For those that may read this and aren’t aware of it, Disney laid off around 300 employees this past week, most of them in Salt Lake City.
Having gone to animation school with many of these professionals, I have seen a flurry of “goodbyes” “so sorries” and “hope for the bests” posted on Facebook the last few days. This is the natural reaction to such news. But I think that there is a HUGE opportunity that will be lost if quick action isn’t taken by those laid off to form a new company and capitalize off the national media coverage your lay-offs have created. In short, this is what I am suggesting:
The top 20% of those that were laid off (top 40-50 people or so) need to physically gather at someone’s house and form a new company THIS WEEK and publicly announce two things by mid next week: 1) we’re staying in Salt Lake City and 2) we’re still going to make great video games, the first of which will be launched on Kickstarter in June.
10 REASONS WHY THIS IS A BETTER PLAN THAN IMMEDIATELY LOOKING FOR A NEW JOB
1. A unified public announcement in the next week from 40+ ex-Disney Infinity employees will certainly draw national attention.
Why? Because it’s a GREAT STORY, people! EVERYONE wants to do something awesome when they get laid off, but usually there’s not enough people do it with. In this case, there’s both a physical proximity and a TON OF PEOPLE in the same boat. In addition, there’s also a HUGE audience for Disney Infinity and every major national newspaper has already announced your LAY OFFS as hit stories (I found out from my iPhone news app, not Facebook, for example). A quick google search shows stories in LA Times, Washington Post, NY Times, etc etc etc. Following it up with a great comeback and reaching out to all the people that wrote the lay-off stories to help you spread the word of the new endeavor just makes sense! The opportunity is staring you in the face – TAKE IT!
2. Your alternative to staying together is to compete with each other for jobs you probably don’t want anyway and that the lower-performing 80% of employees are plenty qualified for.
The reality is not everyone can jump in this adventure bandwagon because …
3. A small elite team is attractive to investors and super hard to gather in one place (ask your HR!), while a big bloated team is an impossible sell and not good for start ups.
Unfortunately, the new company will have to be an invite-only venture.
4. Staying together and forming a new gaming studio allows you to return to what you do best – making original IPs for families.
Remember that canned Jabberwocky game? Make something like that.
5. Together, you are the Infinity Team and Disney Infinity is a household name.
So if you’re ever going to try to sell a NEW PRODUCT or GET INVESTMENT, NOW’S THE TIME before the team disperses in 6 weeks to new jobs and everyone becomes “a person that worked on Infinity” not THE PEOPLE THAT BROUGHT YOU DISNEY INFINITY. You’ve been to infinity, now it’s time to go beyond it!
6. Kickstarting a new game, as a unified ex-Disney Infinity team, in the next 6 weeks, is incredibly valuable and VITAL for your success.
Here’s a list of things it does for you, with virtually no drawbacks
- As the “laid-off” underdog, it matters not whether you win or lose the Kickstarter; the public, the media, and any future employers will love you for trying
- It allows you to prove your abilities to yourself and others by making something amazing in the next 4-6 weeks and presenting it to the world
- It will financially validate your new company. If the world loves your new idea, they will preorder it even if the delivery date is years out. They WANT to help you live your dreams. Give them a chance to. There are plenty of precedents of years-long preorders for video games on Kickstarter (Star Citizen comes to mind). If it doesn’t work the only thing you lost is time and 6 weeks of bills
- It proves your real-world value to investors. Saying “we raised $1 million on Kickstarter already” is a lot easier to pitch to investors than “we will make a great game for sure”
- If the Kickstarter is successful, it buys you time to find investors or, at the worst, buys you time for the other 80% to take the current job opps on the market and leaves you time until it’s not so saturated with talented folk. As the previous leaders of Infinity, it seems like the moral thing to do, otherwise, you’ll steal jobs you’re not a good fit for from people that are a good fit for them.
7. Staying together will improve your local economy.
Disperse and the animation industry in Utah will suffer.
8. Half or more of the 20% can still be applying for jobs.
Only the people required for the Kickstarter pitch and acquiring investors or running the show need to be focused 100%.
The rest just need to have a public “gentleman’s agreement” that if the kickstarter is successful in mid-July they will come on board, but they can still be looking for that new opp. It’s only when people have a job offer in writing that they have to make a decision
9. You can know you did your best to create dream jobs for all the people you care about that are in a less-than-ideal situation, too.
Win or lose, you can rest easy at night even if you end up in a job that’s just not so great.
10. Finally, the last reason you should do this is to help ward off the fear of the unknown for yourself and all your friends, and every other laid-off person that hears your story.
Being jobless is scary. I’ve been there. Having a friend that says “We’re going to make a job if we have to!” and helps you do it can make the difference.
So. That’s my two cents Hopefully it’s helpful. Good luck y'all!