Float Studios, a business started by six Bachelor of Creative Technologies alumni while they were studying at AUT, has recently been acquired by Sydney-based technology company Finch. Four of the team will move to Australia to head Finch’s VR and innovation team, while Float Studios will continue releasing games from New Zealand with Jake and Charlie working on VR and graphic design.
Benjamin Bray, Tyler Hinde, Levi Jacobsen, James Hurlock, Charles Hlavac and Jake McPherson used the skills that they were learning at AUT to start Float Studios in 2014.
Ben says “AUT was incredibly helpful when we were starting out, they helped with legalities, getting our work seen and even connecting us up with funding – it was the whole package, they helped us start our business really.”
It was a Gold Pin at the 2016 Design Best Awards in their final year at AUT that really got them noticed in the industry. Following the design award, they were asked to work on a project developing a recruitment-training tool for the Australian Defence Force which brought them into the international eye, leading on to the recent acquisition by Finch.
The reason they were happy to pair up with Finch is the culture of creative freedom that is allowed and encouraged.
The team says, “it is still very similar to how we worked in Float Studios. It’s amazing to be working with such talented people and have a bridge to opportunities and clients we couldn’t have reached on our own, as Finch is already so established.”
The team now spend half their time working with international clients on research and development and the rest exploring their individual passions.
“We really can’t complain, living in Bondi and working with such creative freedom, I don’t think it’s something we are going to get bored of anytime soon,” says Ben.
In reflecting on their time at AUT, all six agreed that the choice to study at AUT was easy. It was the only place to offer such a unique degree allowing for so much experimentation and such a practical style of learning with a chance to try a range of different things.
“The teaching style really facilitated creative thinking rather than just teaching,” says Ben.
This ability to experiment and the collaborative nature of the course is what brought them together as a team.
"It was incredibly rewarding to see that the effort you put in was reflected in the quality of what you get out. Through developing a work style of not being afraid to try things, it’s lead us to where we are now, says Ben.
“The studio culture in the course was great, it was a small group so we got to know everyone and ended up creating such a cool space where we were working on things we loved that most nights we didn’t go home before midnight.”
In terms of advice for future students the Float Studios team agree that “the biggest thing is to just do stuff – we didn’t think things would turn into anything but by just getting started, things naturally evolved.
“In our experience find what you love doing and then put everything into it - there is every chance that you can start your own thing instead of having to look for a job. When the passion is there then the expertise will follow, it just requires dedication and good collaboration skills – something that AUT taught us well.”