Get ready for watershed moments after reading about the inspirational Pip Jamieson - founder of The Dots. Fortuitously you can hop over to the site if you want to discover a more creative and fulfilling career! The Dots is a career network for creative talent. Her background first as an Economist in the Civil Service then working for The Brits and MTV prefaced her entrepreneurial leap! With the proliferation of technology traversing every industry, Pip advocates the importance of creativity and puts it at the heart of commerce. Learn about her motivation, raising finance, her journey so far and her brilliantly stark realisation at the end!
Current Job Founder & CEO of The Dots.
Education 1st Class Masters in Economics, Edinburgh University.
First Job Fast Stream Economist, Government Economic Service.
Go to meeting spot Shoreditch House.
Favourite place in London Horace our Houseboat
Necessary Extravagance We recently bought a Thames Skiff (a rowing skiff) called 'Little Horace'. Starting and running a business can be very hard, so whenever it all gets too much, I simply jump in 'Little Horace' and go for a row… and all too soon that big issue suddenly doesn’t seem so insurmountable!
Favourite productivity tool Xero. It makes accounting fun!
Female inspiration in business I think it would have to be Emma Watson for putting ‘He for She’ at the forefront of the addressing the gender imbalances.
Top networking tip Wear a smile.
Tell us about The Dots and the motivation behind it?
We started the platform because while I was Head of Marketing at MTV, I was finding it really hard to connect with amazing creative talent. At the same time my then colleague Matt Fayle, who was Digital Director for Viacom, was constantly being asked by creatives for advice on getting up and running online. What we realised was that all these people and companies wanted their online presence to lead to something. If you were an individual, you’d be trying to build your personal brand, find collaborators, find a client or a job. If you were a business, you’d be trying to build your brand, promote your projects, connect with clients or hire talent. So our vision was not only to create a platform that was easy for everyone involved in the creative process to promote their portfolio of work online – but most importantly to connect that work to some form of commercial outcome – a client, collaborator or job…essentially helping fuel commercial outcomes for the industry as whole.
You can only connect 'the dots' looking backwards...can you tell us more about your background prior to founding The Dots and what you have learnt from your journey so far?
It was my role at MTV that first inspired The Dots, but on reflection, my whole life seems to have led me to this point. I was blessed to have an incredible father who was a leading figure in the music industry. My earliest memories were hanging out in his office, making coffee and chatting to his team. It ignited in me a love of business and the creative industries. While my father always wanted me to go into the creative industries, my (slightly odd) rebellious nature led me to do an Economics degree at Edinburgh University and much to the surprise of my parents I walked out with a First and joined the fast stream civil service as an Economist. My creative calling came on a dawning realisation that being a civil servant wasn’t really my thing, so I jumped ship and started working on the Brit Awards, then in various roles for MTV around the world. For years at MTV I regretted my Economics degree (as it had absolutely no relevance to what I did then day to day) but now that I run a technology business I’m so grateful that I have a social science background. In 2009, I co-founded Australian networking platform The Loop, which we developed and grew into the leading professional networking site for creatives in the region, with over 67% of Australian creative professionals registered on the site, of which 71% returned each day. I love this industry and I’ve always had global aspirations for the platform – so in 2014 I decided to exit the business I started in Australia, to acquire the international rights to the technology – and The Dots was born.
What hypotheses about the creative industry and business model did you prove with The Loop that you subsequently built upon with The Dots?
LinkedIn has nailed corporate networking but it has some real shortcomings for people that work in the creative industries. On a basic level LinkedIn is built around an individual’s resume, but a creative’s calling card is their portfolio of creative projects they work on – which is what The Dots puts to the forefront. On a more fundamental level, creatives have different networking preferences to corporates. LinkedIn has been designed so you tend to meet people in the real world first and then manage those relationships online i.e. it’s built around first and second degree connections. What this means is that LinkedIn is a closed network where you can only view people’s profiles if they’ve either accepted your request to connect, or you pay LinkedIn. Conversely, our amazing community is more discovery led – they want to find amazing people to connect with, irrespective of any prior connection. It doesn’t matter if that person is in Berlin, Birmingham or Brooklyn. Once they’ve met on The Dots, they can then make creative magic offline. As such, unlike LinkedIn, The Dots is an open network where our community can view other people’s work without having to be connected first. The advantage of this is that users can search and browse creative projects, which isn’t possible on LinkedIn. We proved this hypothesis in Australia (& now in the UK) by helping creatives to connect and commercialise in a credible way that makes sense to them.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Exiting my first venture The Loop was one of the toughest decisions and hardest negotiations of my life. I can’t begin to tell you how difficult it is to leave a successful business that you put your heart, body and soul into, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? And what personal qualities do you attribute most to your success?
I remember the first time that someone landed a job on the platform - it was the most amazing feeling that not only was it up and running, but it was working. In Australia we connected our community to 190,000 + commercial opportunities, so the scaling prospects for the platform (and the positive impact we can have on the creative process) is really exciting. In terms of my personal attributes that have lead to this success, I guess it's a genuine desire to champion and support creativity.
What was your approach to raising investment and what would you do differently if you raise again?
We recently raised £1.5 million supported by advertising legend Sir John Hegarty, and funded by a powerful consortium of angel investors from Hambro Perks, Angel Academe and Coral Reef.
Our approach was pretty traditional - we created an investor deck and I pitched this to a number High Net Worth investors and investment syndicates. We had a lot of interest early on, but my biggest challenge was that until we had our lead investor, Hambro Perks, negotiating terms with multiple investors was a bit like herding cats. I can't stress the importance and value of having a lead investor enough. I'm very happy with what we raised and the investors we raised from - so if I had my time again I'm not sure that I'd do that much differently, other than possibly having a wingman/woman for pitches. At times it was pretty gruelling doing the pitches solo.... but hey what doesn't kill you makes you stronger :-)
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today?
A happy team is a productive team
What are your future ambitions/what would you like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered as someone who put creativity at the heart of commerce. Looking to the future with the rising march of automation, creativity is our secret weapon. Soon machines will drive, serve customers, code, clean, manufacture, do our accounts and legals, what are humans still good for? Creativity! So if we want our children and grandchildren to have jobs, we need to stop thinking of creativity as fluffy. As Ken Robinson said 'Creativity is as important as literacy' – I couldn’t agree more!
Women in Tech
What tips would you share with female founders looking to raise finance?
There is no point in sugarcoating it - raising investment is tough - very tough. I tend to agree with Martha Lane Fox’s comment that there is an ‘unconscious bias’ against women in the technology sector. Recent research at Startup DNA found that male entrepreneurs are 86% more likely to successfully raise VC funds and 59% more likely to secure angel investment, than their female counterparts. If I have one tip for female founders it would be to make sure that you put Angel Academe on your hit list – a female-led syndicate that invest in start-ups with at least one female founder. We were lucky enough to raise part of our investment through Angel Academe and they’re an amazing bunch of women.
Who do you surround yourself with?
Starting a business has been the most insane roller coaster ride of highs and lows. I found that the trick to weathering the hard times has been to surround myself with happy positive people that naturally focus on solutions not problems. It’s an inherent characteristic that I don’t think you can teach and leads to very productive working environment.
What advice can you offer women who are looking to start their own business?
I’ve seen so many businesses fail over the years not because they didn’t have a great idea, an amazing team or the funding but because they didn’t have the right support at home. I’m blessed to have the most incredible husband. He genuinely loves what I do and enjoys nothing more than chatting about my day and helping me talk through problems. He’s my emotional rock, through thick and thin. If you're in a relationship, then getting your partner fully behind your vision is as important as getting your team behind the vision. This goes both ways, for female founders, as much as male.