Site Selection January 2012 : Page 38
pitch their own projects, whether they be ideas, applications, software or hardware. “If we are equally turned on by the idea, the students can take on a student-pitched project,” Marinelli says. “We have a very liberal intellectual prop-erty arrangement with students. The students own the intellectual property they develop for any course for which they pay tuition and get academic credit. Most programs require students to sign away intellectual property with the uni-versity. This gives students a signiﬁ cant incentive to do something with it.” The ETC has nurtured 10 spinouts, helping to create a cluster of interactive digital media in the Pittsburgh region. The largest company is Schell Games , founded in 2004 by Jesse Schell, one of the ETC’s faculty members. “Pittsburgh is really well positioned to become a signiﬁ cant center because it has this incredible talent available be-cause of the quality of its universities,” says Schell, the company’s CEO and creative director. Schell Games, which employs 65, has grown steadily through the years. It focuses on a variety of en-tertainment and educational games. “Carnegie Mellon has had a great reputation for a long time. It’s the greatest computer science school in the country, if not the world,” he says. “What Pittsburgh does not have is the reputation as a center for great entrepre-neurial success. People don’t talk about Pittsburgh in the way they do about San Francisco or Boston or Seattle.” One of the biggest needs for the Pittsburgh cluster is access to venture capital. Schell says about half of the startups in the region get their money from other cities. But he says it will take one good “hit” by a startup to get the money ﬂ owing. “There is venture capital here, but it tends to be hesitant about digital media,” Schell says. “If one person has a hit, that’s what VCs are all about.” Other ETC spinouts include Evil Ge-nius Design , which specializes in the implementation of mobile gaming tech-nology for location-based venues, home entertainment, and Web-based games; Etcetera Entertainment , which specializes in designing simulations for corporations; and Electric Owl Studio , which has developed a kiosk device used as an entertainment medium for children in hospital waiting rooms. “We are ﬁ nding that more and more students are happy to stay in Pittsburgh because of the cost of living and quality of life,” Marinelli says. Games on the Wasatch Front Steven Roy, director of the Utah Science, Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR), says Utah offers a high-quality ecosystem with a mix of university programs and legacy compa-nies, especially in graphics, simulation and animation. He says the region’s universities — University of Utah, Utah State University and Brigham Young University — provide a nice pipeline of talent. “We are realistic in that we don’t think we can bring the headquarters of companies here, but we can certainly bring outposts,” Roy says. “Part of what we look at is that Utah will become this ‘must connect to’ area. We can show you how, incubate, offer the talent and the ecosystem. Come and do it here or come connect to us. That is the approach we are taking as we build for the future. We 38 JANUARY 2012 SITE SELECTION Write in #106 for free info.