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UDEN #11 - Financing a Creative Business

A panel discussion that addressed: 

  • Lessons learned from startup accelerators like Tech Stars and Boom Startup;
  • What VC’s are really looking for and their specific issues with funding digital entertainment innovations;
  • Tips and advice for tapping into a range of resources including angel investors, venture debt, venture capital and strategic partnerships;
  • How to present a compelling pitch;
  • Resources in Utah that can help.

Read the full blog here: http://www.guv1.com/jonblogs/uden11

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UDEN #Startup Meeting Recap

A business incubator was the ideal setting for this special UDEN meeting, which was held primarily to help the Salt Lake Disney/Avalanche employees whose studio will be closing next month.  While we know them to be highly talented individuals who will have options in what they do next, we thought that perhaps some of them might use this opportunity to start something of their own.  With that in mind, we want them to be as prepared as they can be. But our Disney friends weren't the only ones we had in mind: we opened the meeting to anyone interested in starting up on their own.  Around 110 people attended, and by show of hands, more than half said they were interested in starting up  or joining with others who wanted to startup.  5 people showed their hands when asked if only along for the food :-)

Read my full account of the meeting - including pix! -  here: http://www.guv1.com/jonblogs/2016/6/10/uden-startup-meeting

 

Please feel free to add your comments on the meeting in the comments below, as well as any details you found helpful that I may have missed in my summarizing.

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Avalanche Resources

This post collects resources from the community to (hopefully!) help the several-hundred recently laid-off Avalanche employees find new positions, start new studios, or go indie.

Our hope is that these talented folks can stay in the industry and stay in Utah, and not have to uproot their families and move cross-country just to find work.

This outreach is an initiative of the Utah Games Guild in the interest of preserving, and hopefully strengthening, the Utah game dev community. (Here’s Utah Games Guild co-founder Josh Sutphin on why local still matters.)

A "living document" version of this information is available here for anyone to contribute to.

Communities

  • Utah Games Guild – A local indie game dev support network

  • Utah Game Devs Slack Channel – Semi-public Slack channel run by Utah Games Guild, with 100+ local game devs from the indie, studio, and student sectors

  • Utah Indie Game Night – Discussion group and bi-monthly in-person meetups for local indies and hobbyists

  • Salt Lake/Provo IGDA Chapter – Official IGDA chapter for the Salt Lake/Provo area

  • Utah Digital Entertainment Network (UDEN) – Building a community of everyone involved in film, games, YouTube, VR etc. Regular networking meetings, guest speakers etc. (You are here!)

  • Utah Unity Users Group – Official Unity users group for the Utah area; organizes quarterly meetups for technical presentations and discussion

  • Hack Night SLC – group of programmers (mostly web programmers), often talking about job openings, good networking opportunity

Job Openings

Local Game Companies

Don’t hesitate to send these companies your resume/portfolio, even if their current job listings don’t include your position. The Disney layoff may represent an opportunity for them to hire hard-to-find talent that isn’t explicitly on their roadmap yet.

Games Made In Utah

  • https://trello.com/b/XTX7zXlz/utah-games-guild-database - All encompassing database of indie studios and games made or being made right now in Utah.

  • Animal Jam and Animal Jam - Play Wild! - WildWorks - One of the most popular online kids social games on the planet. Been running since 2010 and still growing!

  • A Kingdom For Keflings and A World Of Keflings - NinjaBee

  • Infinity Blade - ChAIR

  • Twisted Metal

  • SAGA - Silverlode Interactive (defunct) - The world’s first and longest running Persistent Online Strategy Game from 2008 ongoing. Currently being maintained by @AyrikX.

Going indie

  • Pixel Prospector - The Indie Goldmine. All-in-one site containing links to tons of other resources useful for going indie and game development in general.

Starting a studio

The best possible silver lining to the closure of Avalanche would be the formation of some exciting new indie startups in Utah. Starting a company seems daunting to many people, and there are some developers who simply prefer the security of working for a large established company. That security is illusory anywhere in the entertainment industries, however, as we’ve unfortunately just seen demonstrated.

Consider this: the hardest part of starting the next Valve or SuperCell isn’t the logistics, legal work, or fundraising — it’s assembling a great team. This usually takes years, because each new hire requires finding the right combination of talent, personality, and ambition to fit your vision for the company. So if you have a team of Disney co-workers with whom you already gel, whose talents you trust and admire, you have already accomplished the biggest hurdle to building the next great game company.   

Legal

One of your first steps will be to actually create a legal entity for the company. You can register your company in Utah using this website:

http://www.corporations.utah.gov

and this guide:

http://tax.utah.gov/forms/pubs/pub-38.pdf

…however, there are some significant advantages to incorporating in Delaware, even if the business will be located in Utah. Those advantages are outlined here:

http://corplaw.delaware.gov/eng/why_delaware.shtml

This is a helpful resource, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with the legal terms that tend to swirl around new startups:

http://startuplawyer.com/startup-issues/if-i-launched-a-startup

You’ll need to consider practical things, like healthcare and making sure you have business insurance.

Office Space

Working from home can be great to get started, but it isn’t ideal for teamwork or collaboration. Most landlords require big commitments for office space - multiple year leases and security deposits. You’re probably not ready for that right away, so consider an incubator (if you’ve seen Silicon Valley on HBO, this is the idea, but not someone’s house!).

There are a few local incubators where you can rent desks and facilities by the month, secured by a credit card. It’s a really cheap and effective way to get started. Other advantages include professional meeting rooms where you can meet investors or clients, high-speed internet, a real street address, business services plus there are other startups just like you with whom you can share or even collaborate.

Here are a few to consider; each has a slightly different mission and vibe, so check them all out to see who has space and which will be the best fit for your needs:

Downtown SLC

Sandy

Grow Utah has also put together a useful directory of resources for startups, here:

http://growutahventures.com/elink

Local Seminars

Startup Ignition:  “Financing Your Venture”
May 24 @ 7pm
SoJo Dojo
10235 S. Jordan Gateway
South Jordan, UT
https://startupignition.com/
RSVP: http://us10.campaign-archive2.com/?u=3ae72d2f23f6d65d3d2c4f18b&id=043c935003&e=15eb6e1e38

Advice From Local Experts

There are a lot of decisions you and your business partners will need to make at the outset. How will the company be funded? What roles should each of the founders play? Are we going to create a new original game, or focus on contract work for other companies? What are the major strengths of the team, and how do we best leverage them?

Unless you’ve done this before, it can be very helpful to have the advice of people who have. UDEN is a great resource for this. Here are a few UDEN members with experience founding companies in Utah that are willing to advise new startups:

Clark Stacey
clarkstacey at me.com  

Jeff Peters
TapStar Interactive, Inc. / iEntertainment Inc.
UDEN.org
Bluff Street
Email:  Robotron4@gmail.com
Email:  jeff@tapstargames.com
Skype:  jeff.b.peters

Jon Dean
j@guv1.com
www.guv1.com

Coping When You Are Let Go

It’s tough being let go, and you will feel a range of emotions. You will worry. You will feel sad. You will think that maybe you will never get a job again! This is all quite normal. But you will be OK. Be prepared, know what you will be going through, stay active and sooner than you know you're starting your next job. That might be a week, a month, six months, maybe more. So it is important to get a plan together really quickly.

Here is a blog post that talks about how to cope during the time between jobs. http://www.guv1.com/jonblogs/2015/12/9/being-let-go-part-ii-the-employees-perspective (scroll down to ‘Being Let Go’.)



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UDEN #10 - Meeting Recap - Prof. Roger Altizer

 UDEN's 10th membership meeting kicked off at the incredible surrounding of Utah's Natural History Museum.  

 

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UDEN #9 - Meeting Recap, YouTube Panel

I'm going to try and get around to adding a recap of all of our membership meetings over these past 12 months... but don't hold your breath (sorry!).  

Here is a recap of our last meeting - feel free to add any additional notes that you took away in the comments!

Its at my website as I haven'y yet figured out how to add a photo gallery here! http://www.guv1.com/jonblogs/2016/3/12/uden- 

Also remember that we have our own YT channel that has a bunch of the prior meetings on there - we'll get the last couple added as soon as we have some time to finish the edits!  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-XWK4K26AcqLclt458E9xw

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UDEN - 1 Year On

It's hard to believe that the foundations for today's UDEN were sown one year ago!  On January 15th 2015, Drew Clark held the first Utah Breakfast Club meeting at the State Capital at the crazy hour of 7am!  A distinguished panel was set to speak that included:

  • Virginia Pearce, Director, Utah Film Commission

  • Clark Stacey, CEO, Wildworks

  • Marshall N. Wright, Director, Business Development, Governor's Office of Economic Development

  • Craig Caldwell, USTAR Senior Research Professor, Digital Media Cluster; and Arts Director, Engineering Arts and Entertainment, University of Utah

  • Drew Clark, Moderator, Founder, Utah Breakfast Club; Of Counsel, Kirton McConkie

...as well as myself.  The theme for panel discussion was:

"Well-known as a high-tech haven, Utah also has a supporting role in independent film production, which is showcased each January at the Sundance Film Festival. Less well-publicized is the key role that Salt Lake City has played in computer graphics and digital animation, helping to build a digital entertainment nexus on the Wasatch Front. This panel discussion will assemble key leaders in film and video entertainment to explore questions about Utah’s accomplishments and its promise, about incentives for production, about cultivating talent and about the state’s branding. What do these important industries need to take the next step?"

Highlights from that meeting here: http://www.utahbreakfast.com/news/2015/1/16/the-video-of-the-utah-breakfast-club-on-hollywood-on-the-wasatch-front

The meeting was very well attended by those involved with digital media in the State of Utah (despite the freezing temps and early hour!) and a lively panel discussion ensued with some great and pointed questions being asked.  A few familiar themes emerged, which I'll paraphrase, including "Why isn't the State doing more to promote digital media?" and "There is no industry voice to represent the varied needs of this sector".  So I asked the room who would join an industry group, and what should it do?  Most of the participants were from the entertainment sectors of digital media, especially film and gaming.  Virginia posed the interesting idea of a group much like "Made in New York", a successful trade group representing the entertainment sectors of that State.  So I offered to start such a group here in Utah if everyone in the room would support it.

Made in Utah was born!  

First up was a Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/MIUMadeInUtah which was created that very same day (visit to see how we started!).

Then I formed a committee - many of the panel members became committee members and most of them still serve one year later.

We held our first meeting in March which was very well attended.  Soon afterwards the collective decided we needed a better name, not least because 'Made in Utah' is also used to promote other sectors in the State, not least cheese!  Hence we transitioned to become the Utah Digital Entertainment Network.

Full meeting video here: http://www.utahbreakfast.com/news/2015/1/19/video-of-the-premiere-utah-breakfast-club-event-hollywood-on-the-wasatch-front

Happy birthday UDEN - and thank you to everyone that has and who continue to support this fledgling effort at becoming a community, the voice called out for at that Breakfast Club meeting!

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DeadRiot - Top 5 Player's Choice Award

Kinda cool.  Our Utah indie game, DeadRiot placed 5th out of 2500 game submissions on SlideDB for AOTY.  Just some more geek street cred for the talent that resides in Utah.  Full article: http://www.slidedb.com/groups/2015-app-of-the-year-awards/features/players-choice-app-of-the-year-2015

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Being “Let Go” – Part III: The Manager’s Perspective

It is a fact of commerce in the 21st Century that if you are a manager, you are probably going to need to let some people go at some point.  It’s not pleasant and is the least enviable part of your job (hopefully!)  There are two ways this can come about – one, you fire them, or two you let them go because your company imposes some kind of reduction in force, layoff, downsizing, streamlining, skill realignment etc. (it gets justified in so many ways!)  However unpleasant, this is something that you, as a manager, need to be prepared to do.  The way you handle yourself at the time you tell someone it’s time to move on makes a big difference to them.  I’m not suggesting it will make you lifelong friends, but showing them courtesy and respect – and not making it about how bad you feel! – will go a long way.

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Being “Let Go” – Part II: The Employee’s Perspective

Being "fired" or being "let go" both end up in the same place -- you out of work.  In this blog, I look at this from the employee's perspective and offer thoughts on coping strategies now that you're "in the beach club"...

 

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Because I Love It

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to attend the Game Developer's Conference. I remember the cool weather walking across the street from Check-In to the main entrance to the Moscone Center. I walked insider and felt a rush of inexplicable wonder and belonging. I needed to be here. I belonged here.

The previous months up until that point were a little rough for me. I was dealing with a bitter loss and felt numb for months. I struggled to get up in the morning and get to work. I didn't feel like myself. I felt like I lost my sense of oneness with myself. The only time I ever felt like myself was when I was contributing to the video game project I was working on. Even then, my heart wasn't completely in it.

GDC changed that.

After GDC, I worked on my game because I loved doing it. It wasn't because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn't work. It was because game development is my calling. It was because this is a job I would do for free. My work improved and I felt like I learned more. Whatever anxiety I had about deadlines and milestones was put aside.

That's not to say they're not important. Deadlines and milestones are very important to my work. They are like goals for me to stretch myself in my talents. Deadlines are not a problem. The anxiety I will feel with them can be. A little anxiety and pressure is natural. When anxiety becomes a problem is when it takes away from the love of the work. If I don’t love making games I’m not doing my job right.

So how do we preserve our love for our work while being under pressure? I don’t know. That said, here are some ideas that have worked for me.

1. Attend conferences/meet-ups for fellow professionals.

GDC helped me a ton, right? So did going to the last UDEN meeting. It was like a mini GDC to pump me up for my current project at the time. Donald Mustard’s Q&A was inspiring but so was just being there. With UDEN, the Utah Games Guild, the Utah Unity User Group, and the Salt Lake City Chapter of IGDA we have a ton of opportunities to network and give ourselves the inspiration when feeling worn out. I could have justified staying at home thinking, “Oh, I need to work on my project.” I didn’t. I’m glad I decided to go to the meeting. Though it was a sacrifice of time it was well worth it.

2. Mentor an aspiring professional/Seek a mentor.

When my friend Glen was experiencing self-doubt I encouraged him. He’s been someone I’ve mentored by teaching him drawing techniques, help with coding, and offered general feedback. By so doing I would find the inspiration and passion I would sometimes forget I had. Not only did I re-ignite my fire but I also learned by teaching. My understanding of principles and skills increased by mentoring and teaching.

Glen also told me that he needed that encouragement from me to keep going. I’ve found that when I’ve reached out to a mentor and sought advice I would be able to refocus and regain purpose. Mentoring is a win-win for both parties. It helps both to grow, learn and create.

3. Read books and watch talks.

Right now I’m reading a book called “Masters of Doom.” It tells the story of John Romero and John Carmack, how they created ID Software and made an impact on the video game industry. The book has been really inspiring to me. I can read a chapter or two and feel excited to work. I feel the same way when I watch panels from the GDC vault, listen to podcasts, read Gamasutra blog posts and watch relevant YouTube videos like Extra Credits. (Or Every Frame a Painting for my filmmaker readers.) Doing this regularly has helped me be consistently passionate and positive.

4. Play Games (Watch Movies)

Crazy, right? We spend so much time making games we forget to play and enjoy them. Enjoying the work of a fellow professional can be just the inspiration you need to fall in love with your work all over again. I find this is especially helpful if I know the history or an analysis of whatever game I am playing. Playing Super Meat Boy after watching Indie Game: the Movie doubles the fuel to my I-love-making-video-games fire. Anyone familiar with Jane McGongial’s TED talks knows how helpful playing a game can be to our problem solving and mental health. Giving ourselves a needed break helps our work.

At the end of the day, I ask myself why I do what I do. I could easily make more money and find more jobs as a graphic designer. I could have chosen “safe” career paths in engineering or computer science. I’m certainly not in the game design industry for money. I do it because I need to--but not out of fear. I do it because I find purpose in it. Ultimately, I do it because I love it.

 

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