Business Is Boring

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The Rowan Simpson founder-centric approach to being a company director

Rowan Simpson has made his name about ten times and he’s not done yet. He’s had a large hand in the product and growth in some of New Zealand’s greatest tech exports, he was head of product for Trademe and that worked out pretty well. He did a similar role in the early days for Xero and that has worked out amazingly, it’s a global leader in software as a service.

He was an early investor and board chair for Vend, where I first got to know him and work with him and see how much he did to help us grow.

Then there’s Timely, where he’s an investor and director, and that company just announced a seven million dollar funding round to take their profitable company in scale. And those are just some of the greatest hits - we haven’t mentioned his latest work, Ron is one of those people who could’ve stopped long ago, but uses his social and financial capital to bolster the next wave of tech companies. And through his charitable foundation is also giving back in more traditional ways. This might make him seem finished up and out of the game, but he’s not. His blog is required reading in tech, with great takes on start-up and product, and he’s active with the next big companies too, like Melodics, who we’ve had on here.

To chat the methodology of the start-up, what product is, the throughline of these companies, and what’s next, Rowan joined Simon at Spinoff Towers.


The 22 year old entrepreneur on why he disrupted his successful business

On September 4, 2010, when just 15 years old, Jake Millar’s life changed forever. His father and four close friends died is a skydiving plane crash.
Prime Minister John Key visited the scene and Jake wrote to thank him. A hand-written note reply came from the Prime Minister who wanted to meet Jake. Away from the media.
And as someone who had also lost a father young, and gone on to great success, Jake credits this meeting and example as part of what’s led him to go on and do what he’s done. And what a lot of that there is, already.
Always entrepreneurial, Jake became driven. He set goals and got them. Head boy of school and house, check. He landed a 40,000 scholarship and then rather than take it, he took advice from a book by Sir Richard Branson that said “Screw it, Let’s Do it” and he gave it a miss and started a company that months later he was in the works of selling to the NZ Government.
His second venture, Unfiltered, sees him traveling the world, spending most of his time in North America, talking to business leaders about how they succeed, and selling it to people and great companies all over the place. It’s going great guns and backed with serious investment. He’s even interviewed Sir Richard Branson. At 22 he’s just getting started but already giving back, in New Zealand doing fundraising for Lifeline, raising 55 thousand with a charity dinner. In conversation with Simon he talked career, what it takes to succeed and giving back right from the get-go.


How Lewis Road Creamery made gold from chocolate milk

A few short years ago a fellow looking for some good butter for a baguette noticed something odd. Although we were a dairy country if you went to the supermarket and wanted a fancy butter the option came in a blue pack, all the way from Denmark.

Why and what on earth? This thought led Peter Cullinane to try to make his own top-shelf butter, and to then found and grow Lewis Road Creamery, beautifully made, indulgent and to-be-savoured dairy. It’s been quite a ride - with tales of security guards protecting their Whittakers Chocolate milk collaboration, sold out ranges, copycat milks and expansions into bread, ice cream and non-dairy milks to name a few. Lewis Road Creamery is a huge success, and part of that may be that it wasn’t Peter’s first rodeo. He’s an ad man, who ran Saatchi & Saatchi in New Zealand and Australia, and then worked for them in a bog role in New York. On coming home he co-founded Assignment Group -who have always let the work talk for itself, launching Hyundai here and helping Whittakers reach their most-loved brand position. And he also co-founded Antipodes, the beautiful water in the elegant German bottle.



BIB Repeat: TV Producer Bailey Mackey on being in the middle of a global bidding war

Last July long standing TV producer Bailey Mackey (CodeThe GC) came to the Spinoff Towers to talk about the busines of making TV. Earlier that year new had hit that the production company he runs, Pango, had sold a television format to Freemantle Media, the world’s biggest tv outfit. This was a massive coup, made all the bigger by the fact it was an under-the-radar show called Sidewalk Karaoke hailing from Māori TV.

Bailey talked Simon through the bidding war that surrounded the format and talked about how a good idea with the right brain and guts behind it can make it all the way to the top, even if its from compratively small origins. 


Scott Blanks on 20 years of comedy at The Classic

20 years ago a bunch of young comedians, and their manager, who’d spent years making comedy nights happen across Auckland, thought it was time for a dedicated venue. On Queen St, near the Town Hall, they found a venue that was a lot perfect and a bit yuck – The Classic, infamous as an adult cinema. Over 20 years of building the business and the state of comedy in New Zealand, one founder, Scott Blanks, went from organising comedy nights through to being the owner, mentor, fosterer and friend to comedians young and old, new and established. He turned his background – first in accounting and then cinema marketing – into a role often called the Godfather of Stand-up, creating careers and also recognition for the craft. And not just with the live shows, but through telly too. Before there was 7 Days there was Pulp Comedy. Scott was part of that. And before that, Funny Business. Yep, Scott too. And how it’s all grown.

His club puts on 350 plus gigs a year for tens of thousands through the door, with space on stage for those just staring right through to some of the biggest names in world comedy. To chat the first 20 years, the explosion in comedy he helped spark and what’s next, Scott Blanks of the Classic Comedy Club joins us now.


Theresa Gattung on Telecom, surviving public scrutiny and investing in women innovators

At the age of 37 a young women, who made her way up through a pretty sexist world, got the biggest job in the country. No, it’s not Jacinda Ardern today, it’s Theresa Gattung, in 1999.
For a brief little window there a few years later most of the top jobs in this country were held by women - Dame Sian Elias was Chief Justice, Dame Silvia Cartwright was Governor-General, Margaret Wilson was Attorney-General, Theresa Gattung was Telecom’s chief executive and Helen Clark was Prime Minister.
But boy how we slipped. By the time Gattung retired in 2007 it was only Dame Elias left.

How do we get back? Well, the new PM is a start, but gains got can be gains lost.

One way is for women to empower women. And it’s in that capacity Theresa Gattung joins the podcast today.

After Telecom she’s gone on to chair major boards, co-found ridiculous success My Food Bag, and get a Companion of the NZ order of Merit gong for services to business and philanthropy, with her work for the Wellington SPCA and organisations empowering women.

Like the newly lunched SheEO. A fund that has women invest in women, part of a global 1 billion dollar idea that Theresa has just helped bring here.


Always be ready to sell: Mark Hurley on selling to an $11 billion agency

Today's guest is a serial entrepreneur. If you haven't heard of his latest company you've very likely seen their work on awarded and effective websites for clients like Marketo, Visa, Air Newzleand, Spark, and Les Mills. Having started just six years ago with a perfectly timed mix of design, brand marketing, and build for the market, his agency Little Giant came and got big fast. Little Giant was one of New Zealand's fastest growing companies in 2015 on the Deloitte Fast 50. One of Asia Pacific's fastest growing companies in 2015 and 2016, and Mark was named an EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalst in 2017.

They grew big and they got bought by one of the leading players in global advertising, the $11 billion annual revenue behemoth Dentsu Aegis. It's a huge achievement in a short time but it wasn't Mark's first rodeo. He's been starting companies since he was 17 and learned some hard lessons along the way that he's turned into his exit and next launching pad. Mark Hurley joined us on the podcast.


Cloud technology is the future and the future is now

On the fourth of July just four years ago today’s guest started a new company in the technology space. Having come out of some of the world’s biggest ICT companies like IBM and Cisco, Mike Jenkins was keen to help use the power of this cloud technology thing to help businesses do better. And look at how it’s gone - today his brainchild The Instillery is working with some of New Zealand’s biggest companies, like Fonterra, through to helping retailers like World run better businesses. He was awarded the emerging ICT leader at the CIO Awards and got the Digital Transformation of the Year gong at the IDC Australasia Awards for their work transforming Fonterra. From starting with a team of three they’ve grown to 30 employees and are just getting started. To talk about the power of the cloud, the effect it is having on business, and how he has used it himself, Mike Jenkins joins the podcast.


Deanna Yang on why Moustache Milk & Cookie bar is now a completely different business

About 2 years ago the rent went up on a much loved cookie shop near the Civic in Auckland. Moustache Milk and Cookie Bar was facing a 40% hike. Owner/founder/manager Deanna Yang, a constant presence in the store and online through her energetic, revealing blog that charted the ups and down of business wasn’t going to take this.

As an entrepreneur in her early twenties, from a single parent family, young, a woman and a kiwi of Singaporean Chinese descent she had faced a lot of uphill battles so far and she wasn’t going to let this one get her down. She’d baked, invented, shared and given a lot back in her short run in business and used this community as a springboard to a successful $91,000 crowdfund. Even Lorde was keen to #savemoustache. Deanna used this to evolve the business, ditch the OTT rent, fit out a bus and tour the country taking the cookies to the people and now open three stores. All in less than 6 years in business. These goals have all been set and nailed, against the odds and against an environment that NZers like to think is pretty easy for people that aren’t pakeha, but in Deanna’s experience, it isn’t plain sailing, but there are a lot of good people out there too.


Craig Cotton on leading Charlie’s into teenage-hood and remembering to keep family involved

On the first week of the job at Coca Cola in 1996, today’s guest was wheeling out coke products from Pizza Hut after they moved to Pepsi. Although just a new sales rep he vowed that one day he’d get Coke back in to the big chain and its sister KFC.

The years passed, and Craig Cotton moved up the ranks. He went from sales rep to a manager, into sales operations, marketing and eventually, all the way to General Manager from his shop floor start. And on his last day with the company, 17 years later, Craig and his team made that deal with Restaurant Brands, the biggest single one in Coke NZ’s history. How’s that for a story of growth and dedication?

Craig has gone on to be the CEO for the Better Drinks Co, makers of Charlie’s as it went from a small indie to part of the huge Asahi, and then on to Independent Liquor and now, the Innovation Council - where this year’s awards are upcoming and the sector is in good health. Craig Cotton joined Simon to talk about his career and what could be next for innovation.