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From Oompher to Unfiltered

by fatweb

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He sold his first start-up business to the government, he has enviable contacts with some of the biggest players in the business world, he’s had a one-on-one meeting with Sir Richard Branson, recently moved to America and is now taking his second business global.
You’d be forgiven for thinking these are the triumphs of a well seasoned businessperson, but in fact they are the accomplishments of a 20 year old entrepreneur, originally from Greymouth on the West Coast of the South Island.
Jake Millar has already accomplished more in business than many dream to in a lifetime – and he has done it all without any formal study, favouring to learn through on the job training instead.
Speaking with Jake you quickly gain an understanding of how he’s achieved what he has.
He speaks rapidly with an enthusiasm that you rarely see; there is a hunger and a passion inside of him that is unique. I doubt he has an off switch.
“You’ve got to be fully committed. You can’t get lazy. It’s 24/7. Business is the ultimate sport. It’s always on. As soon as you get lazy, you’re screwed.”
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His go-getting entrepreneurial spirit has been deeply imbedded in him since a young age. At just seven years old he started his first business selling magnets outside the supermarket in Greymouth. The small enterprise was called, Jake-o-Magnets, and by all accounts a huge success. Jake’s Mum used to drop him off at the supermarket and come back five hours later; generally he had pocketed about $45.00, which was “a killing” at the time he says.
On September, 4th 2010, when Jake was 15 years old, his life changed forever. His father, Rod, died in a skydiving plane crash in Fox Glacier when the family’s FU24 aircraft smashed into the ground shortly after take off, killing all nine people onboard, including four of Jake’s close friends.
After the accident Jake wrote to Prime Minister John Key thanking him for visiting the crash site to pay his respects. He wrote back, asking to meet with Jake over lunch. “I was inspired by John Key’s start in life. His Dad died when he was seven years old and he went on to achieve his dream. If he could; why couldn’t I?”
Screw it, let’s do it
Many people in the business world look up to Richard Branson and aspire to be like him, but not many say, as teenagers no less, ‘I am going to be like Richard Branson’ and in a few short years put themselves on a path to that goal.
The billionaire has been Jake’s real life hero since he read his autobiography ‘Losing my Virginity’. “My interest in business was sparked when I read Richard Branson’s autobiography back at Christchurch Boys’ High School. I became really inspired by what he’d achieved and his ability to take risks. And after I’d read his autobiography I decided that’s what I was going to do as well, and decided to go out and start companies.”
And that’s exactly what he did, turning down a $40,000 law scholarship offered to him by the Dean of Law at the University of Otago. In the famous words of his hero he said “Screw it, let’s do it,” and dived head first into becoming an entrepreneur.
The careers and motivational website, Oompher, was Jake’s first start-up company. He sold his car for funds and began working on the idea shortly after leaving high school in late 2013.
The genesis for the business was conceived when Jake saw that there was a lack of information and resources available for young people exploring their career options. He says teenagers tend to go to university simply because it seems like the right thing to do – not because it best serves their career ambitions. “There was too much careers information, but not enough inspiration. Young people are also heavily influenced by what their parents want them to do. Oompher challenges that.”

“You’ve got to be fully committed. You can’t get lazy. It’s 24/7. Business is the ultimate sport. It’s always on. As soon as you get lazy, you’re screwed.”

Oompher aims to open people’s eyes to different possibilities in life and inspire them through words of wisdom from leaders in various fields through video interviews. Jake interviewed 135 highly successfully people in a broad range of industries including arts, business, cuisine, entrepreneurship, innovation, law, politics, media, sports and technology.

The website launched to schools throughout the country in July 2014 with the backing of some powerful commercial partners including BNZ, Canon, Deloitte and Toyota.

Oompher quickly caught the attention of its target market, amassing 70,000 views in less than a year and collected over $300,000 in revenue. And In a few short months after launching the site, Jake negotiated the sale of Oompher to the New Zealand Government, Crown Entity Careers New Zealand, signing it over in May 2015.

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Bringing stories to light
After the hand over of Oompher he took a short break and travelled around the US exploring new business ideas. During that time he spoke with a lot of business leaders who all said there was a real lack of New Zealand-specific business education content to help them grow their companies.

“We saw a need to create a business education platform in New Zealand because there was nothing like that. There are so many amazing New Zealanders who have achieved the most extraordinary things in business. I thrive off talking to business leaders and learning from them.”

He wasted no time starting his second business and co-founded Unfiltered late last year, alongside Yuuki Ogino. The exclusive business education platform is dedicated to helping businesses grow through valuable interviews and advice from well-known and successful entrepreneurs.

The site had 12 paying subscribers before it even launched and now has about 5,000. In addition to the exclusive video content, members can also pitch their business ideas online which get put in front of people like Julie Christie, Eric Watson and Sir George Fistonich.

The site brings the almost unheard of stories of incredibly successful New Zealanders to its viewers. He says New Zealanders are achieving huge things on the world stage, but kiwis back home aren’t even aware of them. To name a few examples he says there is a kiwi who is CEO of the Virgin Group, Josh Bayliss, Richard Branson’s second in charge, president of General Motors, Dan Ammann, Tesla co-founder, Ian Wright, and president and CEO of Walmart U.S, Greg Foran.

“They are just a few examples of kiwis who are doing incredible things in business around the world, but their stories aren’t very well known at home and I think that’s a cultural thing. New Zealanders, generally speaking, aren’t as interested in business as other populations are. New Zealanders tend to care more about rugby and sport.

“These business people aren’t well known at all. So we are really passionate about bringing these stories to entrepreneurs and businesses just getting started to help them build their success.”

The site features educational videos with advice from Eric Watson, Stephen Jennings, Sir Michael Hill, Diane Foreman, Sir Ralph Norris, Christopher Luxon, Dame Trelise Cooper and even Jake’s hero Richard Branson, to name a few of Unfiltered’s 67 interviews currently listed on the platform.

A dream come true
It had been a dream of Jake’s to meet Branson for many years and he made that dream come true in June when he meet the man himself to interview him for Unfiltered. An interview that he says was a big win for the company, because it validated the website on an international playing field.

“He has been the single biggest inspiration in my life. What I’ve learnt from him is massive – even before meeting him. So to be able to meet him was a dream come true.

“The meeting made me realise that everyone is human. I think people like Richard Branson seem like they are almost removed from where you are as a human and you don’t imagine it’s actually possible to be like them. But actually meeting him it was clear how humble and genuine he really is. It makes you realise that anyone can go out and achieve what these people have done because they are all humans just like the rest of us.”

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Having interviewed some of the biggest names in global business, what has he learnt?

He says the best piece of advice he hears time and time again from the Unfiltered interviewees, is the importance of product/market fit. Entrepreneurs tend to come up with what they think is a great idea and go full steam ahead, pouring thousands of dollars into it without researching the market first and doing the appropriate validation. Then they find out that they don’t have a market once they’ve already launched, he explains.

“I’ve learnt from so many of our interviewees that it is always better to research your market extensively before you launch. Actually find out what your market’s painful problems are, what your customers wake up in the middle of the night sweating about, what’s the biggest problem on their mind and how you can solve that for them.

“If you can solve a problem that’s going to save people time, money, frustration and stress, they are probably going to pay for that.”

Destiny in his own hands
Now he is taking Unfiltered international. Jake moved to San Francisco in June and already has a list of big American names in his sights for interviews, including former eBay president Jeffrey Skoll and Airbnb co-founder and CTO, Nathan Blecharczyk. “The plan is to definitely expand the business globally, especially in the United States market. I’m confident that we can get millions of subscribers all over the world.”

His goal for millions of subscribers isn’t unrealistic based on the feedback the website has already received. “Members are loving the content, learning so much from it and saying it’s fantastic and exactly what they’ve been looking for to grow their companies and grow themselves as individuals as well.”

Many website businesses have struggled for some time now to make pay per view website content a success, but few have cracked the code.

“Viewers will pay for content if it solves a specific problem for them in a specific niche. So in our case we are bringing to life stories from business leaders who often don’t tell their stories to the media and even if they do, it’s generally not as in-depth as they have done with Unfiltered. You can’t go elsewhere to find our content because it’s nowhere else online. People will pay for that, as it delivers real value.”

Unfiltered may be Jake’s second successful business but you can be sure it isn’t his last. With his incredible passion for starting companions and for improving people’s lives through business, he is one young entrepreneur who is just getting started.
 
By Laura Baker

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