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Who Highlights the Highlighter?

Local meetup puts faces to crowdfunding campaigns

By James Renovitch, Fri., June 21, 2013

<i>Phoenix Revival</i>
Phoenix Revival

The honeymoon with crowdfunding is over. Gone are the days when even half-baked ideas garnered enough money to meet company or individual goals with ease. Today, Kickstarter and Indiegogo runneth over with campaigns, making it difficult to ferret out worthy endeavors. Prospective backers also now realize they can't put their wallets behind every film, game, art project, article of clothing, piece of novelty furniture, etc. their mouse happens upon. So, how do you find something decent, vetted, and local? You get crowdsourcing initiatives to showcase projects in front of a live audience; that's how. And that's exactly what Austin's own Highlighter intends to do at its free bimonthly meetup.

Spearheaded by Shelley Smith of local independent game studio Minicore, the Highlighter was originally the idea of Jen Bullard, who chairs the local chapter of the International Game Developers Association. But it was Smith who successfully summoned the combined powers of the IGDA and the newly founded Texas Creative Incubator, which strives to ensure a healthy business and creative ecosystem to keep digital media start-ups thriving.

Three projects have already been chosen to pitch their products or tell tales of the troubled but often blessed waters of crowdsourcing. This month's Highlighter has a gaming bent with David Tian of Syraca Studios, who talks up his team's shoot-'em-up game Phoenix Revival. Smith's Minicore compatriot John Warren showcases another video game, Laika Believes. While not hocking anything right now, Sam Killermann has had success in the past with raising funds for his nonprofit, Gamers Against Bigotry, and shares his expertise.

When asked why an event like this is necessary in an increasingly digital landscape, Smith said, "We like knowing what is going on in Austin. We like seeing cool things come out of Austin. And I definitely think we are willing and eager to help someone local succeed." Not to mention that getting in on the bottom floor of a local endeavor is always good for bragging rights in this town.


The crowd gathers at Holy Mountain (617 E. Seventh) on Wednesday, June 26, 7pm. Keep up with late additions to the lineup at www.thehighlighter.eventbrite.com. If you want to participate in a future Highlighter event, email Shelley Smith at ssmith@minicorestudios.com.

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