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Meet Stardotstar, our new strategy and experience agency!

Poppy Heap

Author Poppy Heap

Our agency group, formed with CTI Digital a year ago, has grown again!

We’re thrilled to welcome Stardotstar, an accomplished strategy and experience agency from Manchester, to the group. They’ve already been working closely with our team and CTI Digital across a number of projects at our Manchester HQ with great success. The acquisition will allow us to grow our strategy offering in a complimentary way to Nublue’s support and hosting services while giving it the space to grow and innovate at an accelerated pace.

Our MD, Michael Ashworth, said:

“Stardotstar joining the CTI group is something we’re all excited about at Nublue. Their ethos and approach to innovation and people fit perfectly within the group. I’m also pleased to see how our strategy and experience offering has already matured dramatically, meaning the combined services we offer clients going forward will truly be first-class. Welcome Stardotstar, it’s good to have you on board.”

Official press release on the acquisition:

The CTI Digital Group has acquired digital innovation agency Stardotstar, in a strategic move to further invest in the strategy and user experience industry.

Stardotstar, headed by Gez O’Brien, was founded in 2000 in Manchester. The agency developed a reputation for succeeding on a diverse range of projects, connected only by the innovative application of technology and strategic insight. The agency has worked with clients including First4Adoption, Channel 4, CBBC, Monster, The Open University and Department of Transport; winning a notable number of awards, including five BIMAs.

The Stardotstar acquisition is the second in a pattern of specialist acquisitions following CTI’s 2019 acquisition of Lancaster-based ecommerce and hosting specialists, Nublue.

Nick Rhind, CEO of CTI Digital, said: 

“CTI Digital has been an evolving body since we began in 2003. The development of our strategy and experience team has been client lead, meaning we have built a service that works for real organisations and understands their pains when it comes to digital. We have invested heavily in building our digital strategy service alongside our strong development credentials, hiring aggressively and opening a state of the art UX lab.”

“Knowing Gez was approachable on a sale, we discussed the direction the CTI Group is heading in. His ethos and brand heritage fit comfortably with CTI and Nublue, and Gez was pleased to embark on an acquisition with CTI Digital. It’s taken a few months to get the deal done, but I look forward to the expertise Stardotstar will bring to and across the group.”

CTI Digital has offered digital strategy services since 2010 to clients and on a tendered basis. The agency began offering the strategy and UX services publicly from 2017. Headed by Matt Smith, CTI Digital’s strategy and experience team have opened a UX lab and worked with clients including International Animal Rescue, Durham University, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of West London, Manchester Central, and luxury commerce brand Little Greene.

The acquisition of Stardotstar was completed in June 2020 after a long planning process. 

As part of the diversification strategy of the CTI Group, Gez O’Brien and Matt Smith have taken strategy and creative, and strategy and experience director roles respectively, in heading the Stardotstar brand.

The Group has also restructured the Finance, Sales and Marketing teams across CTI, Nublue and Stardotstar to allow for future growth. This restructuring has resulted in a handful of redundancies to ensure maximised operational efficiencies. 

CTI Holdings’ budget group revenue in the year to February 2021 of c. £9.8m. This represents an increase on 2019 revenue (under Paperhat Group) of £5.7m (239%) and an increase on 2020 revenue of £2.8m (40%).

Gez O’Brien, MD of Stardotstar, said: 

“I’ve known CTI for some years, but it was only after working with them on several projects, that the conversation around an acquisition came up. Having worked with them for some time, I could see Stardotstar fit in the bigger CTI picture, and I’m inspired to help make that vision a reality. Stardotstar will be able to focus on its core strengths of discovery and creativity but have the CTI Group behind it on build and delivery. We’re bringing together the best strategy with the best in robust and scalable build. I can’t wait to see what we do together.”