Founder Update 2024

2023 was another crazy year. Our commitment to the creative industries is unwavering. Discover how we continue to support you in 2024 with a price lock, more features, a commitment to ethical AI and clearer blogging, insights & communications.

‘Endangered Seas’ by Carol Sogard

It is strange to think that this time last year, most of us did not care about Artificial Intelligence. It is now impossible not to. AI has taken over our news feeds and polarized the creative industries – a double-edged sword offering us new tools to create and the hanging threat of losing our income over the systematic repackaging of our intellectual property.

AI is not our only challenge. A new conflict in the Middle East, more extreme global weather events, and prominent banks failing due to a banking crisis graced our ongoing challenges.

The last five years have demonstrated that we shouldn’t expect the status quo to be the default. This year was no different. As ever, we plan for the worst and hope for the best.

2023 Zealous Highlights

‘The Blue Fig’ by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan
  • The Zealous community hit the 100,000+ mark! Thank you for your trust. 
  • We tripled the amount of competitions and awards hosted on the network over the year (compared to 2022). 
  • Zealous has some great new features. Here are a few worth mentioning:
    • Connect Zealous with Zapier to keep other services updated when entries & payments come in.
    • Create discount codes for entry fees.
    • Give judges and hosts the ability to chat and comment about entries in real time.
    • Allow candidates to download their entries.
    • Our package and pricing now allow clients to pay in USD.
    • A breakdown of all new deployments is here.
  • We launched a new iteration of our Amplify Awards to help raise awareness of environmental issues through creativity. The award celebrates the incredible creators covering an important topic and helps raise money for charity. The beautiful images used in this article come straight from the shortlist.

Related personal milestones

In 2024

Creating more value at no additional cost

‘Travesty’s Auction Catalogues’ by Lucy Roberts

Last year’s economic challenges still lurk in the shadows, forcing many institutions to be creative with their budgets and try their best not to dilute their objectives.

We want to empower you to do more with less.

To help, we are committing to a price lock for our packages in 2024, and we will continue to reinvest our profits into new features to save more resources as you run open calls. 

In 2023, we deployed five of the most requested features you voted for on our roadmap page. It’s time to let us know what you would like in 2024 by casting your votes here! 

Balancing purpose and profit

‘The Earth is our home’ by Mithail Afrige Chowdhury

The most eagle-eyed of you may have noticed we are hosting an increasingly broad array of opportunities, some of which are not directly related to our vision of creating opportunities for the creative industries.

You are right.

More and more companies from the most diverse industries have recognized Zealous as a way to help manage submissions for their initiatives. This growth has allowed us to replace lost revenue and has allowed us to continue to operate in a challenging economic environment.

Our vision to support the creative sector and help unleash opportunities still holds. Diversifying our revenue will allow us to subsidize our mission and bring much-needed resources back into the creative industries.

Better communications & blogging

‘The Last Song’ by Nayan and Venus

You’ll notice our articles look different. The last two months have been spent diligently rebuilding our About and Help sites. 

These changes allow you to search through articles filled with insights for organizations running competitions and best practices for those on their creative journeys (e.g. marketing, pricing, etc.).

This new format will also allow us to share our vision of how we will support the creative industries in the future.

This change has jiggled our memories about all the community initiatives we have run in the past and given us the itch to run more. Watch this space!

AI used for the right reasons

‘Hypernature’ by Ziyue Wang and Alicia Leonie Waibel

There are meaningful ways of bringing AI to Zealous, such as automatically generating image descriptions to improve accessibility to the work, supporting you in writing applications and identifying AI-generated content when selecting works for your competitions.

There are also ways we can help protect your intellectual property from companies which may want to profit from scraping it, using emerging tools such as Nightshade and Glaze.

We’re not quite ready to share our plans, but we are happy to commit to a simple pledge. We will never train a generative AI algorithm that will create derivative works based on your work. We know that if creators’ intellectual property isn’t protected, the future of our industry is at risk, and our world’s creative output will become bland.

I shared some thoughts on making AI work for the creative industries here.

Finally

‘Flood protection neckpiece’ by Luca Sági

Our dedication to supporting the creative industries has been unwavering for 12 years, and it’s not about to change now. In 2024, we will continue to try and save your candidates, judges and admins precious time for your awards, competitions, residencies and more. Knowing that for each minute we can save you, you can reinvest it elsewhere in growing your impact.

In the meantime, you are welcome to email me any ideas on how we can support you better in 2024.


Authors

Guy Armitag

Founder

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