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Reality Check: Frontside’s Robett Hollis

What’s your favourite…

Technology you can’t live without?

My iPhone. 95 percent of my time is out and about with people and not in the office. I probably spend an average of 30 minutes a day max on my laptop so all my business needs to be mobile driven. Also, when it comes to content, 95% of my own content for social production is done on my phone too so it’s pretty much by biggest asset. From my lists, filming, editing to distribution is all done via my phone on the go. And I’m pretty much constantly attached to Bluetooth headphone so I can have free hands while on calls and take notes, or even practise my putting in the office. I don’t really use email anymore either so my phone is pretty much the one-stop shop. The fact you can run entire businesses all through a phone is amazing and I want to keep pushing the limits to how much can be done in not the usual ways. And finally I’ve started integrating in voice controls pretty solidly so far, but by 2020 70% of my digital interfacing will probably be through voice only. 

Underrated or old technology?

Face-to-face communication in the real world. Sitting down and looking someone in the eye and talking to them like a human being. It’s something that I think people have totally missed and lost. People have email threads of CC’s going for 50 pages deep instead of just talking to the human on the other side them or just sitting down and getting shit done. My prediction for the future of truly successful business? Old school will be the new school and analogue will be the new digital! Mark my words. 

New Zealand tech company or individual in that space that’s doing seriously cool things?

Xero. Rod has balls and I am a huge, huge fan of Anna Curzon. When they crack the US, it’s game on!

Global tech company or individual in the space that’s doing seriously cool things?

Hyper Loop. I was with the CEO in San Fran recently at Singularity Universities Global Summit and that shit was insane. Google it. It’s real. It’s coming. And it will change the transportation game from end to end in the next decade. Half an hour from San Fran to LA? Yes please.

Tech project or product you’ve had a hand in?

I’ve always hacked and played with technology. From modifying entire PC servers in 1998 when I was 12-years-old, to helping create NZ’s first realtime multiple UGC Content stream through Snapchat for Lydia Ko, or figuring out how to be the first in NZ to get real time multiple wireless mixing into a Facebook live via smartphone setup for the Emirates Team New Zealand Crew & Vodafone while in Bermuda was rad. Plus there’s been another big play I was involved with which I can’t discuss that I’m pretty proud to see used every day at scale. I’m constantly playing and trying to mix and morph technology in new ways. I usually take a huge personal interest first, and then translate that thinking into business down the line when I find an opportunity for it. Also, successfully building a network of creative and tech shared workspaces through ColabNZ to help tech startups and small businesses was awesome.

Tech project or product that isn’t yours, but you’re envious of?

I don’t really get envious of people, products or business. I love and admire certain traits of people or the direction certain brands take in the market but I honestly couldn’t really care about the energy associated with envy. I’m a fearless optimist so always just lean on the positive vibe side of life and just believe that the more people win the better. As long as it brings positive momentum to the industry eventually we all win. Winners just keep there head down and focus on their mission. They don’t even see who’s in the race with or against them so time usually isn’t left for envy. 

What first drew you to this industry?

I’ve always had such a natural interest in technology, how things work and what opportunities lie just outside of the comfort zone that I could dabble in and test. I don’t care about perfection one bit. I care about speed and execution, bravery and the constant need to keep pushing what’s possible. This is why tech will always have me stuck for life. It’s an ever evolving beast which can’t be caged or restrained by anyone.

What do you enjoy the most about working in tech?

It’s the constant evolution. I love feeling the tension of being behind the curve in many ways yet always ahead of the curve in others. That tension is key for me. And I actually thing I’m getting braver and more confident with my moves as time goes on with tech as I can ‘feel’ where the energy is going in the long game. I want to think bigger, I want to push harder and I want to challenge myself to sack up and send it even more! Almost dying everyday as an professional snowboarder gave me a true dose of what real risk is – so for me business is now a layup compared to that world where I came from. haha. 

How would you describe New Zealand’s tech culture?

Aware, but not as ‘glued’ as I know we could all be. We are aligned, but still pretty frangmented in places, that’s why I’m so stoked to sit on the board of the NZ Technology Industry Association with a bunch of legit legends who are helping fixing that slowly and bringing one voice for tech in this rad country. Tech Week ’17 saw over 270+ events go down in one week across the country which is really helping put a spotlight on the amazing talent and tech we have to offer here in NZ. I also love the easy accessibility of pretty much anyone here. Titles don’t mean shit to me – it’s just humans. It’s rad! I know I’m only a small small fish in the big game – but I absolutely love seeing us all keep pushing and keep moving forward in our respective lanes.

Where does inspiration come from for you?

Being alone and away from the chaos. Meditating. Ideas are one thing – but execution is my true oxygen. I just love being brave enough to try things, humble enough to take a loss when the market punches you in the mouth, then enough determination to giddy up for another round while smiling and being just a little bit smarter. I love the struggle, hustle and the grind of my world now. If it was easy – it’d be boring as shit!  And to be honest – I seriously don’t want to follow anyone’s path – I want to build my own – then dominate it. It’s always been me vs myself so it’s a game I will never win.  

Reality check

How has tech impacted on your work? How will it impact on it in the future?

Efficiency, connectivity and accessibility for knowledge. Tech has progressively commoditised so much and I really believe this is just the start. Tech will continue to deeply integrate into every touch point of our existence and as far as I is concerned, I believe we will work closer beside it – not against it. 

What’s been the most concerning change that technology has made to human behaviour, in your experience?

Addiction and lack of balance. I live and breathe tech, but feel I am totally balanced and set for the long game. Some of the data coming out around human addiction to technology is pretty scary, I’m genuinely nervous for some people with their dependence on their phone. It’s crazy. It’s weird how some people don’t get that social media friends are not real friends. Likes on a post doesn’tfill your soul and create true happiness. And as far as love is concerned, filters can only take you so far. We need balance to survive – and I don’t see much of it from some of my peers. I’m all in when I’m in – but I’m all out when I’m out. That’s why I am hyped and know I can play this business game till I’m at least 100. 

How would you describe your relationship with technology? Do you think you’re addicted to any form of it?

Integrated organically but detached mentally and physically when required to sustain balance. My phone goes on do not disturb from 6pm to 8am and I leave my laptop charger in the office on Fridays. Trust me – there is more chaos going on in my brain on a day to day basis then most newsfeed combined so I just focus on that. 

Do you think social media is a blessing or a curse?

Blessing, but this last 10 years has just been the tip of the iceberg. I don’t like where we are headed for some parts, but I love where we are heading in others. And to be honest for me personally, social media has helped anyone who doesn’t know me get context to who I am, how I roll and what I believe. You can’t scale that one on one. You can through content and social. So I’ve definitely been blessed with my timing I think. 

Do you think technology needs more laws surrounding it, or a form of resource consent regulation?

No. You can’t stop technology, and public policy has proven that it has always lagged and always will. Law makers have always been on defence. I believe they need to be on offence. The only laws I think which do need being super aggressive on are when machines integrate further into our ‘real world’ and are interacting with us. This is where it will get niggly to balance. 

What needs to be done to tackle the diversity issue in tech?

As far as business is concerned, I like that it’s getting more and more acceptable to have questions asked about this. I love in Silicon Valley that business are now running diversity reports and truly acknowledging the value that a variety of people bring. And as far as the board room goes – I believe that shit has to change quick. Don’t even get me started on minorities, let’s just start with women. It’s a joke there aren’t more amazing NZ women making these roles. My two cents – stuff the old boys club! Stuff the token ‘Pale Male and Stale’ game of how business ‘was done’ – that game is going to die, figuratively and literally. The true leaders know that this world gonna be be run and rolled by people that think different and look different. Having said that it does still need to address the diversity in thinking too. Diversity of the mind is the key in all this. I believe weird is wonderful, and blunt is best. As I continue to earn my place over the next few years I want to get a lil louder on a few issues, and if you know how I usually roll and what I believe, Diversity is definitely gonna be one of them. Because this misguided, naive and arrogant way many of these boardrooms are operating is not a fair representation of the world we are really living in. I pray it changes sooner rather than later. NZ is better than this. 

What worries you the most about technology?

Integration without understanding. Addiction and escapism from the true issues that humans need to deal and cope with is also a danger. 

What’s your scariest prediction for the future? Will the robots kill us all?

No. Robots will be paying taxes by 2030. 

What will New Zealand look like as a country in 2037?

Children born today won’t go to ‘uni’ as we know it and if they live in a main city they will never get a license, buy a car or learn how to drive. The world will see New Zealand as a beautiful escape from any global issues and we’ll have a few unicorns who pop, but decide to stay local and will lead the way for anyone, anywhere to prove you can start local, go global, but still stay local. I’m excited for the future. Not only for where tech will be innovated nationally, but also the positive impacts we end up influencing around the world. 

New Zealand is filled with winners. It’s time we celebrate more of them. #RIPTallPoppy

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