Jon Gregory: Istanbul VR startup relocates to Nevada County
Nevada County Economic Resource Council has had a very productive 2016 so far.
I, along with Chair Mary Owens, want to thank our board, our supporters and our volunteers — we have a very small staff, so your help is greatly appreciated.
We are committed to making Nevada County a Global Center of Excellence in digital media, with a special concentration on the trending virtual reality and augmented reality sectors. Accomplishing this goal will have community-wide positive impact for local small business, local government, education institutions, nonprofit organizations and our workforce.
By “global,” I truly do mean worldwide recognition and influence. In the first half of 2016, NCERC spearheaded the planning for the new Green Screen Institute, a 27,000-square-foot, multi-purpose tech-oriented facility located on New Mohawk Road in Nevada City. A key facet of the Green Screen Institute is an annual business start-up accelerator that provides a combination of investment capital, specialized expertise and other resources to each company during a 10-week accelerator cycle each summer.
In May, Green Screen Institute broadcast for virtual and augmented reality-start-ups to apply to the first accelerator class. Sixty serious inquiries about the program were received; 30 formal applications were submitted.
Among the mix of applications — in addition to those from San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Hollywood, San Diego and New York — were those that came internationally from Mexico, Iceland, Poland, Israel — and even Istanbul, Turkey. Haptical, the start-up from Istanbul — led by founder Deniz Ergurel — was chosen by our Selection Committee to participate in the program, along with start-ups from New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco/Chico.
Fast forward 10 weeks. Now, drum roll please….some great news!
After participating in the Accelerator program, Ergurel has decided to launch Haptical in Nevada County — and his wife and young son will be relocating from Turkey in October. Interestingly, his decision was based, in part, on the same factors identified in the ERC’s integrated marketing plan completed in the Fall of 2016. That marketing plan was developed as a strategic framework to attract individuals, families and businesses here from the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles.
It focused on:
(1) small town charm and amazing quality of life with a unique combination of arts, culture and outdoor recreation amenities;
(2) substantially lower cost of living and cost of doing business for a tech start-up than in the Bay Area or LA;
(3) beautiful, serene Sierra Foothills natural setting, versus the congested environment that exists in the Bay Area and Southern California;
(4) access to key players in his industry located in San Francisco and Silicon Valley that he can get to relatively easily (at least compared to most rural areas across the U.S.).
This combination of opportune geographic positioning, combined with an exceptional lifestyle for those with a penchant for the outdoors or the arts in a small-town setting, is why many technology entrepreneurs moved to Nevada County to start video broadcast technology ventures or to work as video engineers for one of the technology companies.
It all started in 1959, when Dr. Donald Hare relocated his audio business to Grass Valley from the East Coast to form Grass Valley Group. Today, over 20 companies can be directly traced back to this iconic company. Technology developed in Nevada County has been recognized with Engineering Emmy awards and citations from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for pioneering contributions or substantial improvements to television technology.
Perhaps Haptical, through Ergurel’s entrepreneurial drive, will lead the next wave of digital media innovation. He wants to become the CNN or WIRED of VR News. Let’s do whatever we can as a community to help him fulfill his vision.
Back to the topic of Global Center of Excellence. Ergurel believes that companies all over the world desire to have a location in Northern California, but don’t know about the tremendous opportunity Nevada County can offer. When I state “Global Center of Excellence,” I truly mean “Excellence.”
Just last week, Ergurel was appointed as the expert advisor on Virtual Reality to WAN-IFRA. The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, or WAN-IFRA, is the global organization of the world’s press. It derives its authority from its global network of 3,000 news publishing companies and technology entrepreneurs, and its legitimacy from its 80 member publisher associations representing 18,000 publications in 120 countries.
Ergurel’s experience also provides insight on some of the challenges we face if Nevada County is to capitalize on this unique economic development opportunity. He has found it difficult to find permanent housing — an important call to action for key stakeholders to work together to ensure that there is enough housing for the companies that might be on the way if we skillfully play the economic development cards we’ve been dealt!
Jon Gregory, Executive Director Nevada County Economic Resource Council.
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