Scott Oliphant discovered Bend six years ago on a motorcycle trip. After some misadventures on the road, he ended up here to recharge and Bend stayed on his mind long after he returned to Texas. He saw the opportunity to move his company, Impossible Engine, here in 2014 from Austin.

Impossible Engine, specializes in animation, motion graphics and visual effects. Their clients include Twitter, Facebook, Zappos, Dell HTC, SanDisk, Freescale, ADP, VMware, AMD, Rackspace, Chase, and AMC Theaters.

Oliphant started the agency in 2010, and it has since gained steam. West Coast tech firms have taken notice of the company over the past two years, and now nearly 70% of new business originates from outside Austin, with the majority in Silicon Valley and the Pacific Northwest.

BendTECH talked to Oliphant recently about the work he does and plans for growth — including more hiring right here in Central Oregon.

What does your Impossible Engine do? 

We’re a computer animation and production company. Essentially we make animated content for clients to explain things or products in a fun or interesting way. We work with both advertising agencies that may approach us with an idea to bring to life and directly for brands (like Twitter who we’ve created quite a few videos for this past year).

(Here’s a short created by Impossible Engine to help client Rackspace explain the cloud.)

What prompted you to start the company? 

I worked at an ad agency and freelanced for 14 years as a designer / animator and felt that to do and pursue the kind of work I wanted, and in the way I wanted, I had to go out on my own and build a team to support bigger projects.

Scott Oliphant, Founder and Principal of Impossible Engine.
Scott Oliphant, Founder and Principal of Impossible Engine.

How’s business been? 

I’m hoping this year will be a significant growth period. We’ve tripled our net sales in four years and I’m optimistic that trend will continue. We added two people in the fall and we’ll probably hire another two to four computer animators in 2015 based on conversations we’re currently having with clients. Several are starting to engage with us for longer periods of time, and this gives us the ability to better forecast and plan each quarter.

What are some of your challenges? 

The biggest challenge for us has been to grow the business without the traditional ad model where people work on retainers for an extended period of time. This would make it much easier to forecast financials for things like new hires and hardware/software expenses – which are substantial in our industry. Up until this year we’ve worked project to project. Talent is also a challenge, it’s always hard to find good talented people you want to spend a considerable amount of time around. We now have a team of six great folks (though we need more!).

What prompted you to relocate here?

We moved for quality of life and proximity to clients and opportunity. Over the last few years I’ve noticed a shift away from clients dropping by the office, to the extent that the majority, if not all of the interactions take place over the phone, electronically, or we travel to them. I saw in Bend an opportunity to live somewhere amazing with our family, including two young kids, and still have fairly easy access to our West Coast clients. Portland was on my shortlist for some time, but we felt like we wouldn’t really be escaping some of the fundamental things we didn’t like about living and raising a family in a large city.

What’s next for Impossible Engine? 

The Austin office is probably going to continue to hum along, and new hires will almost certainly be for the Bend office. We’ll continue to grow our West Coast / PNW business relationships while also exploring other markets so as not to trap ourselves geographically into any one economy. Most importantly my goal is to try to keep doing work we’re proud of and clients love which I attribute more than anything to staying afloat over the past few years as we’ve slowly come out of recession.

 

Tierney O'Dea

Tierney O’Dea is a writer and media consultant. She started her career at NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw and worked in various forms of media for national organizations including Scholastic, Yahoo, and NASA. She also served as an executive for two startups, Slooh.com and Medic Mobile, and as a mentor for entrepreneurs in Austin, TX. In her free time, she enjoys downhill skiing, hiking, photography, and astronomy.
Tierney O'Dea