‘I’m self-incubating’: The Studio’s CEO discusses NSW’s first creative and media-tech incubator


NSW now boasts a dedicated incubator for tech startups operating across the media, entertainment, games, music, design and creative industries, with The Studio today opening its doors in the heart of Sydney’s CBD.  

[Related: “Huge coup for Sydney” –  $35m startup hub to host exclusive Microsoft accelerator program and The NSW Government is launching a $35 million innovation hub; the startup community reacts]

Joining Fishburners, Stone & Chalk, and Tank Stream Labs as an anchor tenant in the state government’s newly-launched Sydney Startup Hub, opposite Wynyard Park, The Studio is the brainchild of CEO Chantal Abouchar, a veteran of the media and entertainment industry.

“Our focus is on equipping members with the skills and resources they need to create scalable, sustainable media-tech and creative-tech startups,” she told Dynamic Business. “It’s really about members being able to look at where the creative, tech and business sectors marry and pursuing the opportunities.”

Chantal Abouchar

The incubator space will soon boast 150 desks, with a third filled at launch by founding residents including AI-driven video distribution platform Oovvuu and story design consultants The Working Group; however, Abouchar stated that The Studio “isn’t merely a real estate play”.

“We have state-of-the-art broadcast studios outfitted with green screens as well sound and AR/VR equipment,” she said.

“There are also meeting rooms and other facilities, and members have access to a program of educational events including workshops, seminars, and more. Critically, they will gain value from networking with fellow residents as well as introductions to potential investors and our consortium partners.

“If one of the Studio’s residents requires access to Australia’s best data visualisation super computer, for example, we can facilitate that through the University of NSW, our major academic partner. Likewise, if engaging with Dolby’s R&D team in McMahon’s Point will generate real value for one of our startups, we can help make that happen.  We also have National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) lined up to run a pitch workshop and House of Brand will host a branding workshop.”

In addition, to UNSW, Dolby, NIDA and House of Brand, The Studio’s line-up of consortium partners also includes Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), Amazon Web Services, Animal Logic, APRA Amcos, Australian Radio Network, Australia’s Science Channel, DATA 61 (CSIRO), DLA Piper, Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA), Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), Microsoft BizSpark, Redhill Education and Western Sydney University.

Abouchar explained that it was important for The Studio, like it members, to “be global from day one”.

“We’ve established reciprocal arrangements for our members with The Hospital Club in London and Made in NY Media Centre,” she said. “Building an international network of hubs and incubators will ultimately help our members connect into industries. We will continue develop our links to the Media, Entertainment and Technology industries in Europe, North America, and Asia. For instance, we would love to have connections in Japan, so our members can connect with the likes of Sony and the big game developers, and we also want to run exchange programs. Closer to home, regional NSW is incredibly important to us. Establishing strong regional connections will be our next big focus.”

According to Abouchar the idea for The Studio was inspired by and spun out of the thesis she completed to obtain a Masters in Screen Arts and Business from AFTRS.

“The media and entertainment industry is now a completely different landscape to the one I entered thirty years ago,” she explained. “When I started out, film was the primary creative medium. Fast-forward to today and we can now produce content on mobile devices. Technological advancements throughout my career have meant that the way in which I have worked has progressively become less and less traditional.

“I was eager to deep dive into the profound technological changes occurring in my industry, so I undertook my Master’s Degree. Recognising accelerator programs as a means to drive tech-driven innovation, I wrote my thesis around Time Warner’s Media Camp accelerator for media-tech startups. Of the thirty Media Camp participants I looked at, I undertook qualitative research into ten, including predictive mobile content delivery platform Incoming Media –  an Australian startup whose co-founder, David McKeague, is now part of our advisory group.”

Abouchar said she is effectively “living the startup journey” alongside The Studio’s members, making the incubator a “startup for startups”. She added, “Since conceiving The Studio in 2015, I’ve probably had two weeks off. I’m fortunate, however, that the skills I learned in the documentary and factual program-making field have been transferable – for example, having to land in a country and make deals happen, get things done. You could say I’m self-incubating at the moment.”