Orlando Tech
image Fortune Magazine Names Orlando a Top Game Development Community

Fortune Magazine recently named Orlando a top game development hub and Florida the #6 top game development state in the country, annually contributing $171 million plus to the economy and employing more than 4,500 developers. O-town caters to both big and small from top studios like Zynga and EA Tiburon to indie studios like Phyken Media and Outhouse Games, and events like Indienomicon and the Indie Galactic Space Jam have led to more than 60 games created by 45 studios and teams.

We asked some local indie shops what makes Orlando such a great game dev community, here’s what they had to say:

“I’ve lived in Miami and traveled all over, and I haven’t seen resources like we have here when you look at the Melrose Center and the Full Sail User Experience Lab, where developers do extensive user testing, it’s amazing. Plus, and I’m sure this will get said over and over, is the gaming community is amazing, so supportive, when new studios come into town, developers will introduce them to other studios, artists, musicians, plug them into the community, get them engaged quick. People here are eager to help each other, not to sacrifice their own progress, but to help others get ahead.”

Kunal Patel, Indienomicon Co-Founder and CEO of game development studio Phyken Media

“What makes Orlando truly a great place for games is the community. There are plenty of passionate gamers and devs as well talent from nearby universities that are all helping shape Orlando into a hub of game development especially for aspiring indie studios and startups.”

- Cameron Bollinger and Erica Holcomb, Founders of TBA Games

“The game development community in Orlando is a unique combination of indie developers ranging from one-man bands to x-men like individuals coming together to create magic on multiple platforms.  The creativity in this community is more wide ranging due to the breath of experiences from simulations to entertainment games and even just software development.  We are a collaborative and competitive community; not only do we strive to develop games with high immersion but we challenge each other to create better quality games.  I’m proud to say in some shape or form that the majority of us have worked together in some capacity.”

- Gerard Merritt, CEO of CelleC Games, Inc

“One thing I think makes game developers in Orlando unique is the influence the theme parks have had on us. For many of us, we’ve grown up with the rides at places like Disney and Universal. They have undoubtedly influenced the types of games that we make, giving us a real world perspective of what experience design can be.”

- Justin Link, Founder of Chronosapien Interactive

“I have never worked in a community that has been so open to helping one another to succeed as a business and as an individual. I have worked cross coast and never in my professional experience have I felt as strong sense of community as I do here in Orlando. To make it even better the talent pool here ranges from Ex-Disney employee’s to fresh graduates from various game design schools who are eager and intelligent enough to train for AAA work quickly and efficiently! Coming from Major game studio environments and moving to Orlando to start my business was one of the best choices I felt I ever made! If you want to develop an original game and have the right people supporting you as a community and as an individual Orlando is the city for you.”

- Remi Crespo, Co-Founder of Heroic Stand

“As for why my team and I chose Orlando for game development, besides the beautiful weather all year round, is that the people who make up this community are the most friendly, talented, diverse, and helpful. They are a great example of the kind of people who make up this city beautiful. With all of the local colleges including UCF and Full Sail offering game development degree programs the local talent pool continues to grow as we have seen at recent game jams. There are also a lot of amazing musicians and artists coming from these same schools bringing their unique concepts and ideas to game development. I think the only thing Orlando needs to put itself on the map for indie games is a chance.”

- Chris Borden, CEO of Outhouse Games


“It’s been an incredible experience to watch, and be a part of, the games industry here in Orlando. In just the past few years there’s been a transformation – with studios and individuals stepping up and announcing their presence, projects, and support within our community. This entrepreneurial passion is being fueled by our spirit of collaboration, which is bringing together a cross section of people with talents ranging from development, web, design, business, music, art, animation, and every facet in between. With resources like the Melrose Center, local universities, co-working spaces, meetups and events, our city is actively investing in, and pushing this industry forward. It’s amazing to see.”

- Christa Rensel, Co-Host of Indienomicon, Founder & Creative of Kaleidoscope Media

Click here to learn more about Indienomicon at attend their next meetup.


image Local Founder Dan McGaw Chosen as U.S. Entrepreneurship Ambassador

Orlando digital marketing expert Dan McGaw, founder of Fuelzee and AmazingCorps and co-founder of StarterStudio, was recently chosen by the U.S. Consulate in Mexico as as Ambassador for Entrepreneurship at ExpoTech 2015, a technology and entrepreneurship conference in Tijuana, Mexico. Along with the keynote address, McGaw gave six presentations on marketing and entrepreneurship as well as consulting work for the Tijuana Economic Development Commission.

We caught up with McGaw to learn about the Tijuana startup scene and if he got to use his favorite word during the presentations.

OTA: First question, how did this even happen?
McGaw: I’ve been speaking with Mindhub marketer David Peguero [Mindhub is a coworking space in Tijuana’s financial district] on Twitter for a while now about a site I’m creating called Monetyze.me, and during our conversations he talked about entrepreneurship is exploding in Tijuana and told me about some upcoming events he’d love me to be at. David introduced me to the U.S. Consulate, they liked my background and invited me to come down as an ambassador for entrepreneurship.

Wow, what was your reaction?
Honestly I really didn’t think it was true, I was blow away. Now that I went, I have been extremely humbled by my experience and look forward to coming back in the future.

This is your first time presenting to an international audience, how was the audience different than groups you’ve presented to in the states?
I would have to say how incredibly engaged the university students were, I was blown away. They had really great questions throughout, they laughed at every joke, and I’ve never had so many people ask for my business card afterward, they were like, “We’re so f***’ing excited you’re here.” It was awesome.

What differences did you see between the Tijuana startup culture and here in Orlando?
The biggest was lack of exposure, some of the companies they’re creating there were ones we created here 10 years ago. But the design talent, the development talent, it’s the same. At MindHub, they have big clients like Fandango, and hanging out with their team was like being at Envy Labs except everybody spoke Spanish. The professionals I met are very talented, and I’ve already hired one to help Effin Amazing with marketing.

Two of your presentations were about how entrepreneurship was all about failing and getting over failure. How was that concept received in Mexico where culturally failure may not be perceived the same as the United States?
It was definitely interesting, something that people didn’t really understand at first. In Mexico, they have such a micro entrepreneurial culture, so many people own a tiny restaurant or chicken coop or grocery stand, and that supports their family. So there’s nothing really scalable, if you fail at one of those businesses, it could be devastating. So it was kind of eye opening to hear examples about how failure is okay, failing fast, so you can learn and make something successful, it’s a method. I got a ton of emails of people telling me about ideas they’ve had for years but were too afraid to start and how they’re not afraid to fail at it now, it was amazing.

Your digital marketing firm is called Effin Amazing and your love of explicatives is well known. Did you did you learn any Spanish curse words for your presentation?
Fortunately I already knew a few words, and they taught me some Spanish curse words which I’ve already forgotten, but the funny thing was I had a female and sign language translator, which were both new for me, so I was cautious of what I said. And apparently the Spanish word for Janky is the same as the American word.

Awesome, congrats and thanks for your time.

image Knetik Media Acquires Data Analytics Platform SPLYT

SPLYT, a rapid data analytics and testing platform, announced today it has been acquired by Longwood-based transmedia management platform Knetik Media, one of Splyt’s earliest customers.

While terms weren’t discussed, the acquisition builds upon Knetik’s optimization, analytics and support services, enabling several new platform features to include A/B testing, automated context, more advanced targeting features, push notifications and in-app messaging, and an improved dashboard. SPLYT investor Intersouth Partners of Raleigh-Durham, N.C. has also committed additional capital resources to the acquisition.

SPLYT founder Phillip Holt, a renowned community leader having helped establish Orlando as a thriving tech community and founded Canvs, the influential, downtown coworking space that houses the Orlando Tech Association and Orlando startup accelerator StarterStudio, could not yet be reached for comment.

“I am very appreciative of Phil’s leadership and him paving the way for all other startups and entrepreneurs in the region,” said Carlos Carbonell, CEO of Echo Interaction Group and president of the Orlando Tech Association. “In his new role at Highwinds, Phil will most likely continue to inspire and more importantly, connect the startup community to the established tech industry in Orlando.”

In a personal letter posted on LinkedIn, Holt went into detail about the acquisition as well as his team’s journey from EA Tiburon developers to startup founders: 

We set out to change the way games are made and delivered to consumers. We believe that consumers deserve highly personalized experiences where the software recognizes their interests and capabilities and adapts to individuals in diverse audiences. We conceived, developed and launched Woodland Heroes on Facebook, Letter by Letter on iOS, Android, and Kindle, and we partnered with Perfect World to launch and operate Knights of the Rose on Facebook. We also developed an analytics and personalization platform called SPLYT. We achieved critical acclaim with our games and had a very loyal audience playing Letter by Letter every day. And our highly innovative analytics platform, SPLYT, provided insight into user behavior and optimization tools for many mobile games and consumer websites.

Holt also went on to thank family, friends, investors, customers and supporters:

I am incredibly proud of what we have learned and accomplished. And I feel overwhelming gratitude.

I am grateful for our investors — Intersouth Partners, venVelo, and a few friends — for backing us, providing sage counsel, and being decent humans.

I am grateful for my fellow employees for believing in our shared vision and for their commitment through all the ups and downs of startup life.

I am grateful for our families who have shared the risk, the sacrifices, and the long hours alongside us.

I am grateful for our customers who voted with their wallets.

I am grateful for our fellow entrepreneurs who are grinding it out alongside us in downtown Orlando.

I am grateful for all those who believed in us, supported us, taught us, and helped us.

To read the rest of Phillip Holt’s letter on LinkedIn, click here

image Orlando Tech Community Reflects on UCF Downtown Campus Development

This article was reported by Marissa Montgomery with Apex Systems

UCF board members announced on February 19 that they are adding funding for a new UCF downtown campus to the list it sends to the state legislature for funding approval. The proposed campus would house programs on interactive entertainment, digital media, art and film as well as other programs and help jump start the Creative Village downtown.

We asked local tech leaders their thoughts on the development:

“[The downtown campus is] the kickstart we needed to help realize Orlando’s Creative Village as the future world capital for Digital Media & Video Games. I don’t think there will be any other place on Earth where infrastructure and talent can be as concentrated with big and small teams alike” – Kunal Patel, President Phyken Media & Co-Founder of Indienomicon

“If you’ve been to big cities you’ve seen first hand what colleges can do to shape a downtown.  From Columbia in New York to Georgetown in DC to UF in Gainsville, colleges can play a big role in an urban center.  I’m a huge fan of bringing students from the east side of our city to downtown.” – Gregg Pollack, Envy Labs, Starter Studio Code School, Orlando Tech

“I am such a fan of the way UCF has been embraced by the Orlando community. Growing up here, I still remember when they had a campaign asking people to root for the home team (meaning not UF or FSU) and it seems like it is finally happening. The Downtown Campus is just one more way that shows Orlando supports UCF.” – Bess Auer, Florida Blog Con

“UCF Downtown is a community-wide effort, and support for this project has been outstanding, especially from growing tech companies in the immediate downtown area. We’re excited about the opportunities for our students and faculty to partner and further collaborate with Orlando’s creative and high-tech industry.” – Christine Dellert, Senior Director of Communications at UCF

Orlando Tech Community: What are your thoughts? Contribute to the conversation and comment below.  

image Slingshot FastPitch Gives Companies 3 Minutes to Win $15k

This article was reported on by Amy Dinsmore, marketing specialist @ PowerDMS

On Thursday 10 local startups will have 3 minutes to pitch their companies to a room of more than 100 business executives, CEOs, investors and tech entrepreneurs to win a share of $15,000 in prize money. The event, called Slingshot Fastpitch, is sponsored by the Orlando Chapter of the Young President’s Organization (YPO) in partnership with StarterStudio and Canvs.

“We’d been thinking of running quarterly fastpitch events for a while, something fun and high energy. So when the YPO folks approached us about getting more involved in the community it was a great collaboration opportunity,” said Kirstie Chadwick, StarterStudio’s Executive Director. “They were able to add the prize element as well as an extremely influential audience of angel investors and business leaders, so it was perfect timing.”

The YPO is an international nonprofit connecting more than 22,000 CEOs and business leaders in 125 countries with a mission of creating better leaders through education and idea exchange. The Orlando chapter has 59 members, and, collectively,  YPO members’ companies have a medium annual revenue of $45 million and more than $5.4 trillion combined.

YPO Orlando Chapter Treasurer Alex Santos felt the Slingshot Fastpitch format was an ideal way to connect YPO members to Orlando Tech’s growing community.

“My company DigitialRisk, a home mortgage tech firm with 2000 plus employees, was acquired in 2014, and I was looking for my next venture,” said Santos. “My thinking was Boston, DC, Chicago were the places to be. Then I discovered how vibrant the Orlando tech scene was, and I thought if I didn’t know about the exploding local scene, there’s a good chance other YPO members don’t either, so we partnered on this event to get YPO more involved in the community.”

Each startup has 3 minutes and two slides to pitch their company, followed by 5 minutes of Q&A by attending YPO members. At the end of the night the YPO audience members in the audience will choose a winner using a smartphone voting app.

More than 50 companies applied to pitch, and these were the 10 finalists:

  • AssistRx is a web-based application that streamlines the processes related to prescribing, distributing, and administering specialty medications
  • AZZLY is a web-based application that integrates multiple healthcare software solutions into one—everything from check-in to check-out, including billing, claims and collections
  • CareSpotter guides families through the unfamiliar caregiver hiring and management process by connecting them with experienced, vetted caregivers, while offering the protections and benefits of an agency
  • EASE (Electronic Access to Surgical Events) is a free medical messaging app that updates the status of patients undergoing procedures via texts, photos and videos
  • Edu(k)ate uses gamification tools to connect retirement plan participants with online personal financial education, while collecting useful data for employers
  • Fattmerchant is a subscription-based credit card processing company that offers the hardware and processing charges at cost to businesses and charges a flat monthly fee with no contract
  • HybdridaSol is utilizing a proprietary printing process to create large, thin, flexible and inexpensive thermoelectric devices that can generate electricity from heat or heat from electricity
  • ICLOAK is a portable anonymity tool that enables users to browse anonymously and securely from any machine, anywhere
  • Rapido is a platform for vetted home service providers (HVAC, plumbers, electricians, etc.) to post available times they are open for home service calls
  • SightPlan a software solution providing a modern approach to resident and service management for the multifamily real estate industry

The YPO Slingshot Fastpitch Competition will be at Canvs on Thursday the 26th from 4 to 8 p.m. To learn more about the event and register to attend, click here.

image Feb Tech Meetup Features First Ever Oculus Startup Demo

This article was reported by Diane Court

An “unseasonable” 65 degree night didn’t keep 200 or so members of Orlando’s Tech Community from the February Tech Meetup, which featured two firsts: Its first Oculus demo, Talon Simulations, and first international company demo, Mine from San Pedro, Brazil.

“[Mine founder] Bruno Galinari called me up and said he was traveling to Orlando if it’d be okay to present, and I said yup,” said Orrett Davis, OTA Executive Director.

Talon’s flight simulator prototype was developed last year by Brandon Naids and his team as a UCF senior design project. In January, Talon was selected for I-Corps Program’s inaugural class, and on Friday, following the Tech Meetup, the team won the UCF Center for Entrepreneurship’s Business Model Competition and its $1000 prize.

This month’s demo cohort represented a broad cross-section of Central Florida’s technology entrepreneurship:

Direct Audio – Innovative audio streaming app that allows sports bar patrons to connect their mobile device to any TV channel, effectively turning their smartphone into a wireless speaker to more easily hear live action in a loud bar.

Mine - Brazilian social network based on sharing information about events, entertainment, and where to eat in a user’s location.
Online Computer Stuff – Web app that enables users to share information in a mobile-optimized format with only basic computer skills. Currently a white-label product, uses include directories, schedules, and menus.

Talent4Startups – The non-profit social enterprise is a free platform connecting startups with talent. Professionals seeking work experience post profiles to connect with startups, and founders can more easily find interested talent to help with their startups. “We help to overcome what we call the Level Zero problem,” says founder Rajiv Menon.

Talon Simulations – Low cost, immersive Flight Training Devices (FTDs) for multimodal education in flight schools who are looking to supplement in-flight training and seek an alternative to bulky and expensive simulators. Through the implementation for their FTDs, Talon aims to help lower the national average of in-flight hours required to obtain a Private Pilot Certificate thus allowing students to save time and money.

If you missed last night’s event or want to review it, check out the video by Joicaster

image Founder Friday with Phil Loeffel, Riptide Software CEO & Founder

Additional reporting by Marissa Montgomery, Apex Systems

Before Riptide Software founder Phil Loeffel would go on to build the nearly $30 million custom software firm that twice topped the Deloitte & Touché list of North America’s Fastest Growing Technology Companies, he hacked tape – eight-track tape.

“Remember how old games came on 8-track and made those scratching sounds? Well those were 1’s and 0’s,” said Loeffell. “And if you rewound the tape to particular positions, you could replay certain portions of the game until you mastered the level. I guess at seven I was more interested in hacking games than actually beating the game.”

Loeffel ended up majoring in 1’s and 0’s at the Florida Institute of Technology (one of only three schools offering a computer engineering major in 1990) where he was recruited as a sophomore by the Harris Corporation to build custom government software in Fortran. Two years later, he was leading teams of developers twice his age.

He’d eventually start consulting on the side for “small” companies like Siemens, Westinghouse and Computer Associates, and leave his job at Harris in 1995 to start Riptide. One of their first projects was pitching the U.S. Army’s Simulation, Training & Instrumentation Command (PEO STRI) to upgrade a control system in a then new language called Java. The original system took more than 5 years to build and cost $50 million, but Loeffel proposed to build a better system using more up to date technology in 12 months and for millions less.

“They must have thought we were crazy but we finished the project three months early and saved the government millions,” said Loeffel. “Looking back, I realize we probably left a few million on the table.”

Today the employee-owned, Oviedo based firm houses 125 plus engineers and develops custom solutions for the U.S. Military and companies like Marriot Vacations Worldwide, Infor and L3 Mobile Vision. Here are three lessons Loeffel learned along the way:

1. Be obsessed with your customers’ success
“Riptide has maintained a 15-year relationship with Computer Associates through two acquisitions and to me, the key is listening and really understanding what the customer needs,, sometimes beyond what they say. The tenant of great custom work is helping the client understand their own requirements, building exactly what they need, which is not necessarily what they initially say they want.”

2. Combine traits that are difficult to imagine together
“We look for staff who have combinations, developers who can communicate, designers who can lead. Then we develop that, taking engineers large scale client meetings to observe and then having them lead small project client meetings. Anyone can be a great software engineer or a great salesman or a great leader, but combine two of those things and that’s something special and rare.”

3. To understand tomorrow be perceptive today
“In the early 90’s Java was in its true infancy, and we recognized very early a detail few people recognized, Java’s innate ability to solve memory management issues other programming languages didn’t. We knew then that Java was the future, which helped land our first big government contract since we could develop faster than our competitors and projects were more sustainable. That tiny realization was the key to Riptide becoming such an influential firm in our industry.”

Phil Loeffel will be giving a Founder’s Talk for Starter Studio Monday, February 23rd @ Canvs from 7- 8 p.m. For more info or to attend, click here: http://www.meetup.com/Starter-Studio/events/220385684/


image 5 things I learned at FORUM 2015 by Bess Auer, event organizer

1. “Use an ebook as your new business card.” – Lou Mongello, WDW Radio Podcast
Lou has over one million downloads a month of his WDWRadio.com podcast and is an expert at creating content and using it wisely. He says writing an ebook not only shows as the expert of your field but can also increase people using your services.

2. “You aren’t charging enough unless people say no.” – Jeanette Scott, J’s Everyday Fashion
As the keynote, Jeanette talked about how she made over half a million dollars during the past two years and learning to value her time and worth was instrumental in this. However, she shared she blogged for almost two years before she made any money at all, and as Jeanette discovered in the process, it’s not always about the numbers but rather the type of content you create

3. “Beware Vertical Video Syndrome” – Jeff Sharon, Full Sail University
Okay, so I already knew this one about Vertical Video Syndrome (VVS),  but it is totally worth saying again and again and again: Hold your iPhone horizontally so your video takes up the full screen! (And put the thumb/home button on the right side or some program will import your video upside down!)  Click here to see a PSA on VVS here.

4. “Writing is still the most important aspect of content creation.” – Adam Avitable, Avitable.com
Each word, each punctuation mark, each intention must be clear. Our thoughts may create a miscommunication so edit, edit, and edit again until nothing can be misread. Nobody understands this better than Adam, who is a published novelist and stand up comedian.

5. “The three most important analytics are acquisition, behavior, and outcome. You must measure these.” – Tom Jelneck, On Target Digital Marketing
A blogger’s income depends on analytics but Tom stressed that we were perhpas analyzing the wrong stats. Click here to see his slide deck.

Photo credit by Josh Murdock

image The FORUM Honors Top 10 Florida Blogs of 2015

Close to 100 of the top bloggers and social media pros in the country (but from Florida) gathered in Maitland this past weekend for the 2nd Annual Blogger’s FORUM to network, attend workshops and hear keynote speaker Jeanette Scott of J’s Everyday Fashion talk about how she’s made a half million in revenue in two years blogging about clothes.

“We limit attendance to 100 to create a more intimate feeling. It’s a unique conference” said FORUM founder Bess Auer of GottaGetBlogging.“Not going to lie, it’s exhausting, no doubt, because the attendees are all top bloggers, so they’re the best of the best. But the best feeling is reading the tweets afterward and how were were really able to create compelling content for these top bloggers. That’s so rewarding.”

The FORUM, produced by local startup GottaGetBlogging, was created as a special event catering to more established professional bloggers. Along with niche brainstorming sessions for specific blog genres like travel, fashion or technology, the FORUM also featured workshops on podcasting, video editing, photography, analytics and effective writing and the Sunshine Blog Awards, a blogger voted awards ceremony, spotlighting the top 10 blogs in Florida.

Thousands of Florida blogs were considered before narrowing to 27 nominations, and more than 8000 people cast votes online to select the 10 winners.

“We have some of the biggest bloggers in the world like Lou Mongello whose podcast WDW Radio has one million downloads a month,” said Auer. “So like the saying goes it truly is an honor just to be nominated.”

The top 10 blogs honored in this year’s Sunshine Blog Awards were:

Attendees live-tweeted the event creating over 2.5 million impressions on Twitter in three hours. For a twitter recap, search hashtag #FORUM15.

Photo credit by Josh Murdock

image Orlando Tech Week 2.0 Looks to Triple Community Events

In 2014, the inaugural Orlando Tech Week attracted more than 2200 attendees over the course of six days and eight signature events. This year the Orlando Tech Association looks to triple events by empowering the community to organize their own tech related events as part of the Tech Takeover of the City of Orlando.