Meet the Founders: Steve Butterworth

This month's "Meet the Founder" features Software Developer, Steve Butterworth, who is one of the three founders of Unicorn Studios. He is a keen cyclist, loves to travel, and has recently become "slightly obsessed with the Wim Hof Method", which involves breathing exercises followed by an iced bath or a chilly dip in the sea or river.

Tell us a little about yourself

I live in Ipswich near Christchurch Park with my wife Gayle, 16 year old son Noah and cockapoo Bonnie. I’m from Yorkshire and came down here for my first job after university, met Gayle just after the millennium, the rest as they say is history.

In my day job I’m a software developer, freelancing for the last 15 years. There have been 2 big ongoing projects in that time. Firstly, I lead development on the busiest environmental job website in the UK, they’re a great little team and I have always loved working with them. The other project I had for over 10 years was building 3D web and big screen fan experiences for major sporting events like The Open Golf Championships, the Tour De France and the Indie 500.

For the past year or so I’ve cut down my freelancing a lot, particularly the sports events work to focus on building a Software as a Service business. The dream of getting paid even while I sleep is too much to not give it a proper go! I built a website change monitoring service called Trackly for a client about 7 years ago and have now bought it from the client, polished it up, talked to a bunch of customers and am frantically adding features and marketing. I have a big vision and there’s a long road ahead, but crossing my fingers 🤞.

Why did you start Unicorn Studios?

Along with Rob and Dan, I’m one of the 3 founders of the studios. I met Rob at a University of Suffolk co-working space where we were both members. We got kicked out when they wanted to make it into a cafe, so we looked around Ipswich, didn’t like the available options and decided to start our own space. I’ve known Dan for years, he has kindly helped get me some great freelancing gigs over the years and when I told him about the Unicorn Studios project he was keen to get involved.

We wanted a space that was more of a community than other co-working spaces, more creative and casual too. We didn’t want a space that felt like a 9-5 office or an anonymous grey office block, we left proper jobs to get away from that kind of thing. So it needed to be an interesting space filled with interesting people and I think we’ve got there! We run it completely not-for-profit. We just want it to be able to sustain itself so it can stay around longer than the average Ipswich town centre business.

What was your first job?

My first job was a paper round, and to this day it’s my longest proper employed job. I had it for about 4 years and starting on £11 a week for a 7 day a week round. I was happy with that, it was enough for a new cassette album or gig ticket every week and that’s all I cared about. I held it down longer than any full-time programming job I’ve had since so maybe that was my true calling after all.

What work accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’m hoping it will be Trackly, eventually, which I plan to rebrand as ChangeFlow. But otherwise I guess I am proud of the work I’ve done on helping Also proud of winning awards for the online interactive fan experience we did for The Open in 2022. It was viewed by several million people across the world in one weekend, it was a painful and stressful experience, but nice to have your work seen and enjoyed by so many people.

Are you an early bird or a night owl?

I’m definitely a night owl. Despite my early success as a paperboy (to this day I have no idea how I did it). I have very little memory of it and people used to say they saw me but I never saw them so I must have managed to do it without actually waking up. For years I would do my best work in the evening but now I’m a bit more normal, or lazy perhaps, and enjoy a damn good box set or film, with the wood burner on and a glass of wine with my wife.

What’s one of your favourite memories this year?

We’re only a few months into 2024 so hopefully a lot more memories to be made but one thing that sticks out so far is our half term trip to Cornwall. We stayed at a beach house with hot tub and sauna which makes it glorious even in February. Hot tub, bluetooth speaker and a G&T in hand was just the ticket. That along with several bracing beach walks and a very cold sea swim definitely helped me hit the reset button.

What is your hidden talent?

I’m not sure it’s a hidden talent but I’m currently slightly obsessed with the Wim Hof Method and meet up with a local group to do breathing exercises followed by an ice bath, which I absolutely love. I have a cold shower every morning and try and get in the sea or a river when possible for a quick chilly dip. Like I say, not a talent, I can’t think of any of those, just my current fixation!

What’s something you’re planning on doing in the next year that you’ve never done before?

Once Noah finishes his GCSEs this summer we’re heading off to Menorca and then onto Madrid and Granada for a 3 week travelling holiday. I haven’t been away for that long in decades and I have never been to any of these parts of Spain so really looking forward to it. We all love travelling.

Also I’m big into my cycling and Rob told me about the Wolf Way which he’s been doing some design work for. It’s a 250 mile on and off road loop of Suffolk which I really want to do in the next couple of months whilst taking dips in rivers and the North Sea a long the way

If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something, what would it be?

I’d be an accomplished pianist I think. I had lessons for about a year a few years back but my brain isn’t as spongy as it used to be so I gave up in despair at my lack of progress. I love strumming my guitar and playing piano badly in the privacy of my own home but I like the idea of be a traditionally trained piano prodigy.

When working what is your guilty pleasure?

I have a few things that help get me through the working day - Twitter, Kombucha and the Chris Evans Breakfast show. I do really like my work these days but still staring at a screen all day gets old.

What three people would be your fantasy coworkers at Unicorn studios? And why?

Richard Branson - He divides opinion but I think it’s hard to argue with his achievements and his life story. He’s inspired a whole generation of entrepreneurs especially in this country and I love his positive outlook on life and humanity.

David Heinemeier Hanson - A Danish programmer and entrepreneur whose achievements I find pretty inspiring. His opinionated and potty-mouthed communication style is in equal parts, educational and entertaining.

Kurt Cobain - I’m reading his biography Heavier than Heaven at the moment so he springs to mind. Not sure he would have found it quite entertaining enough in Unicorn Studios but he’d be 57 now if he was still with us so I reckon he would’ve calmed down a bit and likes nothing more than a casual co-working session and chat in Ipswich. In-fact, I’m pretty sure he’d even join me for a cheeky Kombucha or two.

Would you rather be a tiny unicorn or a giant hamster?

It would have to be a tiny unicorn. The only thing hamsters have going for them is they are cute and I’m pretty sure a giant hamster would just be this big hairy obese thing that can’t fit through doors. As a tiny unicorn I can go anywhere undetected, be nosey and have fun jabbing people with my horn if they annoy me.

Benefits of joining Unicorn Studios


Work-life balance

Cost effective


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