Incubator brings Indie-Hollywood to Western New York
The SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator’s newest resident, Worldwide App, Inc. (Worldwide), is looking to bring hometown independent (“indie”) filmmakers from across the U.S. to Hollywood for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make their dreams come true.
The company is establishing its East Coast headquarters in the incubator – just in time for the public launch next month of its mobile application, which will allow users to access independent films from their devices and vote for their favorite filmmakers to advance in an “in-app” competition. After over three years of development and pinpointing strategic partners, Buffalo native and Worldwide Founder and President Crystal Callahan will return from Los Angeles in July to spend the week in her home region to set up the new company location and familiarize her team with SUNY Fredonia’s campus and community. In addition, she will be among the presenters at the SUNY Innovation Showcase today in Albany.
Callahan was raised on Buffalo’s East Side and graduated high school from City Honors School. After years of experience and planning, she is proud to be establishing a portion of her company in Western New York and is eager to bring economic opportunities to SUNY Fredonia and the surrounding region.
“My job is to create the corporate culture that I want to work in, an environment that other people will want to work in. I feel like I have to lead the enterprise by example, and a lot of this is about giving back to your hometown,” Callahan said. “Everything that I’ve done out here (in Los Angeles) in terms of my career has been for people who I love that are in Buffalo, New York.”
An alumna of the University of Virginia, Callahan spent six years working in intellectual property (IP) law in California’s Silicon Valley, and another six working in film sales and marketing in Hollywood. She believes the high-value relationships she garnered as a distribution executive give Worldwide and its experienced management team a very competitive edge. Her allies include former mainstream studio executives who bring more than 10 years of tenure at Sony/Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) Studios, and Paramount Pictures to this initiative, and these veterans will be very influential in raising the profile of the mobile launch.
The company’s entertainment application, Worldwide Mobile Movie Theater, has already gained some global attention before its official public release, which the company credits to its unique and appealing premise. Inspired by interactive national talent competitions such as American Idol, the Miss USA pageant, and all-star voting in professional sports, Worldwide Mobile Movie Theater aims to bring tremendous branding power to the booming independent film community by showcasing award-winning films in an innovative way.
Callahan said that the moment of authentic inspiration for the Worldwide team was simple.
“We thought, ‘We love to discover new talent; and recent U.S. pop culture has proven that fans do, too.'”
Reviewers of the app have compared Worldwide to an “indie-Netflix,” and Callahan and her team are currently meeting with strategic partners who are eager to “get in early.” Their almost entirely virtual business model keeps operational costs strategically low, so that returns can remain high and capital can go into the application’s marketing campaign.
Callahan expects that Worldwide’s low overhead and high sales potential will likely prove to be an asset for the SUNY Innovation Showcase audience and investors in Albany today.
Worldwide’s new, East-Coast headquarters is intended to provide a balance to the West-Coast side of the company. She chose SUNY Fredonia’s incubator because the filmmaking talent among the students and faculty at the university is so strong, including programs in both the Communication and Visual Arts & New Media departments. She also believes it offers an environment that will embrace her as a female entrepreneur and an ethnic minority. Having designed the multimedia application in the hyper-competitive Silicon Valley and Hollywood arena, she and her team believe the incubator and its surrounding region will provide a tight-knit, friendly environment where they can, “find natural and earnest synergies within the Fredonia ecosystem.”
“We’ve been building very privately and selectively behind closed doors, but now we are going to open our doors to the public,” Callahan explained. “It’s going to be an edge-of-our-seat, nail-biting experience, to get users’ genuine response to our team, our company, and our product.”