CNDY Factory Studios – History
The CNDY Factory was created in Seattle’s last historic loft space on Westlake and located one block from Lake Union. About 100 years ago the building housed Seattle’s first hard candy and chocolate factory. In 2016 I was searching for space with a recording studio and high loft ceilings to build new type of studio. One with an immersive media incubator to experiment with virtual reality and augmented reality business models in sectors outside of gaming. The rent was inexpensive only $1,400.00 for the main floor and a month later the penthouse loft became open for only $700.00 as building was slated for demolition in two and a half years. The huge penthouse loft was it bad shape and needed a remodel. Being a risk taker, I pulled the trigger, signed the lease and started building and made the project a two month long hackathon so the community could have a neutral venue, not influenced by a large university or corporation. Seattle was quickly being gentrified with the explosive growth of Amazon and half of Silicon Valley moving to the area. We were loosing all of our old buildings that had any character to lifeless square box apartments that cost $2,700.00 a month, plus $300 for parking. Insanity! Seattle was loosing it’s soul and this was the last chance to provide our community with an underground creative technology space.
The building had many tenants over the years including Lake Union Studios, a recording studio for jazz musicians and to scoring films. Downstairs, Miguel Edwards a commercial artist built amazing sculptures. There was even a full metal fabrication shop in the basement along with startups that made this place home.
With the help of friends we smashed out the walls to open up the space. There was a secret passage way that connected the main floor level to the upstairs loft. It was covered over with boards and sheet rock, so we kicked it in and connected the recording studio with the upstairs loft. This place was full of surprises, we found a second secret door in the kitchen upstairs that once opened up to the roof deck. In record time with a lot of hard work we opened up for our first event.
About the CNDY Factory Brand and Logo
Everyone loves the idea of being a kid in a candy factory. This huge space was a gift like winning the Golden Ticket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory film.
We needed a name and CandyFactory.com was of course taken. Seattle once had a famous rock club called the “RKCNDY”, a dive bar where Pearl Jam, Radio Head, Built to Spill and many others during Seattle’s grunge rock era played music.
Then it clicked to call it the “CNDYFactory”. I then developed the logo by modifying the look of the red and white hard candies and the logo was borne.
The arrows in the logo represent community coming together and sharing ideas as we spiral into the future. My friend’s kids loved coming to the CNDY Factory, everyone loved it and we were very open, casual and build a diverse network of innovators.
Penthouse Loft Production Studio and Events Space
Since the management know this “tear down” building, we could modify the space as needed. The penthouse loft was transformed into a cool events space and production studio with amazing high ceilings and a huge space.
- Green screen video production studio
- Event space with live streaming, used to host guest speakers, networking events and webinars
- Large Touchscreen Telepresence computer with Whiteboard
- Two video projectors
- HD Cameras and Microphones for Event HD Video content Capture and Live Streaming & Webinars
Experimental XR Media Lab
The new VR devices created opportunities for commercial applications for sectors such as medical, experiential marketing, travel, architecture, construction, design, engineering and collaboration. In the evenings the CNDY Factory was turned into an experimental venue where technology, art and music would collide and a diverse group of people from all walks of life could meet up and share their creativity.
- VR 360 Media Studio (Test Drive All Commercial VR HMDs in house – Sony, Oculus Rift, Vive, Gear VR, Google Cardboard)
- 360 Video Production Studio and Green Screens
- Augmented Reality Lab
- Projection Mapping and Live Events Visual System
Digital Marketing Strategy and Social Media Campaigns
- Realtime Digital Marketing Command Center
- Content Production and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Real-Time Social Media
- CRM & Marketing
- Automation Analytics
Social TV Studio, Content Production and Photography
- Video production system used to mix content from any device, live streaming and capture HD video content
- Photography studio with backdrops
On the main floor there was a purpose build recording studio with over $30K invested from the previous tenant Lake Union Studios.
- Control Room
- Music Recording Room
- Podcast and Voice Over Audio Recording Room
Roof Deck BBQ Lounge
- NYC style roof deck with BBQ
- Outdoor movie screen
Hackathons and Educational Events
Local Artists and Musicians Pushed the Edge of the Future
Women Health Education Entrepreneurs Launched New Products
The CNDY Factory was an open community and supported startups from all walks of life. Dynamoid, a woman founded startup launched with the help of our video production, social media and press expertise, generating 16,400 impressions on Twitter from a single tweet.
Megan Perry, a developer for Dynamoid was invited to the CNDY Factory Advisory Board and was a great supporter from the first event hosted Spring 2016.
I was especially interested in supporting and teaming up with startups working across life sciences and Virtual Reality / AR / XR. There are a lot of interesting applications such as “digital therapeutics” for PTSD and other areas of need. This is an emerging billion dollar potential market. A few years earlier I had worked with a small team from Seattle to develop the Ebola Training Simulator to train healthcare workers.
This project then turned from a Unity Video game into the world’s first Samsung Gear VR based training simulator. At mHealthSummit in Washington D.C. we helped launch mobile VR to the medical community, then took the project to the International CES. The project team included many people such as Adrienne Hunter (read her article), Keith Bradner and Mark Selander.
Working with Linette Demers at Life Sciences NW we collaborated to create a proposal to win $1.8M in new funding to help life sciences startups. The goal was to provide startups with deep resources across her network at Life Sciences NW. My part of the grant that outlined the “Playbook”, community and media production build my studio into a purpose-built launch studio for emerging XR life sciences startups leveraging my experience building the Digital Health category at CES and launching tech companies at DEMO Conference, Venture All Stars and many other productions.
Guests from Around the World Visited the CNDY Factory
In four months word had spread and the CNDY Factory turned into a destination that people from around the world would visit to put their finger on the pulse of the Seattle XR scene.Willard Williams one of our AEC community advisors asked us to host a very special meeting with Alvin Graying Wang, head of HTC Vive China and the new VRVCA Venture Capital Fund. Willard invited a balanced group of women and heads of local area VR groups to join us. I invited two UW interns. The VRVCA was an effort to support global startups with a consortium of venture members recruited by the VRVCA team.
— Alvin Wang Graylin (@AGraylin) August 26, 2016
We all were very excited to have Alvin as a guest and to help bring VRVCA into our brand new network to support startups with funding to create new jobs and opportunities for all.
I made a brief post to my website about the idea to bring this group together with something I had created in the past called “Venture All Stars” where we united the entire NW from Vancouver B.C. to Portland, Oregon back in 2004.
Supporting Life Sciences Entrepreneurs by Helping to Win the $1.8M Grant for Life Sciences NW
The studio was invaluable to have a space to spread out and create the winning pitch concept for the commercialization “Playbook” and winning video used to win a $1.8M grant. Our team was to receive our portion of the grant to support promotional video production for Life Sciences companies to learn, launch and tell their stories.
Advisors and Friends
I wish to thank a group of people who helped the CNDY Factory project get off the ground with their support. Thank you to our interns and all of the volunteers who helped turn one of Seattle’s last historic art lofts into a unique studio where a diverse group of people from all backgrounds enjoyed meeting for educational events. We wish to thank the team lead by Sandy Cioffi, Gretchen Burger and team from Fearless 360 that produced Seattle’s amazing SIFFX event.
- Colleen Bonniol and Bob Bonniol – Mode Studios, Nationally Certified by the WBENC as a Woman Owned business
- Larry James – VR Content and Events
- Megan Perry – Developer, Dynamoid, VR Education
- Bob Bobotis and Nancy Eperjesy – Mettle (now Adobe)
- Jan Reha – Career Professional
- Jennica Burnett – Arts
- Miguel Edwards – Arts
- Willard Williams – AEC Hackathon Group
- Greg Howes – AEC Hackathon Group
- Steve Turnidge – Audio Mastering Expert
- Ron Jones – Sky Muse Studios
- Sondra Sottle – Film Productions
- Robert Lang – Robert Lang Studios
- Michael Shrieve – Musician
- Mike Franz, CEO – Panogs
- David Feuillatre – EFX Expert
- Topher Welsh- Founder, Seattle After Effects Meetup User Group
- Alex Telstine – Streambox
- Rusty Gard – VR Demo Lead
- Todd Tibbets, Media Expert
- Mike Moskowitz, CEO, Jetstream Software
- Alexander Haque, Developer Relations, Retinad
- Michael Kacena – Visionary
- Danielle Porter – Finance
All Good Things Come to an End
The time was up and the building came down April 2018 to make way for yet another cookie cutter apartment box, leaving Westlake without a creative community. After months of looking or a new space to move the CNDY Factory without any reasonable real estate available it made more sense to take my talents in-house and focus on bringing new innovations to market. My friends at Madrona Ventures have also launched a huge new incubator space providing a great venue to incubate startups. Seattle’s massive growth, inflated real-estate prices, traffic and new “Head Tax” have made the city an undesirable location for many business, especially startups. Miguel Edwards the longest running tenant at the building ends with this post.
“We are the Music Makers, and We are the Dreamers of Dreams.”
Arthur O’Shaunessy quotes by Wilder in the film Willy Wonka And The Chocolate
Thanks to all of our friends, corporate partners, interns and community for a great experience!
We succeeded in making a difference for our community and did not raise a dime of venture capital, running lean and mean operations. The studio has been packed away in storage and I am looking out for the next adventure.
Cheers, Tim Reha