Live blog: Creative³ 2015

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The sixth annual Creative³ was opened by CEA CEO Anna Rooke with news that online art platform Bluethumb had won the morning’s Creative³ Pitch.

Bluethumb marries the best of art and technology by building a bridge between those who are interested in art and those who love to create it. It does this by “making the internet a gallery for Australia’s artistic talent”.

Anna had more good news to share: Australia was recently ranked first place out of 139 nations in the Global Creativity Index. The index is a measure for advanced economic growth, competitiveness and sustainable prosperity, ranking nations worldwide on “three Ts” as measures of economic development — talent, technology, and tolerance.

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CEA CEO Anna Rooke opens Creative3

“It’s great for us to be hosting Creative³ and be top of the global index,” Anna said.

Creative³ was created to address start-up sector issues preventing businesses from growing and scaling. Anna reflected on the learnings and challenges from running the event for several years. She said CEA had identified Australia’s lack of early stage capital to help early stage startups. This has resulted in CEA investing in five companies in the past two years, including Handkrafted and Metaverse Makeovers.

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Creative3 mc Peter Edwards

Archipelago director Peter Edwards hosted the event as mc. Peter is an architect, an accomplished and recognised urbanist and a leading figure in this region’s urban design community. He opened with a humorous discussion around selfie sticks and disruptive innovation in urban planning. He touched on millenial transformation, driverless cars, and new ways of thinking to move out of roadwork congestion.

The Future of Media

The first industry guest speaker of the day was Gwendolyn Regina Tan from Mashable. Gwendolyn is currently spearheading Mashable’s global expansion into Asia. Previously she built and sold tech startup-focused media, SGEntrepreneurs to Tech in Asia. She revealed how Mashable is utilising both people and technology to create a “future media company”.

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Gwendolyn Regina Tan

Gwendolyn looked at Mashable’s humble origins as a blog and its meteoric rise to 43 million monthly unique readers and 24 million social followers. The websites audience is equally split between men and women, with 45% of traffic comes through social media. Gwendolyn said the company is “documenting and shaping the digital revolution”, and wants to inform, inspire, and entertain audiences.

“The audience comes to us to see the world in ways they couldn’t see before,” she said.

Gwen is a founding team member of an early stage technology investment firm in Singapore with three exits to date and continues to angel invest with a portfolio that includes Oddle.me and The Commissioned. With a background in entrepreneurship and venture capitalism, the offer to join Mashable was a nice surprise.

“Media is so important to me,. Everyone is a consumer of media,” she said.

She explained the challenges of being given creative freedom as part of a growing media company located on the other side of the world from her her place of work. She admitted that she had moments at the start where she struggled, and recommended the importance of working to a playbook.

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Organisational structure and analytics are crucial to Mashable. She mentioned the Mashable Velocity algorithm, used by their editorial, marketing and sales teams to predict what content is “going to be hot” and its potential lifespan. There is also the Mashable Collective, a team dedicated to redefining storytelling. The team is separate from Mashable’s main editorial team, explores emerging platforms and creates customised mixed media social assets.

The Future of Wearable Tech – Added 12:40pm

How do you design for a digital age? Snepo Research and Wearable Experiment’s Ben Moir looked at the challenges of surprising customers in the evolving world of new products, technology and fashion. He detailed a journey of failures as he forged a new path, leading him to new opportunities and successful projects.

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Ben Moir

Ben has experimented with haptic-driven underwear, ingestible data security, ipad stands, shopping centre digital wayfinders, real-time mobile chase games and interactive exhibitions. It was his involvement with the fashion industry to create wearable fashion that opened his eyes to the importance of design, aesthetics, useability, cost reduction and constantly moving forward.

“Fashion designers have to work so quickly. Tech developers think they made the word agile,” he said.

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Ben believes that technology should be led by design. Design is the quality that differentiates the product, he said. This in turn needs to be led by a desire to understand consumers, and experience the world through other peoples’ eyes.

“It’s not about technology, it’s about experience,” Ben said.

“Open your eyes, experience the world around you, and maybe doing it through a screen is not the best way to do it.”

Make the technology invisible in order to design an emotional and engaging experience. With Snepo’s Australian War Memorial collaborative project, the company “puts the tech at the front, then gets out of the way”.

Creative3 attendees enjoy the conferefence

Creative3 attendees enjoy the conference

Ben is now examining the way design can create a mind-shift for gallery visitors. In an upcoming project he is looking at indigenous cultures and how they perceive time differently to the linear Western view. In a non-linear story, who you are in the future also includes the past.

“Indigenous cultures believe that we are the Dream Time. Where Australia goes is the Dream Time. So we’ve got to create that shift and explore this different perception of time. Audiences can have that ‘ah-ha’ moment,” he said.

He advocates for designers and software engineers to find a common language for system design, product development, electronics and technology. What brings them together is a shared act of creativity.

The Future of Augmented Reality – Added 1:26pm

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Thea Baumann

Metaverse Makeover’s Thea Baumann shared her insights for undertaking market entry in China including the manufacturing of patterned wearable tech products; developing apps for a volatile internet ecosystem; marketing tech products on China’s mobile commerce platforms; launching a world first platform for monetising augmented reality; and growing and protecting brand and innovations in the China market.

Metaverse Makeovers is a cross-cultural, collaborative, future-forward tech company and brand based in Melbourne, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. The company comprises an interdisciplinary team of artists, technologists, developers, and marketers.

Metaverse Makeovers

Metaverse Makeovers

With the help of a research grant, the QUT graduate first started working with Vietnamese nail salons in Australia to experiment with the application of augmented reality. By exploring the nascent technology locally, Thea could see the international potential of the app.

In order to convert augmented technology into a commercial process, she quantified the size of the Chinese market. With 93 million young girls in China who express themselves through social media, she determined a third of them would buy and download a social nails app to express themselves.

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Challenges her team faces include the ‘Great Firewall’ of China that can slow app development, as well the thriving copy-cat market. This has kept her team on its toes.

“We need to make apps fast, it’s incredibly fast there. If you can’t keep up you are dead in the water,” she said.

Metaverse’s original content is the unique selling proposition that differentiates it from the copy-cat apps. She even sees China’s copy-cat industry as a new type of innovation that can benefit Metaverse, as new types of augmented nails still require an app to be viewed.

Her company is in the process of patenting the technology that powers Metaverse Makeovers.

The Future of User Generated Content – Added 1:51pm

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Ben Huxter

While mobile games and modern technology can be seen as highly demanding and even alienating, Ben Huxter from MiniMega presented an alternative view. The jigsaw-crossword mashup game Bonza is all about creating a calming experience for the user. Bonza’s game design engages users both laterally and spatially, a gaming concept that will continue to take off, Ben said.

After creating bespoke games for clients like Kleenex, Woolworths, Optus and The Australian Government, MiniMega set out to reinvent the traditional crossword. Earning a spot in the Apple App Store Best of 2014 list caught the attention of National Geographic and as a result Bonza National Geographic was born.

MiniMega's game design process

MiniMega’s game design process

MiniMega’s goals are to be innovative, socially inclusive, sustainable, and fun. According to Ben, Bonza achieves all these aims. Whereas some games have a stigma of creating loners, Ben says Bonza helps bring people together through its socially-inclined elements. The game’s simplicity has a practical purpose for both players and game designers.

“Creating new content every day takes a lot of work. By choosing a word puzzle game, we’ve created scope for sustainability over time,” Ben said.

By giving players the ability to suggest game challenges, the company now has a repository of 80,000 new puzzles. Up to 200 new ideas come in each day.

People are their happiest when they are in their creative flow, lose track of time and are in the zone, Ben said.

“I feel it when I’m out in the water and I’m surfing, or colouring in pictures, or exploring nature… being in the zone is really important to us as humans, as well as the need to express ourselves as individuals,” he said.

As such, game designers should reward players for their creative expression.

“I feel this has so much future for us and it’s why people are drawn to it. It has real longevity,” he said.

The Future of Quantum Computing – Added 3:25pm

Michael Brett

Michael Brett

Driving a car at peak city traffic is one of the most complex tasks humans can undertake. Nervous drivers, pedestrians, animals, street lights, the weather and other factors all need to be accounted for in real-time. Computers currently can’t compete with humans and our ability to quickly process this information. But with explorations into quantum-mechanics revealing the potential for more advanced forms of creative thinking from machine learning, this may one day change.

Quantum computing has had profound ripple effects for problem solving, innovation and future technologies. Michael Brett’s Creative3 presentation looked at the future of quantum computing, the challenges of raising capital in Australia and the US with a future-facing technology.

According to Michael, there are four categories of data analytics:

  • Descriptive – what happened
  • Predictive – what is going to happen
  • Prescriptive – ‘I want something to occur’
  • Adapative – reacting in real time to complex changing environment

Michael showed a series of example visual patterns, starting with simple geometric shapes; moving on to natural formations such as a flock of birds and school of fish; and then leading up to complex mess of lines. The more complex and asymmetrical the pattern, the harder it is to create probabilities, describe and predict them. Can we work out how highly complex set of rules cause particular patterns?

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“We need a new type of machine that can constantly assess what’s happening next. Can we build a system that behaves creatively in a complex environment?” Michael asked.

The fiftieth anniversary of Moore’s Law is being celebrated in 2015. Computer processing has been a phenomenal revolution driven by Intel and other companies. But according to Michael, we have seen Moore’s Law slow down in the past few years.

“We are reaching the point where transistors are so small, they are reaching the fundamental limits of how small they can be,” he said.

Michael is looking at fundamentally new ways to solve problems through quantum computing. He is now working with D-Wave Two computers at facility in Vancouver to push the limits of technology. The computer processor is cooled down to -270 degrees Celsius in order to observe and learn from quantum behaviour. The aim is to re-build the computer from an atomic level taking advantage of the particular quirks of quantum mechanics.

For Michael, this is the beginning of creative thinking for machine learning – not solving something in a structured way, but finding alternative options. He believes machine learning will be able to solve complex, creative problems.

Michael has three suggestions for business start-ups looking at complex data analytics:

  • It is never too late to start in a data strategy
  • Patterns lie within your data
  • Refine your business strategy with predictive analysis

How to sell the unknown to investors

Creative3 panel

Creative3 panel

Media analysts say the future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed. So how do startup founders convince investors to fund highly disruptive ideas?

The third session ended with a panel discussion led by Gwendolyn Regina Tan (Mashable, far right). Joining Gwendolyn was Michael Fox (Co-CEO, Shoes of Prey) Jon Vlassopulos (Founder & CEO, Fabric Inc.), Michael Brett (CEO, QxBranch) and Thea Baumann (CEO, Metaverse Makeovers), to share their experiences raising capital both in Australia and overseas; and provide insights into selling to investor blue sky business models spanning quantum computing, augmented nail art, demand-driven retail production and entertainment.

The panel members shared the difficulties they have experienced trying to raise capital. One of the worst stories shared mentioned venture capitalists falling asleep during the pitch. Overall, the panel told start-ups to expect to hear investors say ‘No’ to their idea, but that does not always mean it is the end of the conversation.

The Future of Games and Digital Disruption – Added 4:40pm

HynesHalfbrick chief legal officer Kate Hynes talked about the production of an original 13-episode YouTube children’s series based on the successful Fruit Ninja app. The deal included Fruit Ninja Nation, 52 episodes of five minute clips comprised of fan videos, documentaries, mockumentaries and other content based on what’s happening in the world of Fruit Ninja. This deal kickstarted a new collaborative content production process for Halfbrick.

Through Fruit Ninja Nation, Kate described ‘unleashing her inner ninja’ by becoming a creative producer and creating content with no budget. She worked with fruit ninja fans and players, Halfbrick staff, YouTube creators, university students and film school students to produce original content for YouTube. Students have complete story freedom, and the freedom to fail. Students can gain university credit, use university facilities, and Halfbrick can use what produced content they feel comfortable with.

Halfbrick aims to use this process to foster a Queensland hotspot for YouTube content.

The Future of Content Marketing – Added 5:50pm

Christie Poulos

Christie Poulos

King Content head of video Christie Poulos gave a succinct overview of the content marketing process. She discussed the ways brands are becoming publishers, creating audiences, embracing content and using it to generate new forms of revenue and grow business in new ways.

The former Red Bull UK head of content specialises in identifying and engaging with trends and innovation in content. With experience as both a marketer and a content producer, Christie looked at future challenges and opportunities of new digital technologies.

“Our careers are evolving and we have to adapt. We have to in our own little way become content producers,” Christie said.

Three trends Christie identified included:

  • the increasing role of emotion;
  • the collision of software and storytelling; and
  • an avalanche of average content.

Millenials flick through content very quickly, she noted. But its not because people have shorter attention spans, only better filters.

She looked at the continued rise of visual content, video and mobile usage. There is also increasing attention being given to emotion. Content with strong emotional responses is twice as likely to be shared, Christie said.

“We think we’re rational, thinking beings, but marketers are finally getting it that we are actually making illogical decisions… at the end of the day make people laugh, cry or flip their laptop in anger,” she said.

She admitted it can be overwhelming to work in content marketing, particularly with the number of marketing technologies available. A business owner can use technology to improve it’s content, but if your using it improve a terrible story, there’s not much point.

“People still beat software in my opinion,” she said.

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She implored businesses to raise the standard of content they produced. The ‘avalanche of average’ from user-generated content and brand social media wasn’t helping anyone. There is a quote about this abundance Christie particularly liked to share:

“Everybody’s talking at once in hypnotic hyper din: the cocktail party from hell” – Maureen Dowd

“Invest in strategy. If it’s not money, it’s time. Decide what you are going to do, and how. If you invest in strategy you do get better results,” she said.

She suggests creating content for the individual, not for the demographic. This is easier for small businesses, and becomes harder the larger the company is and more distant its from the customer.

“It’s impossible to create content for a demographic, because you don’t know who they are and what they love,” she said.

Her other suggestions include ‘talking to the reptilian brain’, using signal-driven content distribution to target people, and follow behaviour-driven content.

“Who would have thought that people want to track every step they take with a FitBit?” she said.

Christie was the final speaker for a day of deep discussion around raising cap[ital, designing business, sparking creativity and never giving up.

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