Meet Jake Millar – New Zealand’s answer to a young Sir Richard Branson
He’s New Zealand’s answer to a young Sir Richard Branson – and counts the British entrepreneur as both a mentor and friend. We ask Jake Millar about the best way to get a business off the ground and how to think really big
“I’m only interested in building world-changing businesses,” says Jake Millar, the 21-year-old Kiwi co-founder of Unfiltered, a website that allows entrepreneurs and business leaders to learn directly from the world’s greatest business minds. At just 18, after turning down a scholarship to study law in order to follow his entrepreneurial dream, Jake founded his first start-up, careers website OOMPHER, which was acquired by the New Zealand Government less than a year later.
If ambition had a face, it could well look a lot like Jake’s. Fast forward to 2017 and, after just 17 months online, Unfiltered has welcomed business heavyweights Kevin Roberts (former global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, pictured above on left) and Rob Fyfe (CEO of Icebreaker and former Air New Zealand CEO) to its board of directors and raised $1.2 million in seed capital from local investors. So what does it take to make a company a success, not just locally, but globally? We asked Jake to share some of the teachings that got him to where he is today.
1. Make friends – don’t network
In business (and in life) I have found that you get so much further if you are genuine in your approach. So many people strategically network and approach everything in a self-serving way, always thinking, “What can I get from this situation?” I hate networking, but I love to make new friends. Always ask yourself: “What can I give?” rather than “What can I get?”. Being genuine and blurring the lines between my business and personal life is by far one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned. I only do business with my friends as I make friends with my business connections. My lawyer is my friend. My accountant is my friend. Even my dentist is my friend.
2. Don’t take no (or no response) for an answer
If you truly want success, you have to knock down doors and be brutally persistent. One thing that always amazes me is the number of people who will give up after they are told “No” or when they don’t get a reply to an email they’ve sent. Everyone is busy and it is very rare that you will get a “Yes” the first time. The winners in business don’t take no for an answer and persist until they get their desired result. When trying to secure
a new interviewee for Unfiltered, I will often email them up to 30 times before I get a response!
3. Fix a painful problem in a specific market
If you want to minimise your risk as an entrepreneur, it is smart to fix a painful problem in a specific market. So many entrepreneurs will come up with a cool idea in the shower and dedicate thousands of hours to building a product that no one actually wants or needs. You can massively reduce your risk by identifying a painful problem and building a solution for that problem. As Sir Richard Branson often says, a business is just something that makes other people’s lives better.
4. Sell your product before it is built
One of the best ways to reduce your risk as a start-up entrepreneur is to secure some early customers who can be test pilots for your MVP (minimum viable product). When Yuuki Ogino and I founded Unfiltered, we sold more than 10 business memberships and partnerships before we even launched, which provided the business with early revenue and customer feedback. Through selling over $150,000 in product before we even launched, we were able to avoid raising external capital for 15 months, thereby ensuring we were able to fully dedicate ourselves to our vision.
5. Work out your 30-year plan
Develop a vision and plan for your life then work towards that vision. If you don’t have a plan for your life, you will be in someone else’s plan for sure. Having a vision allows you to make big, scary decisions which may seem terrifying in the short-term, as you will always be able to see the bigger picture. Structure this as a 30-year-plan, tell as many people who care to know, and drive fearlessly towards that vision.
6. Make a BIG decision
You have to make big, crazy and scary decisions to change the trajectory of your life. Small decisions will only ever make a marginal difference. If you want to move the needle of your life, you have to make decisions which are really bold, scary and uncomfortable, and then back them with unrelenting determination and fearlessness. Making the decision is always the hardest part. Once you have made the decision – no matter how outrageous it may be – everything else will start to fall into place. Make the decision.
7. Focus on your own s**t
I used to obsess over the success of others and beat myself up for not being as successful as they were in certain areas of my life. I have learned that one of the secrets to happiness is to focus on my own journey. If we are looking at other people and comparing our success to their success, we will never be happy. I truly believe that happiness and success are by-products of focusing on your own journey and obsessing over how you can be better as a human being.