Global Entrepreneurship Week, day 3: Talking with Mish Guru's Tom Harding

Creative HQ's Laura Reitel chats to Mish Guru founder Tom Harding about qualifying prospects, getting a 'real' job and why attitude is more important than experience.

This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week, an occasion celebrated by events in 160 countries. Here in New Zealand, Creative HQ is joining Kiwi Connect and other organisations around the country in celebrating the week, by giving props to all the #NewFaces of entrepreneurship in New Zealand. We love this initiative because building a startup is a risky business and it’s incredibly important to celebrate the startup success stories - especially those who are new on the ropes.

Mish Guru helps brands tell compelling Snapchat stories to connect and engage with millennials. They do this through their technology platform, the campaigns they run and the content they create for brands, agencies and artists.

After presenting a keynote at Adtech in New York this month, Mish Guru was identified as one of the top three startups to look out for in 2016, with a team in Auckland, a co-founder in Berlin and plans to open an office in New York next year.

We first met Tom as a part of team that applied for Lightning Lab in 2014 with a completely different business idea - think fitbit for horseshoeing. We’ll leave all the possible puns on that one for your imagination (except perhaps the tweet below).

Needless to say, pivoting is not a new concept to Tom or the team at Mish Guru. After coming to the conclusion that the Cavaltech horseshoeing idea wasn’t going to be adopted fast enough by an industry that wasn’t tech savvy enough, the team did some soul searching and landed on what they knew - Snapchat.

Snapchat gets 4 billion video views a day and is ranked in the top three most popular social networks, particularly among millennials. Users are highly engaged, with 75% of sent images being viewed or responded to on average.

For brands, capturing this young and engaging audience is key to their sustainability in the long-run. However, traditional one-way advertising from brand-to-audience no longer works. Rich, creative and collaborative storytelling does.

After validating that brands had problems leveraging Snapchat for their business due to account managers’ phones freezing because of incoming snaps, Tom knew he hit something interesting. Some further digging proved that brands wanted control over uploading, storyboarding and scheduling their campaigns.

That is precisely what Mish Guru is all about. Today their clients include the likes of Spark, Air New Zealand, SkyTV, Vodafone Music awards, Durex, Playstation, Fairfax, L&P, Saatchi and Saatchi, Ikon Communications and the list goes on.

That’s quite a long way to come in a year, so we asked Tom a few questions about his journey.

Why did you choose to become an entrepreneur straight after university verses finding a 'real job'?

I was drawn to entrepreneurship for many of the same reasons I was drawn to engineering - I thoroughly enjoy problem solving. Working for a startup means that you have a much great opportunity and freedom to have genuine impact in helping to solve that problem.”

What’s the #1 lesson you've learned when selling MishGuru platform?

Learn how to qualify prospects properly. The temptation when you first start out is to write proposals for every possible lead. It's super time consuming and very often you end up being frustrated when you've been trying to close a deal for months only to realise that the fit isn't right for either party.”

How have you managed to hire and up-skill a young, creative team of millennials? Any tips on how to attract talent?

We have a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to hiring: attitude and ability to learn outweigh experience. We might be quite a young team but we move fast, learn from our mistakes and correct quickly.

We've been incredibly lucky when it's come to hiring with the awesome quality of talent that has approached us. That being said I think we've done a few things that have really helped our cause:

  • We give a lot back to the dev community - we host the Auckland node.js meetup for example
  • We put a lot of effort into maintaining and promoting culture.
  • We're big believers in a flexible work environment - work when and where you want. Not everyone is at their best between 9am - 5pm. By giving people the ability to self select how they work, we give them the opportunity to work in a way that maximises their own output.”

For more information about the Lightning Lab Accelerator, including the two upcoming programmes in Auckland and Wellington, visit www.lightninglab.co.nz