Ethan Carlson

Prototype Engineer - Entrepreneur - Experience Designer

Updraft Ventures

www.updraftventures.com
Co-Founder & CEO

What

Updraft Ventures was founded in 2016 and was a venture backed pro-social startup that grew out of my success in building Escape Rhode Island. The goal was to partner with a category of small-business entrepreneur that might otherwise be unable to start a business of their own, and to use these partnerships to build a network of escape room venues around the country. That the peak, Updraft managed seven escape room venues in six different states, had seven employees, and had revenues of ~$1m.

Updraft provided training, capital, product development, tech support, and account management to our portfolio of escape rooms in exchange for a majority equity stake in each venue. We adopted this risk sharing model in order to align incentives with our partner entrepreneurs. In exchange for our not needing to directly manage each venue, our partners got access to equity and eventually a passive income stream without having to risk their own capital outlay.

Why

Why I Started Updraft (Medium)

Our mission was to empower everyone to make more value-based decisions. This mission was based on a thesis is that if you:


They will take more risks, build value for themselves and others, and make more value-based decisions that will have positive social impact.

My Work

As one of two Co-Founders and the CEO, I wore many different hats throughout Updraft's life, including business development, engineering, operations, and more. Here are some notable projects that I led:

The Dreamscape

While we largely focused on growth and operational expansion as our strategic goal, we also needed to produce additional IP to service our portfolio of venues. Each escape room venue needed to release at least one game per year. I served as our lead engineer and head of product for the game, The Dreamscape, which was released in January, 2018 and achieved a net promoter score of 73.

Expansion Model

Of critical importance to Updraft's success was the choice of which cities to operate in. I built a linear regression model based on the performance data accessible to us that guided our partner recruitment process.

Venue Acquisition

In early 2018 we had the opportunity to acquire a highly performing venue in Worcester, MA. I built the financial model to pitch to our board, lead the due diligence process, and managed the venue in the post-transition period.

Result

Updraft began the process of liquidating its assets and winding down in late-summer, 2018. Ultimately, the market had changed too dramatically from where it sat it 2015 when I opened Escape Rhode Island, and we were never able to generate enough cash flow from our portfolio to support Updraft's operations.