Ethan Carlson

Prototype Engineer - Entrepreneur - Experience Designer

Escape Rhode Island

www.escaperhodeisland.com
Co-Founder

What

Escape Rhode Island was founded in 2015 as the first escape room venue in Providence, RI. It was a partnership between a friend of mine from college who is one of the owners of a company called Escape Industries in New Haven, CT. Escape Rhode Island had five employees and revenues of ~$500k.

Bringing an engineering skill set to the enterprise, we focused on building games that had higher production value and more interesting technology than our competitors in order to create "magical" interactions. Our games were highly acclaimed and reviewed, achieving Net Promoter Scores of 80+ and reviews between 4.8 and 5.0 on Facebook, Yelp, Google, and Trip Advisor.

Why

There is something addictive about building experiences that make people happy. Because it was early in the escape room market cycle, most people who played our games did not know what to expect. Almost everyone was delighted, energized, and engaged throughout.

In addition to the emotional reasons for starting the business, there were also many great aspects of the engineering work itself. Building escape rooms offers the opportunity to create a wide variety of interactions in a short amount of time. Customers are usually willing to excuse a lack of polish for the chance to experience the creativity of the game creators.

My Work

As one of the Co-Founders and the Managing Member, I was responsible for all of the day-to-day operations of the business, including hiring and managing five employees, designing and building new games, keeping our books in order, and much more. Here is one of the games I designed while managing Escape Rhode Island:

Ex Machina

Ex Machina takes place in an unearthed Victorian room filled with mechanical curios and bizarre music. Players soon discover that there is an entity trapped in the vault they are trying to open, and they must prevent it from corrupting the world.

Result

Escape Rhode Island achieved remarkable success. We were able to pay back the founding investment to Members 10 weeks after launch, and achieved steady-state cash flow (~90% capacity) within five months. I sold my position in Escape Rhode Island for ~25x ROC to my business partners in December of 2017 to focus fully on building Updraft Ventures.