Idealog's Most Creative: The Sharesies team talks creativity

The Sharesies team (L-R): Ben Crotty, Sonya Williams, Richard Clark, Brooke Roberts, Leighton Roberts, Natalie Bryant (general counsel) and Martyn Smith

The team at Sharesies was one of the People's Choice winners for Most Creative in money for Idealog and Accenture's Most Creative People. Sharesies is an online platform democratising investment and was founded by a team of 7 starting off with the typical start-up story of wanting to solve a founders problem. Sonya Williams was keen to invest in small chunks but had no way of getting started. She chatted to Leighton Roberts as he started an investment club when he was 17 and the team was formed to bring Sharesies to life. After working at a bank, Sharesies CEO Brooke Anderson, saw firsthand how bad Kiwis were with saving and how little people knew about investing so jumped at the opportunity to co-found a business that would help them with it – even if they only had a small amount of money to invest. Brooke recently won the Pitch Like A Girl at RISE conference in Hong Kong for Sharesies. Here, the team talk creativity, finding inspiration and the secret to resilience.

Ben Crotty, chief designer

What does creativity mean to you?

Safely trusting your intuition and recording it. Creativity is fun. There’s no wrong answer. Something can be subjectively ugly, but it’s not “wrong.” It's counter-productive to think terrible things like “that can’t be done,” or similar—you won't find your happy place.

What do you think it is about your nature/habits/interests that make you creative?

Creatives are practicing artists, and aren't limited to “visual artists.” Everyone possesses creativity—everyone's proud at some point with what they did with craft glue and a pair of snips. Ultimately there's better harmony when “creativity” is combined with a robust process of design to make sure "the shoe fits."

Martyn Smith, lead developer

What first drew you to your chosen field?

I think a love of puzzles and curiosity about how things work. I started out copying programs from books into our Commodore 64 without knowing why it worked. Ever since I’ve been striving to figure out what’s going on in there!

What have been some of the highlights of your career?

I’m really proud of the work Richard and I did for Figure.NZ. We built a massive data pipeline for ingesting a lot of very disparate data to put it in the hands of everyday people. I think, however, that highlight now has to be working with the fantastic team at Sharesies. I’ve never been working on a team where every single person is so good at what they do.

Sonya Williams, chief product and marketing

Where do your best ideas come from?

All over the place. It usually starts by paying attention, noticing something then following that curiosity. Very rarely are ideas new (‘everything is a remix’), but it’s usually when things are seen or applied in a different context. But you have to be paying attention to make those connections in the first place.You also need to create space for your mind to ‘go there’ with ideas. I especially love doing this as a group because you really need diverse thinking to push things.

What does inspiration look like for you?

Working on stuff that matters, with really awesome people.

Leighton Roberts, chief operations and opportunities

Is there an ethos/motto you abide by in your work?

Enjoy it. Whatever it is. Sometimes it feels hard, but it's a good challenge. If I don’t enjoy doing something I do enjoy fixing it and making it better for next time.

If there were a secret to success, what would it be?

I don’t know how much of a secret it is, but I think there are two important things to do to succeed at anything — big or small:

1. Get started, and

2. keep going.

Everyone has great ideas, but only a few get started on doing something about them, and then even fewer keep going once they have got started.

Creativity is fun. There’s no wrong answer. Something can be subjectively ugly, but it’s not “wrong.” 

Richard Clark, chief technology officer

What were some of the challenges that you faced early on? What went wrong? Any regrets?

Time was our enemy. A startup (particularly in an accelerator) never has enough time, and that was certainly true of us. We had some highly desirable deadlines to hit, and they were never far away.

We didn't hit them all, in fact, we missed launching on our target date, but I have no regrets about that because we missed them for the right reasons. With Sharesies, we're given a great responsibility to keep our customer money safe. We dedicated extra time to make sure our systems were bulletproof, and I'd make that trade-off again every time.

What’s the secret to resilience?  

In a nutshell? You're the only one who can make you fail. Our lives are filled with artificial tests–deadlines, exams, interviews–and it's easy to associate missing one of those with real failure, but it's rarely true. You can miss a deadline and still succeed. You can fail an exam or muck up an interview and still end up with the job you want—so long as you remember that they're just roadbumps, not walls. Keep your perspective, keep going. A year from now almost everything that stresses you today will be forgotten, the only thing that will truly change where you are is whether you kept at it.

Brooke at the Pitch Like a Girl event in Hong Kong

Brooke Roberts, CEO

Do you work a lot? Do you have an obsessive part to your personality?

It’s a bit of a cliche but being a part of Sharesies, really doesn’t feel like work. I’ve found when you’re so passionate about what you do it’s incredibly fun and exhilarating. In saying that, having balance is really important to me. I know having balance helps me to get perspective and be even better at what I do. Balance to me, mostly means managing my energy not my time. Whether that is going for a big walk in the morning or during the working day, catching up with friends and family, chill time with Leighton, reading, yoga, netflixing or even a nap—whatever I know I need, I make sure I prioritise it.

At first thought, I don’t think I’m that obsessive, but after further pondering I realised I do obsess on reflecting. At least at the end of every day I find myself reflecting on what happened, critiquing what I could have done differently and what went well and learning from those experiences.

Where to next? Do you have a goal you’re working towards?

Our goal at Sharesies is that we want all Kiwi’s knowing that investing is now something they have access too—it’s not just for the rich, and you don’t need to know heaps to get started and build your own investment portfolio.

We can’t wait to remove the taboo from talking about money and the perception of what an investor is. It’s great that now someone with a $20 investment portfolio could have a conversation with someone with a $200,000 portfolio and compare investment strategies.

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