British venture capitalist, John Whatmore, is on a quest. He’s working to unearth the alchemy of creativity and use it to drive innovation and build the United Kingdom’s golden future.
And we’re following him on this journey. After being introduced to John’s blog by Bill Knowles, our local innovation guru and board member for the Center for Creative Economy, I’ve been taking notes on how we can harness the creative economy to develop a golden future for Wilmington.
Whatmore asked: Are Incubators and accelerators becoming ossified in their formats? If so, the arts suggest a more varied landscape, and a less prescriptive approach – from which businesses could draw.
Business accelerators continue to proliferate – with roughly the same basic model and well-established practices. The arts continue to be one of our region’s most vibrant sectors, and creativity and innovation are their foundation. What can we take from the artistic process and transfer to new venture creation?
Take filming a documentary, for example, something that is commonplace here. The filmmakers go through steps very similar to any business startup; from conception, through development, iterating, staging and filming, to commercialization; and the process is highly collaborative. The parallels are obvious.
Last week, Whatmore’s article, “Making Innovation Flourish” offers some great insights. He investigated arts incubators in London and New York City.
Watershed Bristol’s Pervasive Media Studio is one. It’s a ‘hive’ where 30 people work in close proximity, hot-desking with an intensity and intimacy that encourages interaction. At tekMountain, a local co-working environment, they call those interactions ‘collisions’.
Another variant is the ‘ideas nursery’. Metal Art in London is a studio space where writers can take time out to develop an idea they have for a play. The National Theatre’s Studio Workshop acts as a concept development lab for playwrights to develop material – by providing facilities to ‘see how it works’.
Whatmore visited New York City’s New Museum, an art and technology co-working space, where 40 fee-paying members were selected from over 400 applicants for full-time access to the facility and its programs for two years. The space includes amenities typical of both business incubators and maker spaces, and membership includes business classes and mentorships.
Members bring new values to the business incubator model because “they are not necessarily devoted to profit, scale or attracting investors.” The focus is on artists who are starting their own tech-oriented businesses or adding a “missing ingredient” to entrepreneur teams; and there is a desire to leverage this interdisciplinary community for social impact. The goal is to support and diversify creative industries in the city.
A study by the New York Center for an Urban Future indicates that although New York turns out many art and design graduates who would like to stay in the city, most don’t have resources to do so. The same is true in Wilmington.
Interested in joining this quest? The next stop on our journey is Cucalorus Connect, November 14-15. Connect explores the intersection between creativity, technology, and humanity. Join us for two days of deep conversations, playful interactions, and new partnerships with artists, technologists, and leading thinkers on health, entrepreneurship, coastal resilience, racial justice, and more.
Diane Durance, MPA, is director of UNC Wilmington's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). The CIE is a resource for the start-up and early-stage business community to help diversify the local economy with innovative solutions. For more information, visit www.uncw.edu/cie.
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