3rd regional workshop – a deepened investigation on cross-over inititaives and coworking in rural contexts

3rd regional workshop – a deepened investigation on cross-over inititaives and coworking in rural contexts

The third out of four planned regional workshops took place in the middle of May in the very unusual setting of the Alte Mühle (old mill) in Himmelpfort, one and a half hours by car north of Berlin. The village counts only around 550 inhabitants and is a popular holiday resort famous for being Santa Clause’s home, but devoid of any kind of industry or economy whatsoever.

The Alte Mühle is an old industrial mill, owned by Tilman Kunowski and his partner Brit Eisman, who seek to transform the place into a meeting place for creative professionals who want to transplant their work- and living space to the country side for a while.

To this special venue we had invited some of the participants of our last workshop (from Neuruppin, Oranienburg, Eberswalde and Strausberg), who were and are already working with and on the issues of cross-over inititaives and have or plan to acquire a space where this can happen – be it under the format called coworking or in a different manner.

As a special guest we had invited Marc Piesbergen, the project leader of Grüne Werkstatt Wendland, an open source project in the very rural region Wendland, mostly famous for the regular protest against the passing Castor Transport, for Ex-Hippie communes and the historical rundlings villages.

In this remote area, the Grüne Werkstatt manages to bring together designers, students and local companies to work together on innovative new products and services in their annual project week called Designcamp.

As this project is already running very successfully and is open to being transferred to other regions, Marc was really the perfect guest for our workshop.

In the first part, he shared all his experience and answered to all the many questions the group had. In the second part, we concentrated on the participants’ own projects, their challenges and visions and collected ideas on how to go on from there. It definitely seems as though stronger collaboration between all sectors and local players is a good starting point.

Right now we are in the middle of conceptualizing the next steps on which we will keep you posted here.

Round table n°2: Access to smart finance – a review

Round table n°2: Access to smart finance – a review

On tuesday, 21st of May, we gathered in Copenhagen for our second round table (of four) to discuss the question of „Access to smart finance – how can investors be better investors for the creative industries?“

Against the grey sky and the rain drizzles, CKO – our co-hosts for this event – had arranged the meeting to take place at Artlab, a colourful venue and institution for the professionalisation of artists and creatives, located right at the big lakes of the city. 

We had invited different specialists from Denmark (CKO and Refleks), Sweden (Media Evolution), Italy (Arts4Business Institute, Trentino School of Management) and Germany (see below) in order to get as broad a perspective on the topic as possible. After a short round of presentation, we had three spontaneous mini-presentations/experience recounts by Daniel Kerber, founder of morethanshelters (mobile shelter concept realized with a number of different approaches to investment), Markus Presch from the Thuringian Agency for the creative industries (THAK), on a study conducted by the Thuringian structure bank and the derived actions, as well as Florian Knetsch from Prognos, who conducted a study for the German Ministry of Economy with a focus on fields of interaction of creative business and other fields of economy (linked below).

Søren Würtz (CKO)

Søren Würtz (CKO)

After these short impulses we jumped right into the presentation of the study prepared by CKO especially for C2C. Søren Würtz, chief consultant within CKO, had conducted a dozen of interviews with all kinds of investors (all but private banks and not donors) from 5 countries across Europe, who are already acting “smartly” in the field of CCI. The approach – a clever twist – was to ask these investors how, in their view, the others were acting “stupid” and which mistakes they frequently make.

But what is smart financing? The opposite of stupid, which is only looking to yesterday and generalizing economic logic that cannot be applied to all branches of economy, as the “rules” are changing, not only in society, but also in economy. Estimating next year’s revenue by looking at last year’s revenue might not always be the best method when it comes to innovative and creative companies …

In order to be a smart investor, you need to dare to jump low, start with small steps, test with low-cost market analysis, fail and re-try, build up while doing and working with 2 months-plans instead of 3-years-plans (which always bear more risk …)

And why should investors invest in the CCI? Because they are growing and are better off today than many other companies, even after the crisis (for example in the music industry). This reality challenges the general assumption of CCI businesses as being flaky and risky …

Here is a list of initiatives to take as suggested during the interviews

  • awareness-rising and knowledge transfer ((e.g. in get-together-meetings with creatives and investors) 
  • investors’ academies (e.g. seminars in which special CCI knowledge is transmitted)
  • bundling of CCI companies into a portfolio (which might make it more attractive to invest)
  • more cases (as a base for decision making, an ersatz for statistics and numbers)
  • new pitching design
  • grave to cradle / the life cycle approach (which means that the knowledge of young creative entrepreneurs should be used already today, before they „retire“ from their businesses and become business angels and consultants or even smart investors themselves)
  • Euro-Hollywood“ (creating clusters/working group of specialists on one particular field, e.g. film, games, music etc.)
  • a new valuation tool
  • move more investors into incubators

In two groups, the round table participants decided on a) the impact of each proposed initiative (high or low), b) the difficulty level of their implication.

Results from group 1

Highly effective and easy to implement:

  • Awareness-rising
  • Bundling of CCI companies
  • More cases (all linked together)

Highly effective but hard to implement:

  • Euro-Hollywood, because in many subsectors clusters already exist as very closed entities
  • Investors’ academies + More investors into incubators, because investors “don’t like to be tought” … and because “the investors” are a very heterogeneous group in themselves, of which some might be open to the new experiences and other not so much …
  • A new valuation tool, because it is not clear what it could be, although it would definitely be very important, in order to generate the much needed „hard facts“

Less effective and middle-hard to implement:

The new design of pitching sessions, because one pitching session only reaches a limited number of people which makes the process time consuming and thus not so highly effective.

Results from group 2

The second group did not use the given matrix, but built on a time-frame order of the proposed initiatives, departing from

  1. the basis: the generation of more cases in order to raise awareness. This lies at the very beginning of it all, as we are in a situation today, where we need to convince the first movers to open the door …
  2. step: bundling of CCI companies, leading to the development of the following tools:
  • more investors to incubators,
  • investors’ academies, (the two first ones being quite easy to implement as they demand no commitment from the investors.)
  • new design of pitching sessions,
  • Euro-Hollywood.

After you have these tools, at one point you need arguments in order to get the commitment from the investors. This leads to the necessary development of the valuation tool (highest impact and hardest to implement, but a highly desirable goal and useful tool).

We finished the afternoon with a lot of food for thought in our minds and will go on investigating and working on these questions during the barcamp in September!

Many thanks to CKO and all participants for their valuable input!

Links for further reading:

 

A new incubation scheme for start-ups and professionals in Milan

speedmiupSpeed Mi Up is a new incubation scheme by the Milan chamber of commerceBocconi University in Milan and the city of Milan aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs and start-ups on the one hand, and at professionals under 35 working in communication fields (e.g.designers, graphic artists, web-designers, journalists, freelance advertising) or in business services (e.g. employment consultants, tax consultants, lawyers, auditors, financial consultants, accountants, IT technicians, company consultants, programmers) on the other hand. 10 start-ups and 20 professionals per year will be selected for the program.

Speed Mi Up’s ambition is to go beyond the design of established business incubators and tries to achieve this by offering a broad and unusual of mix of services to its users:

  1. Work spaces
  2. Financial tools
  3. Training
  4. ICT services for startups
  5. Development services

The mix between start-ups and professionals is definitely a novel feature that cannot be found in conventional incubation schemes. Once accepted, companies can also make use of a cooperative social networking platform through which they can interact with colleagues, tutors and other entrepreneurs via chat, postings, document sharing, conference/video calls and virtual meetings.

As the program just started, it remains to be seen how the program will be accepted by start-ups and professionals and whether it really can contribute to “speed Milan up”.

 

Further information

Interview with Fausto Pasotti, Director of Speed Mi Up on Youtube (in Italian)

Expert Round Table n°2: Access to smart finance

We always talk about how creative entrepreneurs need to learn more business skills, write better business plans, work on lowering their risks and so on … but what happens if you flip that assumption around?! How can investment be smart? And how can investors be better investors for and in the creative industries?

These are the questions we will be discussing tomorrow in Copenhagen during our second expert round table meeting. Our Danish partners from CKO prepared a promising study on the matter, based on qualitative interviews with investors and creative entrepreneurs and we invited experts from Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Germany to add as many different perspectives as possible.

The results will be posted here soon after …

Design as a tool for enhancing the regional competitiveness

Design as a tool for enhancing the regional competitiveness

After the very inspiring morning interview with Paolo of the Hub Rovereto, we got back on the train and rode further north to Trento, where we met Stefano Rossi from the university of Trento and Monica Carotta, from the business development agency Trentino Sviluppo, to talk about the program „Trentino Creativo“.

The meeting took place at the university, which is located in a former sanatorium on a hill overlooking the city. A great scenery, indeed!

Trentino Creativo is a call, aimed at bringing together young emerging designers and the local producing business. This connection is not very obvious in the beginning, as Trentino is not famous for design (in fact, the region has no own design school or so), but rather for agriculture (apples and wine), paper and wood manufacturing and small producers. These producers oftentimes work in very traditional ways and had to be convinced that the incorporation of design into their production processes from an early stage might indeed add some value to their products and thus their companies’ success, even in hard-knock economical terms. So, the program’s overall goal was to change the mindsets of people and to use design to make the region more competitive.

To this end, the program launches two calls each year with which are addressed both at designers and companies. The companies send in a short draft of their product idea which is then forwarded in an anonymised version to the 20 selected designers, who pick 2 ideas for which they hand in a proposal. These proposals are then again forwarded to the companies. Based on these drafts and proposals Trentino Creativo organizes a matching meeting and helps with settling the contracts, but then retreats and leaves both involved parties do their work as they see fit.

The reception of the program is very good on the side of the desginers as they seem to be really eager for a supported help with entering the company sphere. The companies, on the other hand, are not yet that convinced and need to be pushed a little more. So far, the program still needs to use monetary incentives (20% of the costs of the designers is covered by Trentino Creativo, which amounts to a maximum sum of 5.000€).

But the program can definitely already be seen as a success: there have been collaborations resulting in the creation of a new bathroom design, the newly designed interior of a local tourism office, a new design for balconies,  innovative mobile homes that give shelter to people after natural catastrophes and new champagne glasses. Furthermore, right now, a group of designers is working on the development of items for the museum shop of the new science museum in Trento, which is about to open in July.

How to Hub in a small town …

How to Hub in a small town …

While our first research trip to Italy in April brought us to Milan, Turin and Bologna, big cities in Lombardy, Piemont and Emiglia Romagna, this time we had designed a tour leading us more north-east-wards in search of smaller communities.

So, on Wednesday afternoon we got on a train, left the greater Milano area behind us (after an interview with the Chamber of Commerce of Monza and Brianza) and started heading up north. It may sound funny to German, Danish or Swedish readers, but we could really feel how we were travelling north and leaving the south behind us. The Alps were getting closer, the clouds were hanging deeper, the air smelled different … not to mention the different architecture …

Our next destination was Rovereto, a small town of 38.500 inhabitants on the foot of the mountains, where we had our next interview with Paolo Campagnano scheduled for thursday morning. Paolo is one of the co-founders of the Hub Rovereto. The Hub is a world-spanning network of professionals, creatives and coworking spaces with a social entrepreneurial approach. It is important to stress that the Hub wants to be more than „just“ another coworking space, as Paolo told us: in fact it is really more about a mindset and the shared network. The Hub started in London in 2005 and counts 33 locations worldwide today, with a growing tendency (e.g. There will be a Hub opening in Berlin). Rovereto is by far the smallest, which made it all the more interesting for us, as we were curious to learn how the typically rather urban concept of coworking functions in a smaller community, where, as Paolo (originally from Milano) told us, there are a number of challenges you don’t meet in bigger cities. These are for example old animosities between long-time aquaintances which are a constraint to building professional networks, or that the local community often sees the young creatives as „wanna-be-spacials“ and are reluctant to work with them.

Still, despite these constraints, the Hub Rovereto is a success story: It opened in 2010 and counts already 70 members today without ever having had to draw on public money for support.

The members are between 17 and 55 years old and come from the whole region. Some are entrepreneurs, some are freelancers or work for organizations or on projects. You’ll find people from such diverse specialized fields like energy, communication, web development, theatre, photography, peace research, neuropsychological science, tourism, food and nutrition.

The Hub offers them online and offline services such as the space of course, but also trainings on specific skills and access to the worldwide social media tool the Hub net, through which collaborations can be arranged. Some courses are also organized for non-members, such as long-term unemployed people or young wanna-be entrepreneurs. These are often arranged in collaboration with Business Angels or other orgnisations.

When asked about the future, Paolo mentioned the new Hub they will open in Trento this year and depicts a picture, with more separated rooms in the coworking space (e.g. for meetings), a closer collaboration with the local population and more small hubs turned into a private network of community hubs.

We will definitely follow this development and wish Paolo and his team good luck!

Touring Torino, part two

Touring Torino, part two

Do you know what an isthmus is? It is a very thin strip of land connecting two larger land areas, a kind of connection. The Italian word for that is: Izmo. In our case, however, IZMO is the name of a neighbourhood development agency with a participatory, social and cultural approach, based in Torino. It had been one month since we last visited the city. This time we came back for more investigation, namely to track down the many interesting hints Alessandro Bollo from Fondazione Fitzcaraldo had given us the last time. While the previous visit had been very focussed on programs on the municipality and greater policy level, this time it was all about urban development projects with an approach involving creativity and art …

After our first morning interview with Urbe, a group with an interesting approach on urban district development via use of streetart, we met with the very sympathetic Alessandro Grella, one of the co-founders of IZMO.

IZMO started as a group of friends and is organized as an Italian “assoziazione culturale”, which means that it is not for profit and serves a public, cultural mission. As a member-based organisation, IZMO is financed by the revenue of their work, the course/workshop fees and the membership fees and runs completey without public money. The core team is multidisciplinary and comprises 12 people, of which nobody works full time for IZMO and nobody has a contract. As far as we’ve learned during our research in Sweden, this is a very appropriate means of guaranteeing you don’t loose contact to the „scene“.

The professional backgrounds of the IZMO team are architecture, landscape design, urban planning, policy making, participatory design, product design, ICT and media engineering, which explains why all their actions are centered around architecture, design and territory.

And these are their field of action, or their mission, if you like:

  1. Participation and social involvement as a tool for all activities (e.g. focus groups for decision processes)
  2. Training and education for students, professionals or any other kinds of interested people (e.g. summer or winter schools, workshops and seminars, always case-based and very hands-on)
  3. Realization, designing, building (in their own workshop which is located in a nearby compound with two alternative theatres and a bar, owned by the municipality)
  4. ICT and new media (as another tool for participation)

Their target group are other non-profit associations, private entities or public administration, but not more than 50% of their work should be commissioned by private parties.

After one hour of interview, we felt we had grabbed the spirit. Now we wanted to see something! So Alessandro drove us to the previously mentioned compound and showed us around. Despite the burning midday-sun some people were working in the workshop, while others were getting ready for a theatre show in the evening and we could really feel how this place must be alive and buzzing at nights …

 

Round table 1: Digitization in the creative industries – a review

Round table 1: Digitization in the creative industries – a review

On thursday, 25th of April, we gathered at the Kultur Skåne building in Malmö’s Western harbour district for our first expert round table meeting on digitization in the creative industries. In order to gain a pan-European perspective on the matter, we had invited our partners from Denmark, Sweden and Italy, along with some other experts we met during our research trips.

Round Table 1

Round Table 1

The basis of our discussion was the report presented by our partner Klas Rabe from swedish Tillväxtverket, which presented digitization as a growth potential for the CCI in general as it both changes business models and creates new products, new service patterns and new conceptual solutions.

According to the study, CCI companies are drivers of this trend (not “only affected” by it) and can contribute content and value creation for their long-term competitiveness, as there has been a change in global value chains to which SMEs, especially within the CCI, contribute significantly. Digitization thus gave birth to a a new type of CCI startups that are “born global”, small companies working together with other small companies in networks.

Of course, the sub-sectors react differently to this trend. The music industry has – after severe problems – recovered and notes significant growth in general today (think of the spotify success story, for example). And the sales for Swedish game developers nearly doubled in 2011 compared to the numbers of 2010.
In the performance arts industry, digitization is used for the creation of new models of dissemination and new solutions for their shows in which digitization becomes part of the artistic production. The design sector is developing digital design as well as new ways to communicate with users through social media. In a survey by the Swedish Engineering Industries Association in 2011, it is shown that companies who invest in design, are up to 50% more profitable than those who do not. Very front-end in all this is, by the way, the cultural heritage sector, which adopts the possibilities of digitization very open-heartedly, e.g. in exhibitions but also for preservation and archiving.

Interlinked effects of digitization that affect all sectors are:

  • Availability: Digitization contributes to an increased availability of culture: more people can access and exercise more culture.
  • From consumption to participation through the blurring of the traditional boundaries between cultural consumption and production, made possible by technological developments and the creation of new media.
  • Production: More blending of media than before.
  • Cooperation: the new interdisciplinary methods of production bring together people and professionals from different sub-sectors. Think for example about the development of a computer game: It requires the cooperation of screenwriters, musicians, designers, programmers and engineers.
  • Communication and co-working: teams who are physically apart can still co-work on one and the same project through the use of new media; and teams and companies who don’t necessarily work on the same project still choose to share a common work space as they feel that this setting benefits their work. Here the driving forces are not purely economic but mainly driven by people’s needs and preferences on their work life surroundings.

Spill-over effects:

  • Traffic and defense turn to computer games industries for their tools on simulating and other effects.
  • Scientific data and results communication through visualization → can then in turn be used for architecture, design and media development for example (one example for that is the micro-level material research in Lund)

Problems and challenges which accompany the trend and which need to be investigated into further, are for example access to finance (as many new solutions don’t fit into the typical funding categories), or the already largely debated upon issue of intellectual property rights (as the digital development will present significant challenges for existing and new entrants regarding future cost and price models and thus business revenues related to intellectual property rights.)
One specific major challenge identified by Tillväxtverket is getting the public players to know and understand service innovation in the area, and the needs of the respective target groups, for a flexible approach to shape effective development efforts. The public workers need to develop skills in areas such as technology, communications, statistics and law. Government agencies and national organizations need to strengthen the monitoring of developments in this field, and take notice of common challenges and coordinate their different solutions.

Another important action would be to enhance the cooperation of public workers with external professionals and specialists from within the CCI, who know about the needs and interests of CCI entrepreneurs. This would in return improve and accelerate digital audience development.
In general it can be said, that the entire innovation and business support system will need to gain additional skills in order to keep track with the development, as the current schemes are not yet adapted to the needs of the new businesses.