by an accidental purchase (or angry parent looking to recoup any unexpected spending).

When asked about the struggles he had come up against in his time as a business owner, one might expect something technical related to the programming, but Oliver claims that he struggled most with writing policies. Whether they be insurance, hiring or usage, these documents are where Oliver finds most roadblocks.

On the flip side, the best thing is not having to worry about money, the business has been at a place where Oliver has not had to get a more quintessential student job such as hospitality or retail work, and this frees him up to both develop the business and live his life in a way he wants.

His primary colleague and right-hand man lives in Nashville, Tennessee and Oliver is keen to develop further links into the US. With larger markets predominantly exisiting in America, it's almost a no-brainer to look to the west for expansion.

On Sparkhouse, Oliver has found the support and mentoring a big help, not just with the development of the business, but the introductions into networks in and around Lincoln. The support from Charlotte Baxter in particular has been instrumental in the rapid growth of Synx, with Char’s influence and knowledge of the Lincoln business community meaning that she is always able to provide business owners with an introduction to anyone they might find useful.

A full-stack developer in his own right, Oliver has the digital world at his feet. With his sights for the business being expansion into Fortnite, Roblox and maybe even mobile games, Synx Games is surely on the track any business owner would want to be on. For Oliver personally, he views his future as being firmly set in Lincoln. With continued support from the University, Sparkhouse and the business community, he can’t see a reason to leave.

To find out more about Synx Games, you can view their website here.