2 Apr 2017

Jake Millar - millennial entrepreneur

From Sunday Morning, 10:36 am on 2 April 2017

Having successfully launched his own start-up company at just 18, Jake Millar is now preparing to take his latest venture to the US.

Millar, who is originally from the West Coast, created the careers advice platform Oompher after graduating from Christchurch Boys High School.

Jake Millar shows Richard Branson his tattoo. "The tattoo is a replica of a parachute my late father drew on my 10th birthday card. Underneath the parachute, it says 'Screw It, Let's Do It,' which is one of Richard's main quotes."

Jake Millar shows Richard Branson his tattoo. "The tattoo is a replica of a parachute my late father drew on my 10th birthday card. Underneath the parachute, it says 'Screw It, Let's Do It,' which is one of Richard's main quotes." Photo: Supplied

He told Wallace Chapman the aim was to provide resources for people who wanted to take less conventional pathways after they left high school.

Millar interviewed 150 of the top people in a range of industries, from arts to sports to politics to music, to create a new form of career advice.

He asked them about how they would get started today, if they were 18 years old.

“Rather than learning about how to become a journalist from the careers advisor, we would go to Simon Dallow or Susan Wood and say, ‘how did you get started and how would you get started today?

“Really get the top advice from these people.”

He started negotiating with Careers New Zealand, a crown entity of the government, and eventually sold the business to them, just 10 months after starting it.

Millar says he was ambitious even at primary school.

“I had big goals even when I was eight or nine years old, but I don’t really know where that came from.”

His mum helped him with his first business, making and selling fridge magnets outside the supermarket.

Millar says his father had his own sky diving business and worked very hard to achieve his goals there.

“Everyone’s shaped by their upbringing and I think my parents did a good job.

“We were always jumping out of planes and going skiing and bungy jumping and lots of outdoor sort of stuff that a place like Greymouth offers.”

When he was 15, Millar’s father, along with four close friends and several tourists, were killed in a plane accident at Fox Glacier.

He says while it was a hard time, the week after the accident had some positives.

“The reason I say that is because hundreds of our friends came from all around the world to essentially celebrate my father’s life and that’s a really humbling and enjoyable experience because you’re telling stories and you’ve got so many supporters around you.

“So that week was hard but it was a bit surreal and there was lots of fun as well.”

He says the hard part came several weeks later, when everyone had gone home and the realisation that life would be very different set in.

While it was difficult, Millar says that was when he really started driving towards his goals.

Now 21, Millar divides his time between Auckland and New York.

His new venture, Unfiltered, focuses around business videos and podcasts.

“We go out and we interview the most successful business leaders, both in New Zealand and in the world increasingly – and talk to them in a lot of detail, over an hour, about everything they’ve learned.

“We’ll sit down with someone like Sir Richard Branson and we’ll talk about, you know, his advice on leadership, his advice on product market fit, his advice on finding new industries or whatever.

“When people come onto the site they can learn about what they want to learn about, or who they want to learn from.”

He says the fact that many of their interviewees talk exclusively with Unfiltered, as well as the range of people they get, sets the website apart from others.

The audience comprises of three key groups; entrepreneurs, executives and investors.

Millar says the business has managed to earn close to $1 million in revenue, and has just raised $1.2 million in a seed round.

“For the first 15 months of the business we just totally boot strapped it. I think I put $15,000 in, which was a loan and paid it back to myself after launch.”

Millar says the push into the US market is terrifying.

“It’s pretty scary when you’re going into a market with 320 odd million people, compared to 4 million people, it changes everything.

“If we can go over to the United States and secure and film interviews with, you know, Mark Zuckerberg, Donald Trump, Oprah, all of the people we would love to film, then it’s not going to be too hard.”

And Millar is confident he can do it.

“I’ve got enough belief in myself but I think it will take time.”

He says it took a while to get momentum going in New Zealand.

“Once I started getting, you know, 20, 30 interviews, it’s very easy to pick up the phone and go: Hey Richie McCaw, this is what we do and this is why we do it, would you be interested in doing it?”

One of Millar’s standout interviews and support people is Eric Watson.

“He’s very goal driven and I think he has a lot of plans and that really resonated with me.”

He says many young people today want more from their lives and are keen to give different business ideas a cracks thanks to technology making things more accessible.

For anyone looking to start their own business, Millar says the advice he’s been given is to find a painful problem in a certain industry and build a solution for it.