Bringing a slow-moving industry into today’s fast-paced service delivery environment without compromising quality content, the Busby family are developing an innovative cataloguing application. Called SimplyFi, the app will streamline the lending and borrowing process between institutions and the global culture and heritage sector, aiding the collection and dissemination of possible hidden stories.
Museums, private collectors, galleries and artists want a simple, yet secure way to catalogue their collections. SimplyFi’s goal is to make this painstaking process of borrowing and lending easier.
“We identified a problem with the lending and borrowing process,” says SimplyFi’s Chief Executive Officer Jaemen Busby.
“Our backgrounds matched up well with this problem … so we formed our idea based around that.”
Jaemen’s wife Cazna Busby, SimplyFi’s Chief Technology Officer, and Jaemen’s brother Richard, the Chief Communications Officer, both nod in agreement.
“Pretty much the whole sector, museums, galleries, archives, libraries … they all struggle to share content with each other,” says Richard.
Jaemen says that by coming in fresh, they’ve been able to think objectively.
“We live in the information era where everything’s connected and simplicity is key. We want to make this as simple as possible,” he says.
“We’re not only aiming to help our users save money and time, but also to open up the possibilities of telling brand new stories of things that have been lying in private collections.”
The team joined Mahuki, Te Papa’s innovation hub accelerator programme, where they developed their SimplyFi idea with a focus on simplicity.
Through Mahuki they have been able to share and expand on their idea to develop an application that will help artists, private collectors and everyone in between to simply and securely catalogue their collections.
Whether it is a piece of art, respected taonga or a heritage trophy, users can catalogue their items and the stories that accompany them.
Tiered access will offer users the option to share their stories with others, including galleries and museums hungry to showcase more content to their respective communities.
For the Busbys, it wasn’t always about collections and their stories. Originally, they wanted to do something film-related.
Unsure of where to begin, they were encouraged by PBT’s Business Growth Manager Richard Taurima to develop an application.
“At first, we avoided contact because we didn’t know how an app was going to work with our film idea,” the Busbys admit sheepishly.
Spurred on by fellow Mahuki participant and good friend Jesse Armstrong (Vaka Interactiv), who had received sound advice from PBT himself, the Busbys reconnected with Richard Taurima, who wasted no time in bringing them up to speed.
“He didn’t do everything for us,” Jaemen recalls, “but he gave us homework, to prove that we were willing to learn, listen and give it a go.”
Through Richard, the Busbys were introduced to the rest of PBT, who guided them in their Mahuki journey.
“They kept the door open for us, while we made the necessary steps to get in.”
As one of the last groups to be put through for Mahuki consideration, CCO Richard puts things into perspective.
“In a week, we registered a business shareholders agreement, came up with a fast-pitch to the Mahuki programme leader, then went with six other PBT teams down to Wellington for three days,” recalls Richard.
It was a whirlwind of a start for an idea that Richard admits the Busbys had initially thought was boring.
“Everyone else had interesting stuff, like people wanting to help translate whole exhibitions into their native tongue and some people wanting to create talking portraits. We just wanted to do back-end, ground work’.”
The necessary backend groundwork SimplyFi identified became one of the most outstanding ideas to come through Mahuki.
Upon reflection, Jaemen can’t help but thank PBT and Richard Taurima.
“If we hadn’t met with Richard Taurima and the rest of PBT, we would not have made it in,” he says.
SimplyFi was shortlisted for the Mahuki Innovation accelerator, when approximately 30 start-up teams were cut to 15. After one more pitch at Te Papa, they were selected to participate.
“What appealed to the panel was we took something they already had issues with, and found a tangible solution to it,” Jaemen believes.
“We came up with a very basic, foundation idea,” Richard chimes in, “that could also help the little guy, which is part of Te Papa’s mandate … helping smaller institutions.”
Creating new opportunities for smaller and medium-sized museums who struggle with content, SimplyFi helps connect them with private collectors, allowing them to have more exhibitions and crowd traffic to grow their own communities.
“If we can get content out of storage facilities into museums and galleries, we can grow the art ecosystem in any given area,” says Richard.
Cazna adds it’s of potential importance to iwi and Pacific cultures, too.
“As a people, we’re quite protective of our taonga,” says Cazna, who is Maori.
“Our product can help them to catalogue and maintain their taonga themselves. Then, through us, we’ll be able to help provide a service educating them in how to look after their artefacts and tell their own stories.”
Jaemen (Samoan), and Richard (Samoan and Maori) agree, advising their SimplyFi journey has been about far more than their business.
“The Mahuki programme and PBT have really helped on this journey trying to reconnect with our roots,” he says.
Richard agrees there has been a lot of self-discovery, but adds it’s not just about their ancestry.
“We know now what we can achieve, what we’ve been able to do and how we’ve been able to reapply our skills in a different area.”
From customer service roles and Cazna’s creative design background, SimplyFi have brought prior expertise into the development of the app’s main functions, while keeping in mind the need for SimplyFi to survive and thrive as a business.
They’ll continue to meet with developers to build a testable product and look into ways SimplyFi will be monetised.
But the Busbys are adamant they’ll continue to strive to give back to their ancestors and community, by ensuring their workable app enables more hidden stories to come to light.