Delaware’s Traditional Growth
1440 Film Co.: Telling a Story Frame by Frame
As a child, Mike Pfeifer typically carried a camera in his hand. “I was always making silly videos with my brothers, friend or whoever,” he recalls. The practice paid off, and so did his persuasive skills. At the University of Delaware, he convinced professors to let him make videos instead of writing papers. He hated writing papers, he says, and teachers likely hated to read them.
More than 10 years later, Pfeifer has turned his passion into a profession. He is the owner of 1440 Film Co., a full-service video production company in Wilmington.
Growing up, however, Pfeifer never thought of studying videography. His bachelor’s degree is in community and organizational leadership —“a business degree without a lot of math,” he says.
After graduation, the film buff worked at a small marketing agency, where he volunteered to be the “house video guy.” While working for are a production companies, he did wedding videography on the side.
His primary goal was to do what he loved and stay in Delaware. In 2019, the young father decided to start a business, figuring it was now or never. The company currently has two full-time employees, a network of contractors and a ready pool of interns from local schools likeWilmington University.
Pfeifer says that about 95% of the work comes from Delaware companies, proving that customers don’t need to go to New York or Los Angeles to find talent. The client list includes Delaware Technical Community College, Wawa, Dover Federal Credit Union and the Delaware Prosperity Partnership. It also includes nonprofits, and each year the company puts aside money to make a pro bono video for charities.
Innovation is part of the business, he maintains. To be sure, there will always be new cameras and applications. But it also takes creativity to tell a story, which is what a good video is designed to do.
Indeed, Pfeifer helps clients get more bang for the shot by suggesting ways they can edit footage. For example, one commercial can be taken apart to create landing pages, social media posts and donor appeals.
“More and more platforms are video-savvy,” he notes. Consider the screens above shelves in drugstores or at gas station pumps. “Wherever there are eyeballs, you try to make use of the space.”
So, what’s with the company name 1440? Originally it was a combination of Pfeifer’s and his father’s lacrosse jersey numbers. (His father died when Pfeifer was 27.) Then he learned that there are 1,440 minutes in a day.“Attention spans are limited,” he says. “You have one minute on a screen —make it count.”
And since time is precious, it’s important to enjoy your work. That’s not an issue for Pfeifer.
“I love what I do — I’ve loved it since I was in high school,” he says.“And I’m going to keep doing it for as long as possible.”
Futures First Gaming: Turning Competition into Careers
When baby boomers think of gaming, they picture casinos, horse tracks and bets on basketball outcomes. But for younger generations, gaming is short for video game and electronic sports — esports — competitions for amateur and professional players.
Wilmington-based Futures First Gaming’s goal is to turn play into prospects.For proof, just look at the company name, says CEO Stephen Sye. “Ultimately, we engage with gamers to expose them to opportunities: coding, web development, design, video editing, music production — all the career paths that have opened up.”
The company is the brainchild of Sye, Malcolm Coley and Newdy Felton. (Coley and Felton also own Influencers Lab Media, a marketing firm, and The WIN Factory, a coworking space.) The company also includes Emily Zbyszynski, program manager.
Founded in February 2020, Futures First Gaming hosts open- or tournament-style events; however, the company can run other organizations’ events. (Indeed, tournaments might become the new 5K fundraiser of the nonprofit world.) Birthday parties are part of the offerings, as are programs in schools and other institutions looking to tie STEM education into gaming.
Game titles include “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” a Japanese cross-fighting game where players become various characters. The goal is to knock opponents from an arena. “It has a very strong following globally,” Sye notes. Other popular games are “Fortnite,” “NBA 2K22,” “League of Legends” and “Rocket League.” Most brands don’t require tournament licensing since they gain revenue from players who purchase the games.
The events aren’t just for individuals. Futures First Gaming has formed theAngry Pandas to play “Fortnite.” Led by its mascot, Jerome, the team competes in regional and national competitions.
A Delaware Workforce Development Program provider, the company is busy in summer with camps. Last year at The Warehouse, a Wilmington youth center, participants received 40 hours of coding and game-design instruction —led by Coderrific Academy — 20 hours of entrepreneurship training with an emphasis on esports and 40 hours of gameplay and skill development.
While electronic sports can run on just about any device, including smart-phones, the company encourages play on a traditional computer. That’s because coders and illustrators use them to design games, and with use comes familiarity.
Not all activities are conducted in cyberspace. This summer, Futures FirstGaming will partner with the Police Athletic League for a physical basketball tournament and “NBA 2K22” gaming event.
Traditionally, males have dominated esports. Futures First Gaming wants to bring more females into the fold. At a girls’ gaming activity last year, there were two panels: “Women Powering STEM,” featuring female STEM executives, and “Changing the Game,” which included “Tekken” professional player Jeannail “Cuddle Core” Carter.
At every activity, the company incorporates an educational element. “We are an organization poised to expose and provide opportunities for STEM career fields in the esports industry,” Sye says. The goal is to help gamers take advantage of their passion for gaming and use it to build a brighter future.
Carbon Reform: Improving Indoor Air and the Environment
Each year, gigatons of carbon pass through commercial buildings, affecting indoor air quality and the occupants’ health. The CO2 also stresses an HVAC system, which impacts the bottom line. The founders of Carbon Reform are determined to do something about it. The Wilmington company is the creator of the Carbon Capsule, a modular device that reduces CO2 levels and filters contaminants, such as pathogens and particulates.
According to co-founder Jo Norris, the Carbon Capsule can offer a significant return on a company’s investment. “You can reuse the air that’s already gone through the building and take in less from the outside,” she explains. Less energy spent on conditioning the air means more dollars in the bank.
The company was founded by Norris and Nick Martin, who met at a networking event in The Innovation Space. “We talked for most of the event until we were kicked out,” Norris jokes.
The new friends share similar interests. For example, Martin studied renewable energy at the University of Delaware, where he earned a bachelor’s in chemical engineering and studied renewable energy.
“I became really interested in the intersection of emergent technology and social impact,” he says. “Since graduating, I’ve been looking for ways to merge the two.” He wanted to accomplish that goal in a startup that can “move quickly and change the world,” he says.
Norris’ career path is paved with degrees. At Hofstra University, she majored in economics and sustainability studies and minored in geology and fine art. While studying for a master’s in climate and society at Columbia University, she took engineering electives, which is how she learned about carbon capture. She was hooked. After researching environmental remediation for a Brooklyn startup, the scientist enrolled in the University of Delaware’s doctorate program in materials science engineering.
Looking to meet more people in Delaware, she shared her interest in carbon capture with Martin. Launched in February 2020, the female- and LGBTQ-led company spent more than a year developing the Carbon Capsule in a wet lab. The freestanding device retrofits into an existing commercial ventilation system. Here’s how it works: the device’s membrane absorbs the CO2, desorbs it into a solution, and converts it to a mineral pumped into an exterior storage space.Carbon Reform’s lease will include material collection and disposal and maintenance.
The proprietary technology, which does not belong to the university, is currently in the pilot phase. A charter school is one participant; a Baltimore HVAC company is another. In the future, the partners would like to integrate the technology into large air-handling units in new construction.
Being a Delaware company has had advantages, namely affordability,Martin says. The founders experienced sticker shock when they looked at office and lab space in the Philadelphia area. Soon, the company will need to address legislation that affects its industry, a job made more effortless in the First State. “Only in Delaware — or maybe a few other places — can you access yourU.S. senators and Congresswoman so easily,” Martin says. “The fact they are working on committees around carbon capture and climate change is really great to see.”