Rezon8 is an Adelaide-based digital media company that specialises in the development and implementation of interactive and immersive digital installations for the urban planning, advertising and art industries. It produces work that aims to change the way digital media is delivered, consumed and measured in public space. Rezon8 Creative Director, Jimmy McGilchrist, an artist with a background in visual arts and film, discusses his experience of taking an idea for an interactive artwork through to a commercially viable business.
“At the beginning of 2010 I teamed up with software developer Darryn Van Someren to collaborate on Swarm, a digital art project for Federation Square in Melbourne. Swarm was an interactive, real-time screen based work, where a swarm of butterflies invaded Federation Square. A live camera feed of the square, displayed on the site’s big screen, enabled spectators to watch and interact with the butterflies, which, in turn, responded to people’s movements. To achieve the ambitious vision of the work, we jointly developed a computer-based solution. Once this had been developed, we suspected that the technology would have potential beyond its use in our one-off art project – and that potential was something we could develop into a business.
But the thought of turning your art into a commercial business leads artists down an uneasy path. The concept of commercialisation is foreign to many within the arts community, and the act of commercialisation of art is often seen as taboo. The romantic view of the poverty stricken, starving artist underpins the foundation of financial sacrifice and economically unsustainable practice. Funding organisations often place restrictions on the generation of profit from funded projects, and an artist’s ability to reinvest in further R&D and commercial opportunities resulting from their work can be compromised. For digital media artists, developing and working with emerging technologies often requires collaboration with professionals and to maintain such relationships over the longer term requires financially-orientated incentives – something artists are often not in a position to offer.
What we needed was support and mentorship to help us navigate the process of ‘selling’ our product while protecting the intellectual property we had spent time and creativity developing. We were fortunately pointed in the direction of MEGA. MEGA is a Entrepreneurship Masterclass program for people from the mobile, digital content and ICT industries and is designed to guide participants through the process of commercialising their intellectual property with an industry-driven development program to build their creative, technical and business skills. This program also included the allocation of a mentor and the opportunity to present our business idea to investors, buyers and business identities at MEGA’s Pitch Day.
Our initial aim when joining MEGA was to gain an understanding of the daunting world of Intellectual Property, lawyers, investors and commercialisation – and our place within it! We began the process by researching our potential business opportunities, clearly defining our market and its needs, what type of businesses we would be competing with and what we could offer to provide competitive solutions to fulfill our markets’ needs. The results of our research highlighted some great opportunities for our product in the Digital Signage industry, and this significantly informed the shape of the business model we developed over the following months. The goal of this business model was to develop our artistic projects, and use these projects as an opportunity for ongoing outcome-based research and development, feeding these developments into a commercial product-based revenue stream.
During the six month program, industry experts guided us through many of the significant challenges common to tech start-ups – choosing an appropriate company structure, legal compliance and managing our cash flow. Mentoring and access to industry experts meant that we were able to make some otherwise impossible connections within the industry which helped Rezon8 develop rapidly and seamlessly. Within the six month period we transformed a one-off art project into a commercially viable company with an innovative and well-researched strategic business model and ultimately developed a new hardware product and cloud based service for the Digital Signage Industry. At the final MEGA pitch day, we presented our business plan to a panel and audience of investors, buyers and business identities and won the awards for the Best Pitch and Most Innovative Business Idea.
The learning curve for us around the commercialisation of our intellectual property has been huge and the obstacles seemingly endless. Everything took twice as long as we anticipated and was twice as hard – but also twice as exciting and heaps of fun! The high-risk nature inherent in this process is exhilarating; it is what I thrive on as an artist and what I’m trained for. In the context of contemporary culture, as an artist working with emerging technologies, I see this process as a natural extension of an innovative art practice.”
After completing a Bachelor of Visual Arts specialising in New Media at the University of South Australia and AudioVisual Production in Valencia, Spain, Jimmy completed a Diploma in Screen and Media Studies at MAPS in Adelaide. Jimmy is currently producing and exhibiting interactive digital media work home and abroad, notably Curious Creatures for Splendour In The Grass and Wake Me If I’m Sleeping at the Shanghai Expo as part of the Experimenta Utopia Now exhibition. In his role as Creative Director at rezon8 Jimmy is involved with a variety of augmented reality and interactive digital media projects within advertising, urban planning and Digital Signage.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia.