A boot camp aimed at giving gaming students the skills they need to bring a game to market has been so successful that seven of the course participants are now working fulltime for their own start-up gaming company – Fiero Interactive.
“During boot camp, we were split into teams to develop prototype games that would address specific business needs,” explains William Falloon, Fiero’s CEO and Co-Founder. “By the end of the camp, we had a couple of games with some real commercial potential, plus a group of like-minded individuals who were keen to get those games to market, and use what we had just learnt to create our own start-up venture.”
William says that one of the ideas they are developing is a social word game which could be used as a marketing or brand awareness tool, while the other game is aimed at helping people to quit smoking. “By focusing on products that have truly global appeal, we hope to one day be recognised and respected as a major games studio in the world market,” he says.
Starting a new business has been a steep learning curve for William and the rest of the Fiero team but he says the skills they learnt at boot camp have proven invaluable. “Knowing how to put together a business plan and then pitch it to investors was vital when we were looking for investment,” he says. Fiero pitched their concept to Viclink (the University’s commercialisation office) who were sufficiently impressed with the commercial potential of the company to invest.
“Viclink has been very involved and supportive throughout the process, so we’re pretty happy to have them as one of our investors,” William says. “In addition to providing the seed funding, they’ve helped us with intellectual property issues and even lent us their accountant to give us advice on our accounting system! They also used their contacts to find a Director for our Board, and offered us consultancy work with another Viclink startup to ensure we had something to live on during the early days of getting our business off the ground.”
William, who studied marketing at Victoria, says that unlike some of his colleagues who came to university to make games, he had not previously considered gaming as a career path. “But when I saw the boot camp opportunity, I jumped at it and I’m so glad I did!”
The 14-week "Digital Futures" boot camp has been run as a joint initiative between Viclink, the School of Design, and Creative HQ (Wellington's business incubator) for the past three years, and involves students from the Schools of Design, Engineering and Marketing. The success of this multidisciplinary summer programme has led to the launch of a second boot camp ("Product Futures") which has been designed specifically for Industrial Design and Engineering students.