NewInc, the first museum incubator

NewInc, the first museum incubator

September 9, 2015 by We Are Museums
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Yet another example of how great the marriage between art and startups can be! In September 2014, the New Museum announced the opening of the first museum incubator, inviting young art and tech-oriented startups to share a space inside the walls of the institution. The selected entrepreneurs are to benefit from professional counseling, financial support, as well as powerful network of investors and museum specialists.

At first glance, it might seem strange for a museum to open up such a space when so many incubators already exist in the city - after all, cultural institutions aren’t usually seen as places for tech revolutions. However, this scene is quite hostile to art startups, even with a tech side. Those entrepreneurs usually have a hard time finding the right investors, support, or even encouragement - as New Museum staff points out, they’re often too artsy for tech investors and too tech-oriented for support from traditional art institutions.

New Inc allows young entrepreneurs to mix art, tech, and design, and encourages them to blend disciplines together. Few places offer such creative freedom and financial support, allowing its members to go beyond their usual scope of action, explore new horizons and create bridges between disciplines without the pressure of rentability and investors.

So far, a handful of start-ups have been selected to be part of the incubator for the next 12 months. The projects are all very different, but they all have the same purpose - mixing disciplines and opening new perspectives for digital culture and museums as a whole.

Some of the projects focus on visitor experience and the new frontiers of digital mediation. The dance company Hammerstep has joined the incubator hoping to develop a new and immersive way to interact with their audience for their play Indigo Grey, a special installation allowing visitors to control a cloud of fog with their body movements. Also focusing on visitor interaction, Studio Studio and The Principals have come together at NewInc to create REIFY, a startup that creates music-inspired 3D sculptures which can recreate the audio and visual atmosphere of the original piece when scanned on a smartphone..
Some other projects focus on more material aspects of culture: Yami Ichi is a Japanese group that sets up flea markets where digital concepts are translated into physical objects and sold on the stalls (think accepting a cookie or buying profile pictures - IRL).

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For the New Museum, opening up such a space means having a grip on the latest developments in arts and technology. It also means having a pool of young and creative talents ready to work with them and develop common projects in order to make the change they want to see happen for themselves. All of these projects could be developed in the museum, get tested on the public, and help change visitor experience -  exchanging views with the entrepreneurs on a daily basis is a great way for the museum teams to challenge their perception of the institution and find new ideas.
Moreover, artists and entrepreneurs actually have way more in common that what we think - artist Mario Ybarra recently gave a speech pointing out the similarities between launching a startup and crafting a work of art. Artists and entrepreneurs go through the same creative process, passing through phases of intent, doubt, testing, and distribution and documentation.

When you think about it, cultural institutions themselves are entrepreneurs: for every new season, they have to bet on a new project, convince their public, and re-invent their product constantly. Museums are about inviting visitors to take risks and leave their comfort zones, but they’re also about documenting trials, mistakes, and successes.

NewInc isn’t just one more incubator - it’s also one more proof that museums can foster change and be on the front lines of innovation.