Studio Startup Cohort 1 Application

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About you

About your studio

Tell us what you're dreaming of building.

Eligibility affirmation
Please check this box to affirm you meet all of the eligibility criteria listed below.


You qualify to apply for this program if:

  1. You live in, or are a permanent resident or citizen of Canada.
  2. Your team is led by a person who belongs to an underrepresented identity group
  3. You have recently started or intend to start an independent game studio within one year
    1. Your goal is to commercialize your own original IP or technology
  4. You're a new founder
    1. You have under a year of experience as a founder or owner of a business that primarily designs and develops games
    2. You have not received commercial funding or repayable investment for a game project within the last 5 years
  5. You're able to devote 15 hours per week from November 2020-April 2021 to the program
    1. This includes weekly workshops, one-on-one coaching, group work sessions, and other programming

You're a great fit if you:

  1. Want to build a studio from the ground up, founded on ethical labour principles and a business model that supports your self-determined ideal work culture, values and scale.
  2. Plan to include racialized, marginalized and underrepresented identities and experiences in leadership, production, and design/output now and in the long term.
  3. Do not have existing networks of professional support and easy access to capital; have faced barriers, discrimination or mistreatment in the games industry or in raising money.
  4. Have a clear and realistic studio mandate that will create social and/or cultural impact.
  5. Can explain why you are interested in social finance.
  6. Can demonstrate you are collaborative, coachable and committed to your studio project.

What should I expect to get out of the Studio Startup program?

At the end of the program, you should have:

  • A clear plan for how you will operate, scale and sustain your company
  • The momentum and skills to raise early-stage capital, including social finance
  • A solid foundation in the basics of traditional and alternative working and economic structures, and product/concept development
  • A network of experienced studio founders, investors, business development experts, platform representatives, and supportive peers to lean on as you build your studio after the program

I don't live in Canada. Am I eligible?

Possibly. You (or your co-founder) must plan to form your studio in Canada. Ideally, you reside here now, but we may be able to support you if you plan to incorporate and employ people in Canada. Please get in touch to discuss your situation.

Do I need to raise capital after the program?

That’s entirely up to you. We encourage you to explore bootstrapping and social finance investment before seeking VC, crowdfunding or raising capital through friends and family or other investors.

Do I need to have a team in place already?

Definitely not! If you have a co-founder, please include them in your application, but you do not need to have identified anyone else on your team.

What if I have received commercial funding in the past?

If it has been at least 5 years since you’ve been an owner of a commercial game studio, you are eligible to apply.

What is an “underrepresented identity group”?

This is a broadly inclusive term meant to prioritize those who have been socially and structurally excluded from accessing capital, professional networks, AAA studio employment or career progression; who have faced barriers to participating in entrepreneurship and government funding programs.

It includes anyone who experiences marginalization or underrepresentation due to their gender (including people who are at any intersection of trans, nonbinary and femme identities, however they are expressed), race and/or skin colour (e.g., IBPoC individuals), queerness, disability, religion, housing status, economic status, immigration or citizenship status (including newcomers to Canada).

We won’t ask for any details when you apply – simply self-identify yourself as eligible.

Do I need to have a game prototype or concept developed?

You do not need to have a prototype or playable demo to apply, but we would love to hear your concept. This can be super rough – even a sentence or two. Part of the training you’ll receive during the program is how to develop your concept to pitch, so you definitely don’t need this before applying.

Other things you don’t need in order to apply:

  • A business plan, marketing plan or budget
  • Employees or a co-founder
  • Capital or funding of any kind

Is it okay if I have an existing agreement with a publisher?

Let’s talk! If you have an agreement, you likely have incorporated your studio (possibly in a hurry). If you’re feeling overwhelmed and not sure how to set your business up for success after your first title, this program may be a helpful resource. Before applying, please reach out to us and let us know about your situation.

What is the application process?

The Studio Startup program is limited to a small number of founders each cohort.

We invite you to join us for an info session where we will share more details about the program and answer any of your questions on September 10.

Applications will be open from September 14-30, 2020.

A selection committee (made of up participating mentors, investors, and DMG organizers) will review and score all applications based on strength and fit with our criteria. The strongest applicants will be interviewed by our program coordinators for final selection.

All applicants will be notified of their status by October 12.

What is social finance?

Social finance is repayable investment that supports positive social and cultural impact. Social finance enables organizations to access new money to enhance their impact.

The Government of Canada announced a $755 million Social Finance Fund to be invested over 10 years and expects funds will be matched to create $2 billion in new investment.

Studios can complement arts council and government grants, publishing contracts and other forms of earned income with repayable social finance like loans and equity investments. You can use these investments to carry out activities that advance your mission and to generate savings or income to repay investors.

Learn more

What is the cost of the program?

There are no fees, and we do not take revenue share or any equity in your company. We are able to offer small stipends to offset your costs associated with participating, including childcare and Internet access.

Where and when are the program sessions held?

The Studio Startup program will be delivered online. Workshops and presentations will scheduled weekly with alternate meetings times and videos/transcriptions made available for asynchronous access. Office hours with mentors will be conducted online and/or by phone, and scheduled according to participants’ and mentor availability.

In-person meetings and demo days will not be happening in-person in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions and risks. We will assess the safety of making studio work space available to participants in 2021.

Can I apply to the Studio Startup program if I work or have kids?

Yes! We have built flexibility in to the program, with alternative times for presentations and the availability of materials such as videos and transcripts for viewing later if you’re unable to make the live sessions from time to time.

You do not need to commit to working on your project full-time. In order to support you in meeting your goals, we do suggest that you have 10-15 hours per week to devote to the program (including workshops/presentations, mentor office hours and homework).

We also welcome applications from students and recent grads. You don’t have to be studying business, game design or computer science.

Is there any financial support available?

If cost of living or access to computer hardware is a barrier to your participation, please apply and then get in touch to let us know your financial and equipment needs to support you through the program. This will not impact your eligibility in any way. We are working to secure cost-of-living bursaries and equipment for all participants who need that support.

Does it matter what type of games I want to make?


We want to help game studio startups create social and cultural impact, and that starts with how you are founded and funded. It might sound a little controversial, but the games come second. People, and the conditions under which they work, are most important to founding a sustainable and ethical studio business.

We are looking for studios that plan to create marketable playful products, including: Console games, PC/computer games, VR/AR/MR apps and games, web-based interactive media and mobile games.

Who is behind this program?

DMG is a nonprofit videogame arts organization founded in Toronto in 2012. We provide a wide range of free events, workshops, resources and services to our community and membership of over 650 queer and gender-marginalized game developers, designers and players. We are creating and delivering this program with the support of great funding partners (that we will be announcing in early September) and expert advisors in social finance and traditional investment finance.

Who will be mentoring and coaching participants in the program?

We will be announcing our full studio mentor list prior to opening applications on September 14. We have selected key leaders through the trusted networks of DMG board members, organizers and long-time members. Additionally, experts in social finance will coach and consult with each studio throughout the program.

Does Damage Labs invest in startups?

Not at this time, but we intend to build a micro seed fund in the future.