Dallas’ Electric Gamebox is the digital escape roomlike experience you’re about to see everywhere
The company just announced an $11 million funding round to fuel its expansion, which will include opening three more Texas locations this year.
Electric Gamebox, which has a single U.S. venue in the Dallas area, will have locations in major metropolitan regions around the country over the next five years.
The company announced that it raised $11 million in its latest funding round, bringing its total capital raised to date to $25 million. Electric Gamebox plans to use that funding for a “bold” expansion that will see more than 1,000 Electric Gamebox venues open around the world by 2026.
It expects more than 100 of those venues to land in major U.S. metro areas over the next five years, and it plans to open locations in San Antonio, Houston and Austin by the end of this year. The company also has three venues in the U.K., where it’s headquartered globally.
Electric Gamebox is an immersive group gaming platform where as many as six people can play as a team to overcome challenges and solve puzzles. But there are no clunky virtual reality headsets — the entire game takes place in a private, white room in which the game environment is projection-mapped across the walls. Players wear small visors that track their motion and location in relation to objects in the game.
Game sessions must be booked ahead and can last 60 minutes and range from $10 to $35 per person.
The company is also searching for a corporate headquarters location in Dallas to support its growth. It expects to expand its team of 50 employees to a few hundred by the end of 2021.
Why North Texas? The region is the home of U.S. location-based entertainment, founder and CEO Will Dean said. It’s home to movie theater chain Cinemark as well as other experiential entertainment companies like Dave & Buster’s, Main Event and Topgolf.
Dean, who co-founded the world famous Tough Mudder team obstacle race, started Electric Gamebox with the idea of creating an experience that challenged people of all ages.
“My criteria for my next business after Tough Mudder was kind of twofold. It didn’t have to be curing cancer, but I had to believe it was making a positive difference in the world … and you know, I really like the idea of using technology to bring people together,” Dean said.
Dean likens the mechanics and setup of Electric Gamebox to an escape room, but the company is also developing other games. It has six different game scenarios and plans to have at least 100 over the next five years. In one of the current games, tech billionaires start a colony on Mars and players have to mine “Elonomium” — a clever play on Elon Musk’s name — to build the largest colony possible.
Dean said the company was pleasantly surprised to learn recently that Electric Gamebox has been a hit with families that have children on the autism spectrum.
“It’s quite humbling when you have a family come in … and you’ll have a mother say, ‘There’s nothing that we as a family can all enjoy together; this has been quite game-changing for us as a family.’ And, ‘This is something we look forward to all week.’ ”
The Electric Gamebox venue in The Colony’s Grandscape has been fully booked on weekends since it opened in December, Dean said. And that’s despite the pandemic.
“It’s very socially distant,” Dean said.
The games are targeted toward all age groups and are family friendly, but they’ve also been popular for corporate team-building events. Dean said he expects to see even more corporate event bookings in September as companies return to in-person work.
By now you’ve heard the term ‘Ghost’ Kitchen being used more and more often… so what is it exactly and why is it becoming so popular?
In short, Revolving Kitchen’s commercial ‘Ghost’ Kitchens help restaurants optimize deliveries while lowering costs.
From a space in Garland, Founder Tyler Shin and his Revolving Kitchen team have one goal in mind: help restaurants cook great food. With their 25 fully outfitted commissary kitchen rentals, operators have the infrastructure and equipment needed to reach a rapidly growing segment of consumers.
The ‘Ghost’ Kitchen has been on the rise in the U.S. in recent years, with reports predicting the sector to triple to $972B by 2026. When paired with turnkey delivery technology, commissary kitchens help business owners overcome insurmountable capital demands and administrative burdens that often cloud brick and mortar.
Since launching in 2019, Revolving Kitchen has helped more than 50 business owners achieve their dream and expand their food business.
Interested in more information about working with Revolving Kitchen? Contact Tey Tiner: 214.534.3683 // email@example.com
You can now buy a Covid-19 test at Oakland International Airport just like you would a can of Coke or a bag of M&M’s. For less than a week, black-and-white vending machines in each of the airport’s terminals have been dispensing RT-PCR saliva tests that have been approved under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
For travelers, this is good timing. Right now, airline passengers are not required to show a negative Covid-19 test before boarding a domestic flight, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is apparently considering it. “We are actively looking at it,” said Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, on a call with reporters last week.
Wellness 4 Humanity, the company behind the DIY-test vending machines, is currently in discussions with other major airports across the country, including at Harrisburg International Airport in Pennsylvania. The company also has partnerships with Marriott, IHG Hotels & Resorts and a slew of other organizations, including professional sports teams like the Atlanta Hawks.
Like many U.S. airports, Oakland airport has been offering curbside testing for several months. “We realized that travelers are going through a tough time right now, especially as we all navigate this COVID pandemic,” an Oakland airport spokesman told the Los Angeles Times. “We wanted to give travelers another option for testing.”
For Wellness 4 Humanity, the goal is to roll out 1,000 of its “automated stores,” also known as vending machines, throughout the U.S. in the coming months. Future locations will include subway stations, entertainment venues and more hotels and airports, as well as college campuses, grocery stores, and shopping malls.
“These vending machines are a significant milestone in helping to provide Americans with easier access to fast, highly accurate Covid-19 testing,” said Lian Nguyen Pham, CEO and co-founder of Wellness 4 Humanity. “We’ve seen similar vending machines placed in highly populated, highly trafficked areas of Hong Kong and the United Kingdom to help contain the spread of the virus and, given the surge in cases the U.S. is currently experiencing, we hope to roll out our vending machines as soon as possible.”
Wellness 4 Humanity’s vending machines make the tests available through contactless purchase and payment on a mobile device.
As of now, the vending machines sell only a saliva RT-PCR test kit, which requires sending your sample to a partner lab using a prepaid FedEx shipping label. Customers receive their results within 48 hours with 99% accuracy. Results are sent to customers via the TRUSTPASS app. The saliva test sells for about $150.
At a later date, a slightly cheaper rapid antigen test kit will also be available. The antigen test sells for about $120 and provides results in just 15 minutes, with no shipping, lab work or app download required. Wellness 4 Humanity says this test has 97.4% accuracy and 100% specificity, meaning false negatives are unlikely.
The testing kit vending machines were developed in partnership with San Francisco-based Swyft, Inc., a software and technology services company that works with retailers and brands. Swyft had previously partnered with New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority to place PPE-dispensing vending machines in 10 subway stations throughout the city. Other major clients include CVS Pharmacy, 7-Eleven, and Best Buy.
Wellness 4 Humanity says travelers can soon expect to see these vending machines popping up in major cities across the U.S., from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Boston and Dallas.
Starting this week, for example, New York City residents and visitors will be able to buy Covid tests out of two vending machines at a brick-and-mortar Wellness 4 Humanity location in at 225 West 34th Street in midtown Manhattan, just a block from Penn Station.
If your local airport, train station or hotel wants a vending machine, $15,000 buys a six-month lease, including delivery, set up, software integration, and full stocking of the vending machine with the test kits.
But be prepared to take a number, though. According to Wellness 4 Humanity’s website, the vending machines are currently sold out.
Nearly six years after opening its brick-and-mortar restaurant, Cafe Momentum is, improbably, back where it started: doing pop-up dinners. The organization, which employs young people who have been incarcerated by the juvenile justice system to run a fine dining restaurant, got its start hosting local pop-ups at venues across the city before landing in its own home in Downtown Dallas in 2015.
Cafe Momentum, even in its most rudimentary format, has never been just a restaurant. Originally started to provide a path to economic independence and job training for formerly incarcerated youth, the organization now offers a host of social services and other resources for the young people that it employs. It helps its workers apply for assistance, find public transportation, and, in many cases, provide for their families. In 2019, Cafe Momentum even launched its own high school after recognizing that the young people it served were struggling to find a place in the public school system. This year alone, even during the pandemic, the school has graduated more than a dozen students.
Now, despite COVID-19, Cafe Momentum is planning to go national. The plan is to bring its acclaimed internship program, which provides paying jobs to systems-involved youth and a host of social services, while teaching them to work in the service industry. During their 12-month stint at Cafe Momentum, interns rotate through virtually every job in a restaurant, from dishwasher to cook to front-of-house staffer. Compared to the broader population of formerly incarcerated youth, the 1,000 or so young people who’ve passed through Cafe Momentum’s doors over the past nine years are dramatically less likely to end up in the system again.
To this end, Houser spent almost all of 2019 traveling to introduce the country to the Cafe Momentum model. After teaming up with the National Football League, the organization hosted dinners in Nashville ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft, working with systems-involved youth there to showcase how much of a difference the organization can make in just a few days of work with young people. “We had the opportunity to showcase the public-facing component of our model,” Houser says. “People walk in and have one of the best meals of their entire lives, and it changes them.”
Later, Houser brought Cafe Momentum interns to Miami to cook at events surrounding Super Bowl LIV. The dinners are a Trojan horse of sorts, using delicious dishes like smoked fried chicken and coffee-rubbed strip steak to make philanthropists, policymakers, and potential donors care about the futures of the program’s participants.
“It’s been a great reminder of who we are, what we stand for, and why we’re here,” Houser says. “It reminds me of the very first pop-up we did in 2011, when everyone was just awestruck at what these kids could do. Seeing that same reaction across the country has been amazing, and invigorating.”
To bring its unique approach to both operating a restaurant and juvenile justice reform nationwide, Cafe Momentum has teamed up with the Stand Together Foundation. Established by Charles Koch in 2003, the organization functions as a funding and expertise network for nonprofits like Cafe Momentum, which focus on what executive director Evan Feinberg calls a “bottom-up” approach to center the autonomy of those who are experiencing poverty, homelessness, or incarceration.
“Most well-intentioned people out there that are administering programs like this have the wrong mental model about people who they’re trying to serve,” Feinberg says. “They have the wrong opinion of people who are experiencing poverty or have been affiliated with the criminal justice system. Their belief is that individuals are broken, they’re deficient, they’re in need of expert help from someone on the outside. Cafe Momentum doesn’t work that way.”
And amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shuttered or stymied most of the country’s restaurants, Cafe Momentum has charged forward with its plans to bring its proven model to cities across the country. “This work was crucial to begin with because of the dysfunctional way that juvenile justice works all over the country,” Houser says. “But coming through a global pandemic that is disproportionately impacting communities of color, that makes our push to expand that much more important.”
The young people that Cafe Momentum employs are, often, forgotten and failed by the institutions that are intended to serve them. They’re children who have been incarcerated, experienced extreme poverty, and are likely behind several years in school.
“The system officially calls these kids throwaways, and insists that the only option is to lock them up over and over again,” Feinberg says. “What’s so different about Cafe Momentum is this deep belief in the people they serve. They’re trusted to run one of the best restaurants in Dallas, and they’re able to take great pride in that incredible accomplishment. The problem is that there are so few programs across the country that take that approach.”
Like the original Cafe Momentum, future outposts of the restaurant will offer the same suite of services, ranging from anger management training to financial literacy education and career advice, to teens in new cities. The organization will bring its near-decade of experience partnering with systems-involved youth, its deep understanding of what works best for them on a human level, and its restaurant operations training method for young people who don’t have a typical culinary background.
To bring those practices to life in new cities, Houser and his team will work with local chefs and community organizations to improve the lives of systems-involved youth. The organization will share its wealth of knowledge, best practices, and systems with people interested in starting their own restaurants like Cafe Momentum, while the Stand Together Foundation will help these fledgling restaurants secure funding and build relationships with donors in their communities.
It’s not clear exactly what these new Cafe Momentum restaurants will look like. Maybe they’ll have slightly different names, or serve a cuisine that is a better fit for their city than what works in Dallas. But what will remain the same is Cafe Momentum’s commitment to proving that these young people are just as capable of turning out high-quality food and exceptional service as any other worker in the restaurant industry.
“We’re flexible enough, but one of the defining characteristics of Cafe Momentum, and one of the things we’re not willing to compromise on, is that the people we work with can and will rise to whatever expectation is set for them,” Houser says.
For now, Houser isn’t quite ready to say where the next Cafe Momentum will be, but he’s got big plans for the future, some of which are already in the works. The organization recently launched some virtual programming for young people in Nashville, and “active talks” are underway to bring the restaurant to multiple cities across the country in the coming months.
“Our goal is to change the narrative,” Houser says. “We want to rebuild the conversation about what juvenile justice should look like, and what kinds of opportunities these young men and women deserve.”
Based in Baton Rouge, La., Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux was founded by Brandon Landry, a former walk-on basketball player at Louisiana State University and is co-owned by New Orleans Saints superstar Drew Brees. Leaning on the true spirit of a walk-on and building a winning culture, the brand is rapidly expanding across the United States with 39 locations currently open and operating and over 150 in development. Its Louisiana-inspired menu combines food and drinks made from scratch, daily. Walk-On’s All-American team serves up a game day experience in a fun, welcoming family-friendly atmosphere that ensures every guest is a winner.
Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux’s diverse menu continues offer unique twists on game day staples – such as the Smoked Gouda Turkey Burger, Boom Boom Shrimp PoBoy, and Cajundillas, in addition to upscale takes on Louisiana mainstays – such as Crawfish Two Ways, Mardi Gras Mahi, and Duck and Andouille Gumbo. Its innovative menu provides vast and flavorful dishes for every guest.