Networking and Creating Bonds to Build 3D Scenes Smartly
|After six intensive weeks in Pittsburgh and one week in Silicon Valley, where Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has its campuses, the Sceelix team brought back to Portugal several enriching experiences: more than 50 contacts in the gaming, urban planning and simulation industries, two workshops with master students in gaming and human computer-interaction, pitches at companies like UBER and Ford Research and Innovation, among others. Francisco Rebello de Andrade and Pedro Brandão da Silva, co-founders of Sceelix, believe the participation on inRes, of the CMU Portugal Program, “added value both at a personal and venture levels.”|
The team says that inRes gave them “the ticket to go in this adventure, to experience this and to learn with these people and also to have the opportunity to know a different lifestyle, a different culture”.
“This is a great opportunity that was given to us. (…) inRes gave us the ticket to go in this adventure, to experience this and to learn with these people and also to have the opportunity to know a different lifestyle, a different culture (…).” Francisco Rebello de Andrade, Sceelix General Manager
Sceelix is an innovative software that allows the creation of complete and unique 3D scenes, with terrains, vegetation, cities and other elements, in an efficient and manageable way. This software was created by Pedro Silva during his PhD, and the goal is to make it available in the market. Pedro Silva explains, “Through a powerful procedural engine and an intuitive visual node-based editor, all and any kind of scene elements, from 3D models and textures to game physics and behaviors, can be automatically generated using visual creation rules.”
The idea of applying to inRes came across when Pedro and Francisco were thinking about how it would be possible to validate the business model and the technology, to make the software accessible to the market. “We saw the information online, and we thought that this program matched our goals: CMU expertise on Human Computer Interaction and Entertainment Technology and the US market,” explained Francisco. “inRes gave us the opportunity to meet with people with whom we would have difficult to interact otherwise,” explained Pedro Brandão. “We applied and fortunately we were selected,” said Francisco.
Both entrepreneurs see the path through inRes as a journey that has provided them outstanding experiences. “Now we’re having the experience in the world of entrepreneurship which is completely different in the way it works comparing with the academia. So it’s interesting to see and learn how it’s done,” the team explains. Since their return to Portugal, they launched a campaign on Steam that they feel that it is the best way to make awareness about Sceelix and to make a beta version available to developers and to all the people who want to develop their own game.
“Now we’re having the experience in the world of entrepreneurship which is completely different in the way it works comparing with the academia. So it’s interesting to see and learn how it’s done.” Pedro Brandão da Silva, Sceelix Development Manager
Pittsburgh, Silicon Valley and the brand CMU
“It was not just going to Pittsburgh or Silicon Valley, it was going to the United States with the CMU brand,” says Pedro Silva. Another key-issue of the immersion was the cultural openness to listen to what the entrepreneurs had to say.
While in Pittsburgh, Sceelix headquarters were at Project Olympus. Kit Needham, associate director of Project Olympus, hosted the team and provided some guidance during the time they spent in there. “We made more than 50 contacts in the gaming, urban planning and simulation industries, as well as in gaming and user experience academia,” tells Francisco Andrade.
Pedro and Francisco met with a variety of people: the biggest producer of games in Pennsylvania, named Schell Games, and with the game accelerator from Silicon Valley which has important contacts and involvement with Silicon Valley’s indie game community. “We were able to open doors, that otherwise it would be very difficult to open,” emphasizes Pedro Silva. “It was amazing to see people that are actually game developers/designers trying out our tool and providing positive and valuable feedback”, says Francisco Andrade.
“We also met with Charles Palmer from the Harrisburg University, who was in charge of the ‘Let´s play PA’, which is a gaming event that takes place in Pennsylvania, one of the top 10 of the US,” recalls Francisco Andrade. Sceelix team also had office hours with Kevin Hale, one of the members of Y Combinator, an accelerator that invests in startups. Pedro and Francisco also collected valuable feedback from Laura Ballay and Jessica Hammer, both from HCII.
During all inRes experience, Sceelix was mentored by Dave Mawhinney, from CIE, who provided some guidance, and helped the team to schedule some meetings and to get in contact with key-persons. “As Dave Mawhinney says, it is still who you know that is more important than what you know,” the team explains.
“As Dave Mawhinney says, it is still who you know that is more important than what you know.” Sceelix team
Entrepreneurial Events and Workshops
In the scope of inRes, all the teams actively participated at the Launch CMU, an event organized by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The four teams made a pitch and had their own booth.
Besides the agenda prepared by the CMU Portugal Program to the immersion period in the US, the Sceelix team was able to organize two workshops. The first one was held at the CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center, where more than 20 master students listened to a talk from Pedro Silva and tested a Sceelix demo. “The students were very curious about the potential of the software and were amazed with its flexibility. This was very gratifying”, explains Pedro Silva. The second workshop was held at the CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) where the master students provided feedback related with usability, as well as different ways to get awareness within the game developers’ community. Pedro Silva adds “in the past, we had already organized workshops like the ones we held in the US, namely at Catholic University, in Portugal, and at Ghent University, in Netherlands, and the feedback was also very positive.”
To get to know better the investors world in the US, the agenda for the teams also included the presence at the BlueTree Screening Meeting, which is promoted by the BlueTree Allied Angels, a group of accredited investors that invests in regional, early-stage companies. The teams were able to see presentation of projects divided in two moments: 20 minutes, uninterrupted, to present the investment opportunity, and 15 minutes for Q&A. “This was a grateful experience because it provided us some guidance on how presentations to investors should be made,” Pedro Silva explains.
As they were going to lots of meetings with different organizations, Sceelix team was able to find a potential client – Remaking Cities Institute, which is currently working in remaking cities in 3D.
Talking about the future, the team explains that one of their goals “in the long term is to keep the contact with the academia because there’s a lot of research that can still be done using our software.”
Regarding Sceelix as a product, they expect to have a store that “will allow people to share and sell the plug-inns they developed.” As one of the co-founders explains, in the end, the team will “have people adding value to our tool.”