Wishing you the best for 2022
2021 was a chaotic, yet exciting year full of change. I'm excited for 2022.
Gosh, it’s been a whole month already… Happy Belated New Year! 😅 I haven't written to you for a while and I wanted to reach out and wish you the best for the year ahead and give you an update on some news from my end.
2021 was such a chaotic, yet exciting year full of change. It’s hard to summarise the past twelve months because there are so many different feelings and experiences included within it all — there have definitely been many happy moments but also some which have been difficult and challenging.
But, what I can say without any doubt is that these changes brought out the best parts of me as well as showcasing just how far things might go when you’re driven by your passions. The pandemic has made me more aware of the importance in doing things you enjoy. Usually when things get tough it’s your passions that help you persevere.
I’m extremely passionate about applying data science, AI and emerging technologies within the creative and cultural industries. Why? Because I am witnessing a fundamental shift taking place at the moment and I want to be able to drive positive change. I’m grateful to be able to apply myself to this mission in three different ways.
As a founder
80% of my time in 2021 was spent as CEO running the Alice Camera, a computational photography CreaTeach startup. This is a time of endless opportunity for content creators. There are so many avenues for individuals and businesses to create and monetise content, explore ideas and communicate them to their audiences at scale.
Having produced videos as a content creator and educator myself, I found the mirrorless cameras on the market extremely cumbersome to operate. I co-founded the company in June 2019 with Dr Liam Donovan and Vik Kumar with the mission to empower the next generation of content creators with a professional camera most suited to a fast-paced content lifestyle. I don’t even know where to start … but here are some of the major things that happened during 2021:
We generated over $250,000 in our first pre-order sales campaign from 350 excited early adopters and we’re now gearing up for our second campaign.
We released sample photos comparing the Alice Camera to an iPhone and a Panasonic camera, demonstrated our AI & computational photography. technology, and completed final designs and development of Alice Camera v2
I personally created 20+ videos on our YouTube channel which got over 150,000 views. We also got over 300,000 website visits and we grew our community on social media to over 25,000 people from over 30 countries.
We were covered by 30+ articles from some of the biggest names in the camera industry and TechRadar voted us as one of the most exciting cameras for 2022.
We received $225,000 grant funding from Innovate UK and then we raised a combined $500,000 pre-seed round to accelerate our efforts in 2022, and during this time we grew our team from three to five and now to seven employees.
As an academic
5% of my time was spent on academia. I took a year out from my studies at UCL in 2021 to focus on my startup, but I managed to publish a couple of academic papers.
In January I sent “Defining cultural data science” to be published as a conference paper as part Dubai Expo 2021 . In this paper I set out to formulate the first definition of a new term called “cultural data science”; although the term has been used before, there was never a definition of it.
In February I was invited by Valentina Montalto from the European Commission to publish a paper in Sustainability. I co-authored the paper with Aude Vuilliomenet, the academic behind the Gardens of Things project, in which we explored the relationship between urban green infrastructure and the cultural vitality of cities in Europe using data from the Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor and OpenStreet map.
I was interviewed by Vanessa Weber about Curating Cultural Data for Cities as part of a book chapter in Digital City Science: Researching New Technologies in Urban Environments. This volume is based on contributions to the City Science Summit (CSS 2019), a conference hosted by the CityScienceLab at HafenCity University Hamburg in cooperation with the MIT Media Lab.
This year I am looking to wrap up my thesis at UCL. Some of the things I am excited by are online cultural & creative communities and the structural changes the pandemic has made to the creative and cultural industries.
As an advisor
15% of my time was spent on consultancy. I continued to work as an advisor on an exclusive basis for a handful of clients:
I was invited by Jonothan Neelands to sit on the Technical Reference Group for the Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 and I was also hired to provide deeper guidance on a Data Strategy for the initiative.
I was invited by Valentina Montalto to be enrolled as an Expert with the European Commission and was hired to give advice on data visualisation and spatial analysis for culture in European cities.
I was invited by Harry Sagger at DCMS to take part in the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) for the UNBOXED 2022 evaluation, previously Festival UK* 2022, and was invited to give a talk at DCMS about my work as a cultural data scientist as part of the Expert Speaker Series.
I continued to work with clients such as BOP Consultancy and the Culture Mile on using social media analysis to understand audience behaviour for major, city-wide public art cultural programs.
My plans for 2022
I’ve always been fascinated by the resilience of culture and creativity. The industry is evolving, and is especially going through a period of quite dramatic change. Old business models are being replaced by news ones. Traditional ways of working are being reformed by digital methods. Many previous assumptions are being challenged.
As a founder, it's been hard for me to keep up with these trends through my writing. But, I’ve tried my best to make sure my voice shines through. You can see evidence of this manifesting itself as videos on YouTube such as an interview I did with CineD, CADAF digital art fair, and our Conversations in Computational photography series.
This year I’ll be even more focused on the Alice Camera as we start to scale-up, but I am planning to spend more time communicating my ideas and I look forward to some dialogue and exchanging ideas. Now that things are opening up, I’m very happy to meet up for a coffee, or jump on a Zoom call. Feel free to email me to organise a time.
I wish you all the best in pursuing the things you enjoy throughout 2022… and beyond!
Vishal is a Cultural Data Scientist and co-Founder & CEO of the Alice Camera. You can get in touch with him on Twitter or LinkedIn, and see more on Instagram or on his website.
#CulturalDataScience #ComputationalPhotography #Founder