Creative Informatics and Edinburgh Innovations supported this entrepreneurial husband and wife team in pivoting their business amid the pandemic, which enabled struggling performing arts professionals to keep going and keep the lights on when the curtain came down on live performances.
The founders of Scottie, a platform that allows producers and arts organisations to quickly and affordably build websites with integrated ticketing software, really know their stuff when it comes to the performing arts scene. Connie Girvan is both an actor and theatre producer, while Andrew Girvan is an arts technology product manager who has worked with a number of well-known ticketing software and service providers. The couple’s combined experience and expertise in the sector meant that when they spotted a lack of provision for reasonably priced theatre websites that could sell tickets to their own events, they had the tools and the know-how to fulfil that unmet need.
Supporting innovation in uncertain times
The team were successful in their application to take part in Creative Bridge, a free pre-accelerator programme delivered by CodeBase as part of the Creative Informatics partnership at the University of Edinburgh. Creative Bridge helped Connie and Andrew to make a key decision about Scottie’s future at a time where they were exploring their options for moving forward as a platform or an agency. Over the 10-week course, they learned best practices in building a digital product business and gained valuable insights from creative entrepreneurs, all of which reinforced the team’s feeling that Scottie would operate best as a platform.
When the pandemic struck in 2020, performance spaces across the world closed their doors and the creatives who worked in and with them were suddenly left without a source of income. With no live performances or mass gatherings allowed for the foreseeable future, Connie and Andrew signed up to the Resident Entrepreneurship programme run by Creative Informatics. The programme provides funding of up to £12,000 to support the development of data-driven products and services in Edinburgh and South East Scotland, and Edinburgh Innovations (EI) provides all Resident Entrepreneurs with valuable business development and startup advisory support, as well as access to the EI enterprise toolkit: a selection of courses and resources for entrepreneurial University staff members.
The funding and support provided by Creative Informatics and EI enabled the team to think of ways they could develop Scottie’s platform to help creatives in the performing arts during the lockdown. They extended Scottie’s existing platform to add a paywall that can be placed in front of a video, audio or written content. Crucially, this allows theatre makers to charge for their work, as well as collect customer contact details and gain marketing consents. The extension also allows for organisations to solicit donations through the self-service payment platform Stripe.
Andrew reflects on the need to adapt the business in response to lockdown:
It was clear that we were going to have to pivot as there were no ticketing sales to form the basis of our business. We benefited from the Resident Entrepreneurship at just the right time, as it allowed us to add functionality to the platform that benefits individual arts organisations and that will also be of use to other clients that we add now and in the future. The industry has shifted towards hybrid events, in-person and online, so being able to demonstrate our work in this area is key to gaining new clients.
A future-proof business model
A great deal of uncertainty remains in the performing arts industry, but a groundswell of artists and organisations are now embracing digital tools in order to survive and thrive in difficult economic circumstances. Since undergoing the Resident Entrepreneurship programme, the Scottie team have been able to provide a platform that enables theatre makers to support themselves with revenue from digital performances, and to connect with their audiences no matter where they are. The show must go on.
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