Kia ora Vincent, thank you for taking the time to kōrero with us. Ko wai koe nō hea koe? Can you tell us a little about who you are and where you’re from?
Tēnā tatou e hoa me,
ae pai tēnā,
Ko Taranaki tōku maunga, ko aotea utanga nui toku waka
Ko Ngāruahine-rangi me Ngāti Ruanui oku iwi.
He uri ahau i roto i te iwi nui tonu a Ngā Ruahinerangi me ērā āhuatanga o ngā mātua tūpuna,
He iwi nō te Ariki, he iwi nō te wairua, he iwi ki te runga rawa
Ko Vincent Egan toku ingoa
No reira tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou ka huri tēnā anō tātou katoa.
You’re the co-founder and CEO of Māui Studios. Can you tell us about the organisation, how it came to be, and what mahi you do?
As a founder of Māui Studios alongside Patrick Hussey and Madison Henry, I am immensely proud of our journey and the organisation we have built. Māui Studios is a manifestation of our collective passion and dedication to digital creation, grounded in mātauranga Māori values and cultural heritage. We have become experts in visual design, motion design, and immersive design, forging strong relationships with whānau ora providers, government agencies, private organisations and delivering impactful projects. Our focus on empowering tamariki, creating employment opportunities for rangatahi Māori, working in partnership with kaupapa Māori organisations, and promoting the revitalisation of te reo Māori are important to us. We embrace our Māori heritage, and through our work, we aim to make a positive impact on our communities, inspire change, and create a lasting legacy.
If you don’t mind sharing, how did you raise the pūtea to start your pakihi? Did you start small and build? Get investors or apply for funding etc.?
We started our pakihi by bootstrapping the venture with limited resources, a beat up laptop and some software we found. We began with just some pocket change, a few loose leads, and the entrepreneurial mindset to drive us forward. Through our collective skills and expertise, we were able to produce premium quality mahi (work). We started small and gradually built our business, leveraging what we could, including passion and heaps of determination to overcome the challenges that come with the startup lifestyle.
While we did not initially have investors or external funding, our success and reputation allowed us to establish valuable relationships with clients and secure projects that provided the financial support necessary for our growth and expansion.
Māui Studios is described as "a kaupapa Māori production studio that develops digital content grounded in mātauranga Māori, tikanga and tīpuna values for local and global audiences.” What are the Māori values that underpin your business and how do they drive what you do?
The values of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge), tikanga (customs and protocols), and tīpuna (ancestors) are the pillars that underpin our work. These values inform our decision-making, creative processes, and interactions with our clients and partners. They drive us to create digital content that authentically represents Mana Whenua and empowers our communities to thrive.
We embody the process of whanaungatanga (sense of belonging), fostering strong relationships and collaboration; manaakitanga (care and hospitality), ensuring that our work is considerate and respectful; kotahitanga (oneness and unity), promoting unity and collective goals; rangatiratanga (self-governance), empowering our team and clients to be leaders; and kaitiakitanga (guardianship), taking responsibility for the cultural and environmental impact of our work.
These values are pretty important and not only differentiate us in the marketplace but also enable us to make a positive and lasting impact on local and global audiences, aligning our purpose with the rich heritage we have been entrusted with.
You recently shared an initial version of your virtual marae project, described as Meta-whenua virtual spaces - so exciting! What are your aspirations for this kaupapa and what do you need to do to make that come to fruition?
My aspirations for the meta-whenua kaupapa are centred around facilitating a genuine and meaningful connection between people in Aotearoa and around the world with te ao Māori (the Māori world) in the digital realm.
Through bespoke kaupapa Māori spaces, we aim to provide users with access to 3D digital environments that offer engaging dialogue with characters, interactive games, compelling stories, enriching activities, and thought-provoking puzzles. We aim to foster comfort, confidence, empathy, awareness, and understanding of the Māori worldview, allowing individuals to navigate Māori environments with ease and authenticity. We strive to create spaces where people can actively participate, feel a sense of belonging, and gain practical tools, tips, and tricks to engage meaningfully within te ao Māori.
To make this aspiration come to fruition, we’re investing in the development of custom digital marae experiences that are built upon our virtual marae template. We prioritise user interface and user experience design to ensure intuitive and engaging interactions. Additionally, we’re offering development of virtual marae spaces as AR, VR, browser-based, or console versions to reach a broader audience.
Hosting and maintaining the platform, as well as tracking user progress in real-time, are crucial for providing a seamless and impactful learning experience. Collaboration with existing cultural competency training agencies and programs can enhance our reach and impact, while ensuring accessibility across various devices is essential to cater to the needs of the people of Aotearoa and beyond.
Ultimately, our goal is to create compelling cases where users can engage with a meta-whenua, interact with digital mana whenua, and delve into the richness of Mātauranga Māori while respecting tikanga. By pursuing these avenues, we can realise our aspirations of offering 24/7 access to sanctioned and approved centuries of mātauranga in a culturally safe, cost-effective and user-guided manner,while fostering greater understanding and appreciation of Māori culture worldwide.
What we need are organisations who are keen to align with our vision and willing to commit to integrating this technology into their induction and training programs at every level of their organisation.
Celebrating the day-to-day wins is important. What do you (and your team or whānau) do to celebrate the wins at Māui Studios?
There’s an awesome as Sichuan restaurant not too far from our HQ. It’s not uncommon for our whole rōpu to head out there for a shared banquet making sure to order the spicy fried chicken, lemon chicken, and sweet and sour fish
Where can our Whāriki whānau find Māui Studios to stay up to date with your latest projects?
For sure, the best places to find us are here and on our website. Follow us to stay up to date with the awesome mahi the team has been working on.
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