Sometimes it is easy to have initial success with a new venture, and the real question is how much staying power an entity will have. So when Jumpstart Davis launched back in November with a large audience, a key question was going to be how subsequent meetups would fare.
Wednesday night at Sophia’s proved that the event may have staying power, as Jumpstart Davis once again attracted a large and fairly diverse audience. The Vanguard talked with people from around the state – some of whom have relocated to Davis for various reasons, and are excited about the prospect of a revived startup culture in Davis.
There were a lot of young faces, as well, including a number of students from Da Vinci High School and some UC Davis students and recent graduates.
As one of the organizers – Michael Bisch – told the attendees, they are moving forward to become a non-profit and pushing forward with Pollinate Davis and their plans for a Co-working Space, which they unveiled at an open house last week at the Regency Square at 508 2nd Street, Ste 208. There will be four private offices, two common rooms, a conference room and a “wrap around balcony.”
“Part of growing a cultural community is not just growing a community, celebrating successes, learning from failures, mingling, networking, getting to know each other,” Michael Bisch said. “Part of it is a physical space for creativity to take place. One of the initiatives that Jumpstart Davis has undertaken, apart from a monthly mixer, is to create a physical space… for startups either before they move to DavisRoots or after they come out of DavisRoots… It’s designed to be a transition space.”
Michael Bisch cited a statistic: “Of the 74,334 residents living in the Davis CCD [census county division] as of the 2010 census, 4.7% or 3,494 people work from home, with another 625 people working from Mishka’s.”
He said he imagines a good percentage of those people “are doing something creative, they don’t want to be so isolated, and they want to be connected to other people.” He added, “We’re imaging that somewhere between those 3500 people and those 625 people, there’s going to be enough people to populate this co-working space.”
This is a not a free thing. “Here’s some pricing, it’s signifying that there’s some kind of economic activity that’s intended here,” Mr. Bisch said. The offices range from $500 for the 102-square-foot office up to $650 per month for the 186-square-foot office. They also offer a day pass at $15 a day. There is also a 10-month package for $85 per month, a full-time shared table for $125 per month, a private desk for $185 per month, and a student rate at $75 per month.
They are intending to launch this space in early February. Mr. Bisch is hoping to get grant funding. In addition to the physical space, they are hoping to have programming and classes, as well as presentations.
Earlier in the evening, Ethan Garrett of ROOTD and Robert Webb of NextGen Pants gave presentations. The Vanguard ran individual articles on Mr. Garrett and Mr. Webb in the past week. Matt Miller was unable to come on Wednesday due to a family emergency. Michael Bisch did the presentation (above) in his stead. (Click here for the articles on Pollinate Davis, ROOTD, and NextGen Pants).
Ethan Garrett told the audience that he came to Davis to play football on the UC Davis football team. He studied environmental policy because “I didn’t know what I wanted to do in real life.”
And that is the problem he found overall, as a student, that “there is no real understanding of what the real world is like.”
He said that while a lot of students use LinkedIn, most do not have on their networks alumni from their sport or their university, and they don’t use the networks to get jobs and internships. Most of them just have LinkedIn rather than use it to develop their professional career. “That’s what a lot of people have, they just have the network and that’s the name of the game – build a big network.”
“What have I learned about starting a company in Davis, California, especially a tech company?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s f— hard.”
“Sacramento and Davis, we talk,” he said. But he said, “I don’t know what direction we’re going. I don’t know what’s going on.” He added, “There needs to be cohesion.”
He said that kids are getting offers from big companies in the Bay Area. But they’re “looking for security. Not monetary security, but they’re looking for the name. The Bay Area, they hold all the names.”
“We need to talk more about the failures here because I don’t know about any failures, at all,” Mr. Garrett told the audience. “I want to learn about the failures.” He said he wants to be able to read about “all of the people that have failed, all the of the mistakes that have been made, that’s what I want to see. I want people to talk about it like it’s crazy.”
Robert Webb talked about his company, NextGen Pants.
Mr. Webb more fully explained the name, NextGen Pants, and posted the actual conversation between publisher and game developer, discussing character design.
Publisher: “Hey, has anyone noticed his back pockets are kinda big?” Dev Team: “No, they look fine to us.” Publisher: “They’re too big. It doesn’t look right. It’s too big. Big back pockets are last gen, can you make them smaller? How hard is that? We need next gen pants.”
“That phrase ‘next gen pants’ is just so ridiculous, it sort of encapsulates why I wanted to found a studio,” he explained. “I didn’t want it to be this company that had everything driven by publishers and people who probably shouldn’t be making games, making the decisions on them.”
“(This) is why it’s kind of the tongue-in-cheek name for this independent studio,” he added.
Tetropolis, he explained, is an action puzzle platform. It’s Tetroidvania, he said, which is the ridiculous idea of meshing up two genres that are not even remotely similar. “So we combined these two games (Tetris and Nitroid),” he said.
As he explained in our interview it is a weird combination of falling blocks in a platformer. “It’s such a weird combination, we ended up coming up with the term, Tetroidvania.” He said, while fun, he ultimately decided, “I have to figure out what this game would actually be, because it’s bugging me.” Ultimately, he decided the key to the game was rearranging the world through creating rooms with connected pathways.
“That was when we decided, we need to make this game,” he said. “It’s gotta happen. It’s too good of an idea to pass up.”
Tetropolis is between 30 and 50 percent through the development stage. They have reached out to Sony and Nintendo and need to figure out what platforms to put it out on.
It will be interesting to see how Jumpstart Davis and Pollinate Davis start to evolve. But for right now there is a real buzz in Davis about startups, and the question is whether the money and resources can come through to push things to the next level.
—David M. Greenwald reporting