“It worked – but the scene is still young.”
In Switzerland, a new generation of creatives is growing up whose playing field is digital: game designers, virtual reality designers, digital architects, artists and storytellers. Over the past three years, Engagement Migros has used a Match-Making Module to bring these new creatives together with investors and potential buyers of their products. We take stock.
Even the Federal Council stated in March 2018 that there is potential in the digital creative sector. However, industry experts agree that this potential is not yet being exploited in Switzerland. The international market for digital creation has become huge, with sales in the video games industry alone estimated at around 80 billion dollars worldwide. Add to that other sectors such as the film industry or the luxury goods and advertising industry. All of them rely on digital creations.
“We want to build bridges.”
There is actually a lot of new digital creative talent in Switzerland. Since 2004, 200 game designers have graduated from the University of the Arts in Zurich alone. And there are more every year, not only from the field of games: for example from the Ecal School of Art in Lausanne by Media Interaction Design, or from HEAD and the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne.
Their production, the Federal Council continues, “is of high quality, but their output is still modest. Access to the market is difficult”. It is the aim of Engagement Migros to support projects that lie precisely at the crossroads between creation and the market. The Match-Making Module was therefore initiated in 2016. The project will now be completed at the end of 2018. Samira Lütscher has been managing the project internally at the development fund. She is now sitting at the table with Marie Mayoly, the external project manager. Together they look back.
How did you get the idea for this project?
S. L.: After a pilot project that we conducted together with Pro Helvetia, we saw that there is a need in Switzerland to connect digital creatives to a possible market.
Why especially them?
S. L.: Other creative industries have their market environment: writers, publishers, artists, galleries and so on. But the market for digital creatives is still in its infancy in Switzerland. There are yet many gaps in the ecosystem – we wanted to build bridges here.
What was the project’s goal at the beginning?
S. L.: We wanted to find out what the market was like. That’s why we launched an open-ended project and outlined various scenarios. One of them, for example, was that it could result in a small matchmaking agency that would be financed by placements. During the course of the programme, the digital creatives have indeed become professionalised. We are convinced that your ecosystem will soon flourish.
What solution have you found?
S. L.: We are concluding the project with a “cookbook”, a guide on how to organise matchmaking, i.e. bringing digital creatives together with buyers and investors, and on what to look out for in this context.
Marie Mayoly headed up the project, carried out the matchmaking and wrote the cookbook. In the beginning she introduced a dozen digital creatives to potential investors, partners or clients. The discussions after the pilot project resulted in the following findings: Yes, there is interest. However, it is still too little known that Switzerland is increasingly training digital creatives who work at a high level.
“I had to convince some people that their art was in demand.”
By the end of 2018, Marie Mayoly will have introduced almost a hundred creatives to over 300 investors. The trained hospitality manager and her Swiss protégés have attended dozens of trade fairs worldwide over the past three years: several times in Cannes, and at US fairs and festivals such as the Sundance Film Festival in Utah and the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.
How did matchmaking work?
M. M.: The process was improved from one matchmaking meeting to the next and is now divided into five phases: searching for creatives, finding investors, coaching before the meeting, the meeting itself, and then obtaining feedback from both sides.
Which of these phases was the most challenging?
M. M.: Among the many interesting Swiss creatives, there are some who see themselves so strongly as artists that they can’t imagine working commercially for companies. These young creatives come from universities that dedicate little time to the business aspect. So their graduates don’t understand how the creative digital market works. I had to convince some of these young men that their art and skills are in demand on the market.
Good matchmaking – two success stories
At the end of 2016, Somniacs sells one of its Birdly units – a flight simulator that combines VR and robot technology – to mk2 VR, the first permanent venue for virtual reality in France. mk2 is an important French film distribution company and cinema chain.
The digital artist Martin Herting presented his work Sensible Data at the Ars Electronica in Linz – a pioneering festival in Europe for research into digital art and media culture.
Further examples can also be found in this report.
How did you find the investors and potential buyers?
M. M.: I did a lot of research on the internet and in databases. I went through the participant lists of the festivals and partner organisations and searched for similarities.
That sounds like a lot of work...
M. M.: Yes, sometimes research is almost detective work. Matchmaking isn’t about finding just any potential investor, but the investor who best fits the Swiss company. I had to find out exactly what a company was doing and in which direction it wanted to move. I had to find out exactly who was in charge. I wrote a lot of emails to people somewhere in the world who never got back to me. You have to approach matchmaking with a sense of humour.
Were you there yourself at the meetings?
M. M.: No. But I prepared everything. What is often forgotten at meetings: the environment. It is important. It has to be quiet and not too hot, with pleasant lighting. I made sure the atmosphere was right. After the meetings I collected feedback from both sides. That’s just as important as preparing for a meeting. It’s the only way to learn, prepare better for other matchmaking activities and continue the success story.
Why is the project not being continued commercially?
M. M.: That was indeed an option that I examined. Unfortunately, the market environment – we are also talking about the ecosystem – is not yet ready. The matchmaking did work. We saw that there is a need for this. But I am confident that there will soon be such an agency.
M. M.: The scene here is still too young to be able to pay for targeted matchmaking. We have done pioneering work. The Swiss digital creatives now know that there is a market. And the investors and buyers have seen that there is potential in Switzerland. In the future, this potential will not be smaller, but larger in any case.
Digital entrepreneurs and creatives face a huge challenge. As pioneers of radical new artistic ideas, they must not only develop their project, but also create a whole new market. While traditionally-oriented creative professionals usually have a relatively good understanding of their market and its established supporters, platforms, investors, patrons and other important stakeholders, digital cultural entrepreneurs often have to start with less orientation. They need to build a completely new ecosystem for their genre. As a valuable tool in this endeavour, the “Cookbook” of the Match-Making Module is now available to emerging organisations and institutions such as the Pro Helvetia Arts Council.