Norfolk Network stories

Making the leap: Scott Grandison

Jane Chittenden
Format Words

Scott Grandson, co-founder and CEO of Outsider Studios, imagined that his career path would be a smooth progression from junior consultant to CEO. But it turned out to be more like Tigger’s.

“I’m very enthusiastic and interested in lots of things – and that’s what got me where I am.”

Growing up in the 1980s, Scott was fascinated by computer games. And the biggest lessons he learned weren’t at school or at uni (where he studied physics); they were in a computer shop – the most valuable work experience. After uni, he got a ‘proper job’, working for Royal Insurance in Liverpool on protecting the company’s IT from Year 2000 crashes. He set up his own computer company to help out with that project. Then he joined Norwich Union.

Scott Grandson, co-founder and CEO of Outsider Studios

And just as everything was going smoothly he took the first of his Tigger leaps: a PhD at UEA in mathematics, exploring free surface flow problems. It was a logical step to move to the John Innes Institute: physics simulations of plant roots and using pattern recognition to describe mathematically how proteins work. And it was another logical step to return to UEA and their computer science department. His career in academia was going well.

But was it time for another Tigger leap? Scott’s secret passion for comic books was luring him away from academia. He met his future business partner Stephen Downey (a renowned comic book illustrator) at a comic book convention; they started a podcast “Comic Book Outsiders”, which was a big success. And it was at this time that Scott became interested in smartphone apps. As a senior academic he was spending too much of his time on things like proposals and papers rather than hands-on physics, so it was great to get involved in programming these apps.

"To be able to watch people playing and interacting
with our game was a fantastic experience."
Scott Grandison

He started working in his spare time with Stephen on animated comic book-style games. A highlight was a contract for the BBC to create an augmented reality game that was designed to be played in big public spaces. “To be able to watch people playing and interacting with our game was a fantastic experience,” Scott says. It was 2011. He was wavering about whether to leave academia, where he’d been doing so well for 13 years – a well-paid secure job – and give all that up for something much less secure. It was a terrifying prospect…

… so he took his biggest Tigger leap to date and set up Outsider Studios with Stephen. Three years on, they’ve worked on some fantastic projects such as Radio 1’s Academy for disadvantaged kids to learn creative and technical skills. Education and teaching is something that Outsider Studios is passionate about: the educational power of the games themselves plus the educational value of children learning to programme. They’ve worked with some of the most talented people in the industry. And now their workload is so big for the next 12 months that they’re recruiting new staff. Making that leap of faith has paid off.