26 Feb 2021

Jake Millar - an extraordinary life and a disappearing act

From The Detail, 5:00 am on 26 February 2021
Jake Millar in Forbes' under-30s to watch - Morning Report

Jake Millar in Forbes' under-30s to watch - Morning Report Photo: RNZ / YouTube

Jake Millar was just a teenager in 2015 when he sold his first business to the government for six figures.

Soon after, he set up Unfiltered, and persuaded top business people to pour millions into it. 

He expanded into the United States, chasing interviews with some of the world's rich and famous innovators and selling them as educational, inspirational videos.

But earlier this month it was announced that Millar had sold Unfiltered to a friend's business - Crimson Education -  for $US120,000 in cash and shares. He's disappeared, and there are questions about where the money has gone.

"Yes he did have access to all these great people, he did have a good idea, he got a lot of funding, he was very persuasive and he basically got addicted to the high life,"  NBR investigative journalist Dita De Boni says.

Today De Boni tells The Detail of the incredible story of a young entrepreneur who left some of the country's wealthiest investors burnt, fuming and out of pocket. 

De Boni explains how Millar cleverly used his skills in social media and as an influencer to build his business.

John Key's card to Jake Millar

John Key's card to Jake Millar Photo: supplied

"He was very persuasive, so he could nab these amazing pieces of talent. Then he would package it up and he would sell it to corporates, and a lot of corporates had partnerships with him, like Spark. All these big players they wanted that information, the government departments.

"He would interview someone big and they would post it on their site and they would boost an audience to it so it’s more like, get your name out there, it’s great to be involved with this young guy, it would be a self-perpetuating loop of publicity. Then these investors would come on board, give him money to go further afield."

De Boni describes what happened when she first met Millar in 2019 for an interview and he turned up in a fancy suit looking like an old fashioned dandy.

"He'd got the attention of all these amazing people, he had $2.2 million in his pocket," she recalls. "I went in there thinking what a so and so. And he was charming." 

Inspired by the billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, Millar had turned down a $40,000 university scholarship to pursue business opportunities. He used his charm to connect with boardroom leaders and made "strategic" friendships with the children of wealthy, influential people, she says. 

His investors wanted to see him succeed, De Boni says, but Millar made no secret of his lavish lifestyle and they were soon appealing to him to rein in his spending.

She explains how the high profile investors became "furious" after the surprise announcement of the Crimson deal earlier this month. She also talks about her interview with one investor; Millar's disappearance; and his future prospects.