Flashpoint brain trust well-schooled in digital media

March 5, 2007

BY BRAD SPIRRISON Sun-Times Columnist

Entry level video-game developers earn fatter paychecks than many experienced accountants, health care professionals and (gulp) journalists. While many of us are not in the position to press the vocational reset button, today's teenagers weaned on digital media have educational and employment options that barely existed even half a generation ago.

"We are training kids today with things we did not even know yesterday, and we are building schools for things we won't know until tomorrow," explained Howard Tullman, serial entrepreneur, new media impresario and recently appointed chairman of Flashpoint Academy.

Beginning this September, Flashpoint will offer two-year training programs for high school graduates interested in pursuing careers in game development, computer animation, film and recording arts. The 40-hour-per-week program will include classroom instruction in the Loop at 28 N. Clark as well as applied training at a soundstage a few blocks northwest of the United Center. Approximately 400 students are expected to enroll this fall with plans to accommodate up to 1,000 in the coming years. Annual tuition is $25,000.

"Students will be trained on real world stuff," said Flashpoint founder and Chief Executive Ric Landry, previously of Lake Forest-based early stage investment firm MBC Global. "Most teaching is based on an 18th century model. But there is so much information flow now that you can learn more just standing around than I learned going to high school."

Landry, 60, first pondered the idea of a digital media academy eight years ago while his son was studying film and sound at Columbia College. Last year, as the video game industry grew to $30 billion worldwide, Landry pointed and clicked his way to a business plan. A few weeks ago, Jim Hoesley of Credit Suisse First Boston introduced Landry to Tullman, now a significant investor. They are in the process of raising a seven-figure investment round.

Tullman, 61, founded CCC Information Systems in 1980, and has spent the last 15 years conceiving, funding and directing several companies in the new media and education industries. His credits include producing CD-ROM games based on the Where's Waldo? series and Arnold Schwarzenegger's film Eraser, as well as early Web sites for Downbeat and Rolling Stone magazines.

More recently, Tullman saved culinary institute Kendall College from financial ruin and serves as chairman of the Princeton Review and Experiencia Inc. Experiencia operates a learning center focusing on civics and science for elementary school students, and is a block from Kendall at the corner of Halstead and Chicago Avenue.

Regarding his Flashpoint investment, Tullman said, "In 24 months we can create people with portfolios who can hit the ground running, and make compensation levels that are four and five times what a typical liberal arts college graduate will make. If you had to pick the leading industries for the next 10 years, this is where you put your money."