Wednesday, August 29, 2007


BREAKTHRU, New Brunswick’s Business Plan Competition is a unique opportunity for entrepreneurially minded New Brunswickers to transform their innovative business ideas into profitable business ventures.

One of the competition’s main goals is to support would-be entrepreneurs and encourage them to take the next step and create their own business venture. Breakthru is also open to tried and true entrepreneurs that are ready to launch their next business venture. It provides participants with an unparalleled opportunity to access feedback, mentoring, start-up capital and support; exactly what an emerging company needs to get off the ground successfully. Participants will compete for their share of over $200,000 in prizes and in-kind support.

Are you ready to Breakthru?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Digital Content Association of Japan event

FYI - Digital Creators Competition 2007
  • Deadline to be September 10, 2007 (to arrive at DCAJ)
  • No age limitation for applicants
  • Animation length to be three minutes or shorter; if it is a abbreviated version of a longer original, the applicant should indicate that fact and the original length.
  • One Gold Wing Award winner to receive 200,000 Japanese Yen as scholarship money; two Silver Wing Award of 100,000 Yen; and three Excellence Award of 50,000 Yen.
  • Awarding ceremony will be held on October 11, 2007 as part of ASIAGRAPH in Tokyo.
  • Winner's work will be screened at ASIAGRAPH (October 11 to 14, 2007) and on other occasions.

For more information or to register, please contact :
Eddie Suzuki
Digital Content Association of Japan (DCAJ)
23-3 Icgiban-cho, Suite #LB
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0082, Japan
Tel.: 81-3-3512-3901
Fax: 81-3-3512-3908

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Deal with problem clients responsibly

Deal with problem clients responsibly

Jacksonville Business Journal - January 9, 2004

By Ben Leichtling

Every company has them: clients that aren't worth the problems they create. They eat up your profits and are so nasty, deceitful and frustrating that your good employees quit. If you think your company doesn't have any, you're too far away from the firing lines.

Successful training or timely firing is in order before they ruin your business. The trick is to do it in a way that costs less, preserves your reputation and helps your company grow with better clients.

Don't hesitate because of fear and inexperience. A typical fear is thinking that if you stop working or push for timely payment, they'll get insulted and won't pay or will bad mouth you. Problem clients are less likely to pay after you finish the job.

Here are some suggestions for dealing with problem clients:

* List your top three "problem children" and your timeline for their professional development or firing. What keeps you from taking action right now? Is that fear exaggerated?

One surveying company owner had a client who refused to pay during a project, no matter how much the entrepreneur compromised. The client claimed they'd never received invoices, and stalled and lied many times about mailing checks. In order to receive the finished drawings, the client finally cut a check but then canceled payment as the owner was driving to the bank.

* Know your clients and employees. Who pays on time, who avoids paying and who nickel-and-dimes you? Which employees are afraid to pursue clients, which skillfully handle different types of clients and which escalate problems instead of clearing the air?

* Plan ahead. Do your contracts give you enough leverage to stand firm?

* Owner-to-owner honesty can distinguish problem clients who have been blaming difficulties on poor systems or employees from good clients who have problem employees. Some clients and managers treat your staff like dirt but will listen to you. Develop a timetable with staff: clients must deliver by a certain time or get bumped up to you.

* Educate inexperienced or fearful managers on when and how to stand firm. Many managers, afraid of the repercussions if a client complains or leaves, jump inappropriately to please clients. Meet regularly with staff to determine when to get firm with which clients. Tell them that clients who take advantage will get no more slack while good clients will get some. Managers must know that you'll stand behind decisions and plans.

For example, when clients call with urgent change orders, fearful managers can create future payment problems by sending crews before the new work is described, priced and signed for. Get signatures when the client is anxious to get the work done.

* Some clients can be educated if your service is good enough. For example, a civil engineering firm had a client that withheld payment. Cash flow suffered while the firm carried the account. The client valued the firm's accuracy, attention to details and timely adherence to budget, and wanted to hire it again. I asked the engineer, "What would that client have to do in order for you to be willing to work with them again?" The answer was to agree to pay a retainer that would be replenished at each milestone or the work would stop. The client agreed and cash now flows.

* Be clear, persistent and matter-of-fact when educating or firing a problem client. Most entrepreneurs want parting to be amicable so they do it indirectly. They'll eat the present contract, and never again bid or bid high for that client. Explain that you're probably not the right fit for the next job and send problem clients to your competitors.

Don't react emotionally to their emotions. Learn to say calmly, "We can go on to the next step when you've signed off on this step or paid the outstanding bill."

* Some problem clients are so abusive that good employees burn out. Rotate staff to see if a different personality or style solves the problem. Make sure employees know when you've fired a difficult client. Be aboveboard if you ask employees to put up with a client for a finite time. Consider offering them a bonus or some perk for their "hazardous duty."

If you're desperate, you'll take any client just to survive. However, a different strategy is necessary in order to thrive. Stand up to your fears and stop wasting time, energy and good employees on problem clients. Focus on your best clients and grow with other good ones.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Harold's Intro

You've seen my name on the sidebar and may be wondering what the heck I'm doing with GAS. I don't have much experience with animation or computer gaming but I did do a fair bit of war-gaming (with the military) as well as helicopter flight simulation in a previous life.

My interest in GAS is as someone who has chosen New Brunswick as home [I'm originally from BC] and like many companies in this industry my clients are outside the Province. I started with the e-learning industry here in '98 and saw it flash, fizzle and partially rise from the ashes. My experience with industry associations has been not all that great but I like what GAS is doing, in that it's real conversations with real people and focused on the grassroots.

I think that there is some great potential here, as long as government keeps a hands-off approach (sorry about that my friends in govt, but let entrepreneurs do their own thing). One lesson I learnt from the e-learning industry was that the government propped-up too many businesses that should have failed. With GAS, I hope that the government concentrates on infrastructure, like making this province more open to immigrants. Better public transportation would be something positive. Also, I know people who would love to move here but our immigration laws are too strict. The Province should put pressure on the Feds.

Anyway, I'm interested in systems and strategy and new business models, and you can always get more than you want of my opinion on my blog.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Human Resource Development in the sector

In March 2006, the Enterprise Network was contracted by the department of Post-secondary Education, Training and Labour to form a workforce adjustment committee for the Information Technology sector in New Brunswick. The primary objectives of this committee were to understand the workforce needs of the sector and develop a strategy to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry.

Nineteen companies contributed to the strategy and developed 6 key goals:
  1. Implementation of a provincial ICT Human Resource structure with appropriate staff and resources to facilitate sector communications, growth and prosperity.
  2. Retention of appropriately skilled and experienced ICT employees and managers in New Brunswick.
  3. Education of an adequate number of new ICT graduates to a job ready skill and experience level to meet evolving industry needs.
  4. Attraction of appropriately skilled and experienced ICT employees and managers from outside NB.
  5. Develop a strong positive image of the NB ICT industry with enhanced pride and esteem of sector participants and strong awareness of sector employment opportunities through enhanced sector communications.
  6. Ongoing professional development of experienced ICT sector employees and managers to adapt their skill sets to meet evolving industry needs.

Autodesk purchases Skymatter

Skymatter the creator of Mudbox, a high resolution brush based sculpting software was, on August 6, 2007, Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire substantially all the assets of Skymatter, Inc., the developer of Mudbox. This acquisition will augment Autodesk’s offering for the film, television and game market segments, while offering additional growth opportunities for other design disciplines. Autodesk anticipates that the transaction will close in the next two months.

For the full press release check it out here

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund announce new funding

Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund announced new funding forHD production and increased matching broadcaster support for new media digital productions. The Board has approved new funding of up to $75,000 for television programs that are shot and broadcast in HD format and has also doubled the eligible bonus to $100,000 to match broadcaster cash contribution to the production of new media digital projects.

Funding for the television component of eligible Bell Fund projects is in the form of a grant of up to 75% of the total Canadian broadcast licence fees for the program, to a maximum of $75,000. Now, in addition to this, if the program is both shot and broadcast in HD, the production will receive double the eligible grant, to a maximum of $150,000.

The cap on the grant matching any broadcaster cash contributions to the financing of the new media component has now also been increased from $50,000 to $100,000. This is in addition to the standard new media grant of up to 75% of the cost of production of the project, to a maximum of $250,000.

Therefore, successful Bell Fund applicants can now receive up to $500,000 for their television and associated digital projects. Both of these increases will take effect at the next Bell Fund application deadline of October 1, 2007.

The Bell Fund continues to adapt to the changing needs of the industry and these new funding opportunities are designed to help maintain the leadership and competitive role that Canadian producers have established in the world of cross-platform production.

For more info:;; 416. 977.8154

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Club Penguin founders strike it rich

Disney pays Kelowna entrepreneurs $350-million for virtual penguin world

From Thursday's Globe and Mail
August 2, 2007 at 4:18 AM EDT

They may be flightless in the real world but penguins are soaring in the virtual one, as borne out by Walt Disney Co.'s agreement to pay $350-million (U.S.) for Kelowna, B.C.-based Club Penguin.

The online club lets subscribers take on the identities of penguins that waddle and chat in spots such as a ski hill, custom-furnished igloos and a coffee shop. The deal, announced yesterday, generates a windfall for the company's three founders, who are its only shareholders, and highlights the burgeoning appetite for social networking sites that cater to a preteen audience.

Having fended off multiple offers from venture capital investors and would-be buyers, Club Penguin's creators decided deep-pocketed Disney would be the best partner to help a company based on a flightless bird spread its virtual wings, co-founder Lane Merrifield said yesterday.

"We have been offered a lot of money from a lot of different people at various different points," Mr. Merrifield said on a conference call with reporters.

"For us, this whole decision was based around being able to connect with infrastructure that we wouldn't be able to build on our own and being able to take this thing further, and to more countries and more children around the world than we would be able to on our own."

Club Penguin launched in October, 2005, and now has more than 700,000 subscribers who pay $5.95 a month or $57.95 a year. The privately held company does not release financial information, but Mr. Merrifield said it was designed to be self-sustaining from its inception and is profitable.

Founded by Mr. Merrifield, Dave Krysko and Lance Priebe, the site was designed to appeal to youngsters from 6 to 14 and provide an advertising-free zone that features penguin avatars through which subscribers chat, play games to earn cash and decorate their igloos. The founders, who all have children of their own, wanted to create a virtual playground that would emphasize fun and creativity.

As the site snowballed, picking up subscribers in the United States, Britain and across Canada, calls and e-mails started pouring in from would-be investors and purchasers who wanted to join the march of the penguins all the way to the bank.

The Club Penguin partners held out, aiming to find a partner that would respect the company's approach.
"For us, the process of finding the right partner was paramount," Mr. Merrifield said. "We are passionate about this, this is our baby."

Under the terms of the deal, Club Penguin and its current 130 employees will remain in Kelowna. The company's three founders will join Disney, which says it plans "no immediate changes" to the operation or business model of the company.

About 10 per cent of the purchase price will go toward Club Penguin's foundation, which is involved in child-focused charitable work in countries including Uganda, Kenya and Romania, Mr. Merrifield said.

Virtual worlds and immersive environments are key elements of Disney's strategy, said Steve Wadsworth, president of the Walt Disney Internet Group.

"So when something like a Club Penguin comes along, it's a very obvious fit," Mr. Wadsworth said.
Through Disney, Club Penguin hopes to see its waddling birds make inroads into markets in Europe and Asia and possibly branch out with more merchandise or even movies.

"That's going to be something that when the time comes, we will evaluate it, listen to the audience and see if that's something that the kids will want to see," Mr. Merrifield said.

Thanks to William Langley for this news.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Nice work !

Good Day all;

Kudos to everyone who contributed to developing the idea for a GAS blog, and thanks to those whose hard work set this up.

- Tony

"I am happy to report that I received an email from Beans today, though it did give me GAS."

Fellow GAS members

I do hope that our unity as a group puts out a strong message to the provience about trying to help us be and build a stronger face to the rest of the country. I want to continue to build my studio and have all the technical and financial abilities to do that. But want more resources for HR and also need less taxes to help successfully build out a strong P&L for the future.