Idealog’s Most Creative: Dropit’s Peter and Brendan Howell talk creativity
What does creativity mean to you?
Creativity is the ability to think outside the square and develop a unique solution or idea. With Dropit, we ventured beyond the possible and took a risk to turn our dream/vision into a reality. We looked at the existing live sporting experience and focused on a creative and world-leading solution for improving on this, not only for fans, but for teams and sponsors. The end result is an app that helps teams and venues increase fan engagement and capture data, while driving brand loyalty and return on sponsorship for major consumer brands.
What do you think it is about your nature/habits/interests that makes you creative?
Like most Kiwis, we are mad about sports – before Dropit we sponsored New Zealand sports teams and stadiums. Actually, one of our first jobs involved building one of the Auckland’s biggest billboards (at the time). This has since become an electronic billboard. Funnily, we had to go through David Tua’s apartment to reach the building site. So we have essentially come full circle, as we now provide fan-engagement content to the world’s leading electronic billboard manufacturer (Daktronics). This sporting knowledge, through attending live events, has helped us analyse and recognise where there are faults in the live experience.
Essentially, fans are disengaged through a variety of avenues, particularly social media, where they will check their phones during breaks in a match, or leave their seats to grab a hotdog and chips. This means there is a lack of brand loyalty and return on sponsorship for major consumer brands as most people don’t interact with billboard advertising.
What first drew you to your chosen field?
We were initially drawn to the innovation and start-up sector after identifying a need to make it easier for smartphone owners to list and find items for sale in their neighbourhoods. And to that effect, we launched SellShed (in 2014). SellShed meant that traders could sign in using their Facebook credentials and then search for items to buy within any chosen distance from their location. They could also list an item they wanted to buy and receive an automatic notification if it came up for sale their vicinity.
Dropit is the evolution of this. Launched in 2015, Dropit, now based in the US and worth $30m, is an innovation leader that is competing on the world stage in a rapidly changing digital environment. It is a world-first application for solving fan disengagement – a major problem impacting both sponsors and teams in the sports industry.
What was your upbringing like, and how do you think that led you to where you are today?
We grew up in Morrinsville before moving to the Bay of Plenty. Educated at Tauranga Boys’ College and Otumoetai College we spent endless hours outdoors enjoying what the Bay has to offer. The bond as brothers has certainly helped forge our business ventures as we did plenty of activities together and, as previously mentioned, shared a passion for all things sport.
Side note: Mum still lives in Te Puke, so for me (Brendan) there is nothing better than coming home for a classic Kiwi roast with all the trimmings.
What does inspiration look like for you?
In New Zealand you don’t need to look too far for inspiration with an ever-growing list of innovators and entrepreneurs doing exceptional things in their respective fields. And more often than not you find key bits of information and learnings from those in fields other than your own.
Is there an ethos/motto you abide by in your work?
Never give up – show your resilience and perseverance.
Life is truly a roller coaster ride – it’s up and it’s down.
Like anything in life, it is being able to look at the positive in every situation and having the ability to get through the tough times.
Creativity is the ability to think outside the square and develop a unique solution or idea.
If there were a secret to success, what would it be?
One part of success is being able to take friends and family who backed you from the outset on the journey. It is vital to remember who you are and where you came from rather than getting caught up in the success and financial gain. Success is about maintaining a balance between your work and your friends and family at the same time. For example, I (Peter) have a young son and recently got married, so despite working 14-hour days, like the rest of the Dropit team, I put aside time for them no matter what.
Hard work and dedication also cannot be overstated. Anyone can be successful with a certain idea, their chosen field or on a personal level. You just have to have belief, dedication and effort to make it happen.
Do you work a lot? Do you have an obsessive part to your personality?
We wouldn’t be where we are without working long hours and drinking plenty of coffee. Understandably this is necessary to ensure Dropit is as big a success as it can be, not just for us but those sporting organisations who sign with us and our strong and loyal base of New Zealand investors.
Plus, with me (Peter) based in Mount Maunganui and Brendan based in the US, long working days can be achieved due to overlapping time zones.
What’s the secret to resilience?
Anyone can create something – you just have to have dedication and effort to make it successful.
What have been some of the highlights of your career?
Breaking into the US sporting market following eight trials at sports events.
Signing with the Phoenix Suns in the NBA.
Meeting and creating friendships with investors who are some of the most successful business people in NZ.
Raising more than $5 million in just two months during our latest funding round (finishing October 2017)
What do you think New Zealand is like for creativity? Is there something about ‘Kiwiness’ that helps or hinders?
We believe New Zealand punches well above its weight with visionary and limitless ideas, where our ‘Kiwiness’ does nothing but strengthen this status. Our reputation for world-leading innovation continues to reach new heights in a sector that is beginning to expand and flourish thanks to like-minded people dedicated to fostering innovation locally.
It is exciting to not only be a part of this, but see revolutionary ideas and businesses come to fruition. However, there is plenty of untapped potential in this field and, with the creative application of advanced digital technologies supported by capital investment and strong business acumen, we will only see more people find success on the world stage.
What would be the advice you’d give someone who wants to turn their creative passion into a full-time gig?
Never start a business with the sole purpose of either working for yourself or making lots of money. The most important thing is to be doing something you truly enjoy day-in, day-out. Secondly, if you want something bad enough, you will do whatever it takes to make it work. It is this drive and resilience that we believe sets Kiwis apart from the rest of the world. While it takes hard work, it pays to remember that business can be fun.
Just like many other successful companies, Dropit was a start-up that has worked extremely hard and is a New Zealand success story in the diverse and advanced technology sector. We only hope that we can share what we have learnt with others, to inspire future generations and to invest to bring wider success to the industry.
What have been the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
Never give up on an idea if you truly believe in it.
Where to next? Do you have a goal you’re working towards?
Dropit has a bright future ahead as it continues to disrupt the lucrative US sports sponsorship market with its interactive content – which is our immediate focus. The success and interest following entering the NBA has been phenomenal, and we plan to continue riding that wave and keep breaking down doors and showing more sports teams the power of Dropit. It is fantastic to see the US fans and teams enjoying the technology and what Dropit offers.
Being a kiwi-owned and operated start-up we would also love to be able to bring the app back home to help nurture future innovation potential. We are in talks with a number of sporting codes, so watch this space.