Many renowned scholars would argue that creativity nurtures innovation, and it is innovation that drives further economic development as a whole. Until recently, Europe has been suffocating from a lack of opportunities, or severe austerity, both of which have had quite a destructive effect on innovation right down to its roots.
But all this is changing. More and more Europeans seek creative entrepreneurship as a means to escape the dull impotence of the reverberating crisis. They seek a way to monetise their ideas and realise their dreams in the face of bored indifference from the public – yet the reality proves they are well worth more than a penny.
This is the aim of London-based NX Creative Lab, a non-profit entrepreneurial incubator that gives chances to start-ups, emerging artists and innovators to help kick-start their ideas in a series of live crowdfunding events. The concept is simple: think Kickstarter but at an actual venue where you can directly see people who you may want to fund. Established by a collective born in 2014 on the campus of London’s Goldsmiths College, its members are from all corners of the world including Finland, Germany, Denmark, Bulgaria, France, and Czech Republic. They all came to London to set up their own businesses but circumstances brought them together in an attempt to help others to make their ideas into a reality.
The collective’s aim is to provide a platform for aspiring entrepreneurs to share innovative, cutting-edge ideas and to connect with their potential supporters right on the ground. “I know it’s a big cliché but I do believe that creativity in Europe is spreading like a virus, especially in the last few decades,” says Yanitsa Vladimirova, a brand marketer and small business strategist, one of its founding members and a native of Sofia. “Creativity gives people fearlessness to follow and share their passion, experiment with their ‘eccentric’ ideas and see how they might work on the market.”
They all came to London to set up their own businesses but circumstances brought them together in an attempt to help others make their dreams come true.
Past events have seen all possible ideas flourish into being: from a mobile app mapping all the cool spots of London to a futuristic-style experience helmet that lets you hear how your own brain works, to a project fighting homelessness via storytelling. The latest event, held on 17 June at London’s pop-up mall Boxpark in the heart of its tech scene in Shoreditch, was won by LBD Audio. This time, the winner was a collective of Czech and Slovak music producers, whose aim is to re-issue old jazz, funk and soul releases from the former Soviet Bloc. All of us here at E&M wish them the very best of luck.
Aside from the meet-and-greet style dragon’s den idea pitching, NX Creative Lab’s evenings also feature guest talks by entrepreneurs who have already launched successful projects. Each event is centered around a particular theme, featuring speakers from across creative disciplines that discuss their struggles and experiences when setting up their own businesses. Previous labs involved talks by “Pint of Science” – a pan-European movement that aims to bring world-class scientists to the local pubs in Europe’s most off-the-beaten-track neighbourhood. They also hosted the Chelsea Physic Garden which, built in 1673, is the world’s oldest medicinal herbs and plants space. The ever-changing music industry was represented by the likes of Field Day festival, which brings the world’s best music acts to East London every year.
Why is live crowdfunding potentially so interesting for up and coming European businesses? The reason may also lie in its ability to connect the creators with their potential customers, providing fans who are willing to pay, support and instantly endorse the project in public. Courtney McLaughlin, a graphic designer from Calgary, Canada, has it clear: “The NX Creative Lab focuses on entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur development, generating both investment money and networking opportunities from within a strong pre-existing community.”
Reputed for its arts and social sciences degrees as well as alumni such as music producer James Blake, Oscar winning film director Steve McQueen or iconic fashion designer Mary Quant, Goldsmiths College is also a well-established creative hub for aspiring entrepreneurs. The eminent scholar Angela McRobbie has found her academic sanctuary there, after the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies was suspended, and still maintains a major influence on how we look at creative culture and society as a whole. In fact, the whole concept of NX Creative Lab was born out of a school assignment for 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Week, and won its High Impact Award.
Given the multiple struggles European society has had to go through in the past years, its young creative minds still suffer from a lack of opportunities that they increasingly need to forge by themselves. This process usually takes time to translate into a real profit. Yet more projects like NX Creative Lab, by stimulating Europe’s thought, production and innovation, aim to boost the continent’s creativity culture. It is obvious that setting up one’s own business is a trend, and it’s becoming increasingly frequent. That only reflects the passionate, creative-soul burning within the region: rich, colourful, and idiosyncratic. Just like Europe as a whole – and that’s why we love it so much.