Sybil Steele, Founder of Temme Media, a VR/AR creative studio dedicated to women
Sybil Steele spent the last two decades globetrotting, managing operations and producing films for Sipping Jetstreams Media. An American based in Indonesia and Australia, Steele was heavily influenced by the roles of women in the different cultures she lived in and visited. A seasoned producer and feminist at heart, Steele’s creative work spanned the fashion and beauty industries, but her passion for issues affecting women, such as maternal health, violence, empowerment and access to education always remained top of mind.
The mother of two teen girls, Steele saw a gap in the market for female-focused content that was inspiring and positive, so she decided to do something about it. In 2016, she launched Temme Media as an immersive creative studio dedicated to informing and inspiring women’s journeys through virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and other emerging technologies.
With experience producing documentaries about global issues such as the lack of access to clean drinking water in Ethiopia and midwifery in Indonesia (featuring CNN Hero Robin Lim), Steele was well-positioned to work with brands looking to combine her narrative storytelling with emerging technologies to reach female audiences in a more authentic way. Currently, Steele runs Temme Media from the New Museum NEW INC., a cultural incubator dedicated to supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in New York, where I had the chance to chat with her about Temme’s vision for the future of women.
Michelle Martin: What exactly is Temme Media?
Sybil Steele: Temme (a combination of Tech and Femme), is a creative studio and platform working to develop a dynamic female voice within the VR/AR space. Our studio produces customized VR/AR experiences for brands and artists that are interested in exploring how technology can better relate to the female audience and the different ways in which women are interested in using technology. Our platform is being built to make sure girls and women have a strong voice in immersive media and the emerging future technologies that will continue to blend our real lives with our digital lives.
Martin: How did your life abroad inspire you to start the company?
Steele: My background is in production and as global teams around me started working in the VR space, I noticed a lack of content for female-focused audiences. As the mother of two young girls I was worried about what their future might hold if we didn’t start building a serious infrastructure for creation and consumption that was relatable to young women, allowing them to learn, adapt and immerse themselves in new technology.
Martin: Why do you think this is the right time to focus on VR/AR for women and girls?
Steele: I think all elements of tech should be more gender fluid, and right now we have a gender gap that isn’t exploring the way women relate, experience and interact with technology, particularly AR and VR.
Women influence 90% of consumer spending, yet we still don’t have enough power to create and influence our media choices. Right now, we’re on the verge of these industries becoming part of everyday life, and I want women’s and girl’s point of views to be included in this industry in its early stages.
Martin: What kind of content does Temme produce?
Steele: We focus on purpose with every aspect of content, requiring projects to embrace a social purpose that can add value to the viewers’ perspective.
Our debut VR film Mothers of the Atlas, a project with Qualcomm Wireless Reach and Trice Imaging, premiered at the Social Good Summit during the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The purpose of the film was to showcase how mobile technology can reduce maternal mortality in remote areas, such as Morocco, where it was produced. We also did a project with Stance Socks featuring Toxic Shock Syndrome survivor Lauren Wasser, a double leg amputee who is educating women about risks associated with tampons.
Guests experiencing the Mothers of the Atlas VR film at the United Nations
Martin: How should brands be leveraging VR/AR to reach their audiences?
Steele: Brands should be thinking about creating relevant experiences, educating, and relating responsibly- which is why VR and AR are so exciting, because the content and messaging you put out can become more immersive and impactful through technology. With VR/AR you’re closer to the audience, so your impact is greater.
Martin: What are the most important things you’ve learned in the process of becoming a female founder?
Steele: I’ve learned how much women can really handle and juggle across the board and that we are excellent communicators and very detail focused.
I’ve learned it is crucial if you are a mother and wife to have a strong support system at home. Part of being successful is getting out in the world to build teams, execute ideas, experiment and find community. If that means letting go of being the family CEO and asking your partner to step up and do things they aren’t used to doing then so be it. It’s not easy for women to ask for equality in the domestic sphere so you can allocate time and attention in other sectors of your life.
Temme Media Founder Sybil Steele viewing a VR film at the Social Good Summit in New York
Martin: How do you think Temme can be a conduit for social change?
Steele: Thinking responsibly about the messaging we are creating for young women is essential. Are we empowering them in these powerful mediums, is there purpose and are we representing women the way we’d like to be represented? Are we giving them space to come in and have a say and are we connecting them as a community to help build an elevated digital future? A universe where women rule sounds like a good start for social change. I think our contributions in all industries would have an incredible and positive impact.