What time do you wake up?
I’m up at 5.15am.
·What kind of work do you do?
I’m founder and CEO of IMAGR. IMAGR is a Kiwi tech company that has created the SmartCart, a frictionless checkout experience harnessing artificial intelligence to make shopping easier. Basically, it’s a shopping cart which uses AI to carefully track items you put in and take out of your trolley and automatically charges your bank account when you leave the store. This world-class AI is being built right here in New Zealand and is changing the game across the world.
·What’s the ideal way to start your day?
I start my day the same every day, with exercise. Most mornings with a game of tennis from 5.30-6.30am, or I switch that up with the gym.
Do you have any morning rituals?
Every morning I have a coffee, review my calendar and my diary. IMAGR has offices in Auckland and Osaka, Japan. I was in Japan when COVID-19 struck so I’ve been based here for the last month. We’re a few hours behind New Zealand so my current morning ritual is to first catch up with my leads back in Auckland, then dig into my diary.
How soon do you begin doing work-related things each morning, such as checking your phone or emails?
As soon as I wake up. We have international Board members and talk with several international groups, so like to have a browse first thing in the morning.
What’s your media consumption or interaction like – which podcasts, radio, videos, books, magazines, and new sites do you read or listen to?
I read a lot and share books with my team. I tend to read books about organisational psychology, habits, performance, and business-related books. I also love reading The Economist, and Harvard Business Review for articles.
What do you think is unique about the way you approach your work?
I’ve got a relentless belief in what we’ve created. Our product has come from countless challenges and failures throughout the years, but for every “no” I hear, I treat it as both motivation to prove them wrong, and advice for improving the next time around. I always treat “no’”’ as a “not just yet”.
When I heard about Amazon creating a similar product with Amazon Go supermarkets, I wasn’t actually worried because I knew IMAGR tech was better – more scalable, cheaper, and easier to integrate into existing supermarkets. I had friends call me to say, “time to pack it up, Amazon just beat you” and my response was that they had just validated there was a market for frictionless checkout.
Fortunately, this wasn’t just in my head either. When global heavyweight Toshiba Tec looked around the world for the most advanced frictionless technology to invest in, it settled on IMAGR. The core belief I have in our product gives me the drive to succeed and push past new challenges.
What responsibility do you have on a typical day? What takes up most of your time?
I touch all points of the business, product, finance, HR and engineering.
We’re currently working to launch our SmartCarts in Japan with one of their largest retailers so that takes up most of my day. We focus on one rollout at a time to ensure the product and service is of the highest quality. While based in Japan a lot of my day is working with our engineers and developers back in New Zealand to ensure onboarding is going smoothly. I also liaise with our customers to understand their needs and ensure we meet all requirements, while also pursuing new leads across the globe who are keen to bring IMAGR on board.
I keep in close contact with my team, making sure they have what they need to succeed. We’re also constantly looking for people to join the IMAGR team, so I’m always on the lookout for top talent.
Where do your best ideas come from?
I think the best ideas make our lives easier. Working backwards is usually best. Think of something that is an inconvenience to many people, then dream up a way around it. That’s exactly how IMAGR started back in 2015, I didn’t want to wait around in a queue at the grocery store. At the time it seemed impossible to come up with a solution. But I’ve dedicated my life to it and surrounded myself with a fantastic team. I’m thrilled that it’s now a reality and I hope that one day soon no one will be waiting in a supermarket queue.
What has been the most transformational business practice you’ve implemented at your work?
Our Friday all hands meeting. This is where I stand up with our leadership team every Friday afternoon and round the week out and paint a picture of where we’re moving forward. It gives the entire company insight into the business direction, the challenges, how we are tracking and provides a platform for the team to ask me any questions.
What social or environmental issues inform the work you do, as well as what you’re aiming to do with your company’s overall vision?
The Covid-19 pandemic has been the perfect example of how IMAGR’s SmartCart is the way of the future for bricks and mortar shopping. In a new world where social distancing and contactless tech is becoming vital, the SmartCart provides minimal person-to-person contact and cash handling, while allowing retail stores to put resources where they’re really needed like stocking shelves and ensuring cleanliness.
What’s the most enjoyable part of your day?
Working to see a project come to life that I’ve been envisioning for so long.
What about the least enjoyable?
Still having to wait in line at stores when I know there’s tech available that can eliminate it.
Do you have any side hustles you’re juggling alongside being an entrepreneur?
Well, IMAGR kind of is my side hustle! My path to SmartCart started when I worked full-time for an investment fund in Sydney, working on it as a side hustle in the evenings. Eventually it became my full-time gig. I encourage everyone to have a side hustle if you can manage it, you never know where it will lead to. Now I’d say my side-hustle is working with New Zealand’s tech talent and other keen entrepreneurs as a mentor to help them succeed.
What’s your best productivity hack?
Block your day out in time slots and make yourself accountable to someone to deliver it. I tackle the hardest problems in the morning and do a retrospective of my diary at the end of every Friday to see where I got distracted. This helps me to better forecast my time the following week.
Do you get stressed? If so, how do you manage it? Do you practice any mindfulness or meditation?
Exercise helps me – mainly running, hitting the gym or playing tennis.
What do you do once you get home? Can you switch off?
I don’t finish work until late, so I generally go home, get into bed and read for 30 minutes. I don’t feel I need to switch off as I love thinking about how we’re going to solve the problems we have ahead of us.
What do or don’t you eat or drink to maintain your performance throughout the day?
I just focus on keeping a balanced diet rather than eating and drinking specific things.
What time do you go to sleep? How many hours of sleep do you try to get each night? Any special techniques for a good night’s rest?
If anyone has tips for getting a good night’s sleep, please let me know! I aim for 6-7 hours a night if I can, but that’s not always the case.