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UCDA Digital Summit Recap

UDEN was a sponsor of the UCDA Digital Summit held at the superb Park City Film Studios; this is my recap of what happened there which I want to share with the wider community.  Overall I came away re-energized about the potential of this sector and truly impressed by the quality and talent of the people we have here in the state.

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Loans for Startups

Traditional banks want to be a part of your business’ growth strategy but a small part. They tend to be conservative in their lending practices.  It’s standard, for example, for banks to offer traditional commercial loans only to companies that have been in business for at least two years. Preferred SBA lenders, however, may assist startups at various stages.

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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:

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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:


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.


  • 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

  • - 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.   


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:

and this guide:

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

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

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


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

Local Seminars

Startup Ignition:  “Financing Your Venture”
May 24 @ 7pm
SoJo Dojo
10235 S. Jordan Gateway
South Jordan, UT

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  

Jeff Peters
TapStar Interactive, Inc. / iEntertainment Inc.
Bluff Street
Email:  [email protected]
Email:  [email protected]
Skype:  jeff.b.peters

Jon Dean
[email protected]

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. (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! 

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!

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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 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:

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 - 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:

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:

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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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