7 June 2018, Patrick Towell
On a fateful day in February 2005, I incorporated the company that became Golant Media Ventures.
At the time, there were two conundrums I wanted to unravel. What would happen if you were to take the kind of design thinking I’d been using with ‘digital’ and instead apply it to strategy, organisational change and policy? And how would media and entertainment change if it were redesigned around the lives of its users, instead of the way the industry has organised itself over the last 100 years?
The first 5 years saw me and various ‘friends of the family’ working in fields as diverse as multi-level marketing, family services and learning outside the classroom. When Mandy Berry joined as co-founder in 2010, we adopted a more creative industries focus.
Over the years, we’ve mentored, supported and trained as well as strategised, planned and advised. We’ve connected up the dots between video, Virtual Reality, analytics and animation on the one hand – and opera, theatre, craft and museums on the other. In between, we’ve made some time to research and develop – with amazing co-conspirators.
In 2011, the creative industries chapter of the Knowledge Transfer Network gave us licence to wonder what opportunities and challenges data-driven innovation and co-design with customers would bring – up until, well, about now. Having co-designed this vision of the future with more than 100 people from culture, creative, digital and the public sector – I’d say we (collectively) got it pretty right. Maybe we should do it again!
In 2012-13, we led collaborative Research and Development with the Guardian and several tech startups on how entertainment experiences could span editorial, still and moving images and music. Those partners and we are still using what we learnt from that user-centred prototyping, intense cataloguing and complex business modelling today.
The Chief Economist of the Intellectual Property Office asked us in 2014 to envision how markets in intellectual property could work efficiently in the future. We realised that IP was the wrong end of the telescope to look down. What policymakers and financiers needed to think about was what is valuable to commercial and social enterprises – intangible assets. This has informed our ongoing work transforming organisations through the way they turn knowledge, content and data into assets.
In 2015, we had the privilege of collaborating with Miracle Theatre to work out how filmed performance was going to be for the organisations that aren’t a national brand – practically, artistically and financially. This enabled us to look afresh at how media ventures (because that’s what films are) can be financed in the largely funded and non-profit sector. And to consider more generally how the cultural sector can be enterprising in a sustainable way.
In 2016, we prototyped with Cardiff-based, artist-led gallery g39 content and tools to enhance the experience of – and capture permissioned data from – audiences who are not ticketed. With the help of Nesta and Arts Council Wales we’re now scoping out how this can be rolled out across the visual arts sector in Wales.
In 2017, we helped East London-based artist support and development agency, Artsadmin, transform themselves to turn their data into an asset and to base their planning and decision-making more on evidence. The resulting open source CRM, development and reporting system co-named ‘Kiwi’ is featured in the DDCMS 'Culture is Digital' report.
And in 2018 we’ve been working with the cultural sector, Arts Council England and other funders to work out what ‘resilience’ is for them from now until 2030. What it means, how to be resilient, how to measure resilience, what gets in the way of resilience… Watch out for more on this soon.
Meanwhile, we developed the original concept for a digital film distribution service for public exhibition in any venue not just cinemas in 2010; raised EU MEDIA money for it in 2011 for a proof of concept in 2012; spun the business out into Cinegi in 2013; and helped raise money from Ingenious Ventures in 2014. The company (Cinegi Media Limited) has gone on to deliver a public beta in 2015, secure support from Arts Council England in partnership with the BFI for an action research project in 2016 and deliver a national service for screenings of filmed performance in 2017-18. It will share its research findings with the sector later this year.
With my co-founder, Mandy, moving to being full-time CEO of Cinegi – we had to decide what to do next with GMV. Our projects were increasingly requiring ever more sophisticated research – so it made sense to partner with a research agency. It’s fun to advise on commercial and enterprise activities, but it’s even more satisfying to actually make them happen. We’d got to work with many organisations over the years, but I was keen to roll out our advice and solutions nationally. We’ve built an amazing team and extended family over the years, but it felt time to be part of something bigger.
So not ignoring the irony of us advising so many people on their governance and structures, and omitting to do this for ourselves… we eventually realised that should become the enterprise and innovation team of a larger organisation.
Hence our forthcoming merger with The Audience Agency. I wonder what the next 13 years will bring?