Increasing the visibility of Malta’s creative start-ups on a global level

Toni Attard: Founder and director, Culture Vulture

Last Updated on Thursday, 2 June, 2022 at 9:38 am by Andre Camilleri

The Creative Business Cup Malta finals were held on 20 May at the Malta Chamber and saw seven Maltese start-ups pitch for the top spot. Companies Trotteo, Invent 3D, Duke’s Avenue, The Wanderer’s Tome, Mega Woop, Samba Afri-Glam and Sorġi battled it out one pitch at a time, until the judges unanimously awarded Sorġi with first place, while Invent 3D was awarded runner-up. Sorġi is a start-up led by architect and designer Anna Horvath which transforms disposed materials into public furniture. The Malta Business Weekly speaks to TONI ATTARD regarding his involvement and the need for such creative recognition locally.

What was your involvement in both editions of the Creative Business Cup Malta?

As founder and director of Culture Venture I wanted to increase the visibility of Malta’s creative start-ups on a global level. Three years ago we were approved as national partners of the Creative Business Network, organisers of the Global competition – securing Malta’s participation in the programme. Our first year was rudely interrupted by the pandemic, last year we held an online competition and this year we finally managed to achieve our original goal of an in-person event, hosted by the Malta Chamber.  

Why did you find it necessary to involve Malta in this global competition?

This global programme and network brings together numerous national agencies, business development organisations, universities and investors that collectively celebrate and champion the creative industries. As Malta’s creative start-ups continue to innovate and seek new markets, I believe that being part of the competition and participating in the initiatives that come as part of this global network – from investment to training – can lead to new international opportunities for creative enterprises. Above all, it makes us part of a global community of innovative disruptors with shared values and aspirations aiming to change the world and impact the global economy and global culture.

Why, do you believe creative start-ups are so vital to the global economic community?

Creative start-ups are the drivers of innovation and disruption in the creative economy. They transform talent into professions, the creative spaces they occupy reshape cities and the technological innovations they adopt are often rolled out to other industries. Globally, the creative economy generates $2.2 trillion in revenues and creates 30 million jobs. In Malta the creative industries account for 7.9% of total GVA, exceeding the direct contribution of the construction and civil engineering sector and the accommodation and food services sector. Above their commercial value, creative goods and services have strong social and cultural values that are difficult to measure. People find enjoyment and emotional connections with some form of cultural good or service. They understand that culture is what defines them and its manifestation fulfils them.

Every city, region and nation can activate the creative economy and its success is dependent on the retention and attraction of talent, appropriate investment, access to finance, knowledge and skills development and the overall entrepreneurial mindset of the cultural and creative community. Cultural goods and services exist in every part of the world, yet there are still huge challenges and barriers to overcome if these assets are to contribute to the global economic community – be it inequity triggered by imbalances in the global economy, unequal access to education or inadequate protection of intellectual property. Most creative enterprises are typically made up of between one and five people and most start-ups kick off and remain a one-person enterprise. Whereas the propensity of failing as a start-up may be high, embracing that reality and mitigating the risks are crucial to bring confidence to a community that is known to be resilient, innovative and cutting edge. 

How is Culture Venture currently working to help start-ups achieve their goals?

Our first step was to secure our partnership with the creative business network and the participation of Maltese creative start-ups. Our second step was to establish the creative incubator that is serving as a project development, training and consultancy space for the creative start-up community and other cultural organisations.    

What would you suggest is the most vital tip for creative start-ups in Malta?

Think globally, act sustainably and persevere. 

Anna Horvath

Tell us a little about this year’s Creative Business Cup Malta winner Sorġi

Sorġi is a start-up by architect and designer Anna Horvath that transforms disposed materials into public furniture. Sorġi is an ongoing research project about opportunities for circularity in Malta, whose first outcome is an outdoor furniture collection for public spaces, highly critical of the booming construction industry. Six benches inspired by six buildings affected by the local construction frenzy will stand both as a memento of today’s choices and a suggestion for tomorrow’s actions. Every piece is made of recycled construction waste (limestone, broken terrazzo, marble offcuts and fragments of glass among others) and tells the story of the building that inspired it, contributing to the need for tangible solutions to the sheer amount of discarded materials that keeps accumulating on the island, while promoting circularity and raising awareness on environmental issues within a larger audience.

The name of the project, Sorġi, is derived from the Maltese verb sorġa, which means an anchoring ship or a person about to feel tired and sitting down; curiously, the term was borrowed from the Italian verb that means the exact opposite, to arise. In this context, Sorġi is intended as an invitation to sit down, literally, and observe the ever-changing Maltese built landscape from a different perspective.

Toni Attard Founder and director, Culture Vulture

After more than a decade leading numerous cultural projects, establishing 10 public arts funding programmes and creating strategies for the cultural and creative sectors within the public sector in Malta, Toni embarked on setting up his own creative enterprise. He was the first director of Strategy at Arts Council Malta and was responsible for the leadership of the strategy team that created and developed the Council’s Create 2020 strategy. He served as creative economy advisor within the Ministry of Finance, the Economy and Investment to develop a national strategy for the cultural and creative industries in Malta.

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