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Meet the speakers for NZ Startup Bootcamp 2019

May 4, 2019

 

The speakers for this year's NZ Startup Bootcamp are set to inspire. We thought we'd introduce them to you before the event so you can get a taste of what's to come.

 

Our entrepreneurial line-up is composed of Rocketspark co-founder - Grant Johnson, Sharesies co-founder and CEO - Brooke Roberts, and East Imperial co-founder - Tony Burt.

 

Read more to learn why Grant likes spending his spare time in prisons, why Brooke did a celebratory dance when she found out Jacinda Ardern was pregnant, how much time Tony spends playing cricket and much more.

 

Grant Johnson:

 

Grant Johnson is a Co-Founder of Rocketspark.

 

Rocketspark is a beautifully simple website builder that enables non-technical business owners to make their own website. From their HQ in Cambridge New Zealand the Rocketspark team have built a client base around the world and continue to innovate as they develop their world class platform.

 

Born and educated in the Waikato, Grant's career prior to Rocketspark was primarily in marketing roles in New Zealand and the United Kingdom with roles in large corporates and a startup. 

 

Grant returned to New Zealand in 2017 after launching Rocketspark in the United Kingdom.

 

What got you into your line of work and how did you end up where you are?

 

I had a really varied career prior to founding Rocketspark and the various roles have all helped shape me for what we do at Rocketspark.  Starting as an accountant with Deloitte was great for understanding the numbers before moving into product development roles with companies such as Vodafone in NZ and Royal Bank of Scotland in the UK where I learnt the value of using deep customer insight to shape propositions.

 

The best propositions were ones that were win win for clients and the business e.g. capped calling offers which gave the customer the freedom to enjoy their phone while lifting their spend by a small amount.

 

In my early career I observed the subscription model of business where if you get a lot of customers spending a small amount regularly it would all add up to a nice business. While we were away from NZ on our OE, my wife got a nice job with the America’s cup when it was in Valencia, Spain.  After 3 months of being a beach bum and going to Spanish language school I really wanted more purpose in my life and that is when I started working with my business partners on Rocketspark.   By nature I enjoy helping people and Rocketspark is a great tool to help small businesses and a large number of not for profits to improve their organisations success and quality of life.

 

What are you looking forward to getting out of the NZ Startup Bootcamp?

 

Two of my top personal strengths are ideation and individualisation.  Basically, I love new ideas and helping people to harness their own potential.  Supporting NZ Startup Bootcamp seems like a perfect match!  Two of our team have participated in the bootcamp in previous years and speak very highly off it.  They said the guidance and mentoring provided was high quality and found it an inspiring occasion. 

 

If someone had warned me about how much work it would be to bootstrap a tech company I might not have started but we’re now starting to see real results for our efforts and its fun. Hopefully I can encourage others to give it a crack and keep going through the ups and downs of starting and running a business.  

 

Tell me something not everyone knows about you?

 

I enjoy the capacity that Rocketspark has given me to be active in helping others. When I was in London launching Rocketspark I provided mentoring to long-term unemployed people and ex-offenders. I got a real kick out of helping some of them into employment and also helping others to create websites to get a business going. This year I’ll be supporting the entrepreneurship course that RAW runs at the Wiri Women’s Prison.

 

Tony Burt:

 

Tony is the Co-Founder and CEO of East Imperial. A premium mixer brand now found in over 30 countries.

 

Upon leaving the University of Auckland, Tony’s first role was in banking in Japan. He then moved to sales in telecommunications in the UK and US, and then an early foray into his own music downloading business in London in the late 90s for nearly seven years.

 

Tony then worked as a consultant, advising brands moving to the online space and became Director of Strategy at a leading London ad agency. After 15 years away, in late 2008 Tony returned to Auckland. He was soon to become CEO of M&C Saatchi.

 

Tony is married to Agge and together they have two young children and live in Auckland. When not working or travelling, Tony spends a lot of time watching, playing and coaching cricket.

 

What got you into your line of work and how did you end up where you are?

 

I fell into my latest line of work. On reflection, I’ve had a very non-linear career path, rather than choosing one industry after university I’ve worked in a number of different industries in different countries; sales, finance, tech and advertising,  and have mostly followed my curiosity. Over time, and as a global brand, this has positively attributed to my approach to business.

 

What are you looking forward to getting out of the NZ Startup Bootcamp?

 

I’m looking forward to hearing and meeting the brave new men and women who are embarking on their journeys. I’m really hoping by sharing a little bit about my story that it helps them in someway.

 

Tell me something not everyone knows about you?

 

I always hear from people that entrepreneurship is an incredibly risky path to choose. But the truth is I'm actually an extremely risk averse person. I try to minimise risk by continuing to learn from others and place a lot more value in the power of creative thinking to overcome problems we are faced with.

 

Brooke Roberts:

 

Brooke Roberts is a co-founder and CEO of investment platform Sharesies. She is passionate about leadership, culture and making money easy.

 

Sharesies aims to give someone with $5 the same investment opportunities as someone with $500,000. Sharesies removes the high investment buy-in and financial jargon that surrounds the investment industry. Sharesies philosophy is that people should be able to invest regular amounts that they can afford. Sharesies now has over 38,000 customers who have invested over $40m.

 

Brooke has experience leading large savings and investment portfolios, startups, product management and global marketing. A people person first and foremost, Brooke is fascinated by how behaviour drives outcomes.

 

What got you into your line of work and how did you end up where you are?

 

I ran businesses when I was at school and knew I wanted to keep being an entrepreneur. After school, I decided to go to Victoria University and study Marketing, Finance and International Business. I started working in Marketing while I completed my Masters in Finance at Massey.

 

I joined Kiwibank and led their investment, savings and transactional products - think term deposits, savings accounts and your everyday account. I really enjoyed looking at how we could help New Zealanders be able to save more. In particular, how we could use technology to help drive great savings behaviours. While working, I was dabbling with business ideas and also mentoring local Young Enterprise teams.

 

The next step I made was joining Xero in a global marketing role. This interested me as I loved the startup nature of Xero and also being able to bring in some of my international business skills, looking at ways we could grow globally. While there, I continued to dabble with business ideas on the side as I was eager to start a company again.

 

I was looking to enter the Fintech Accelerator in Wellington with a group when we then decided to merge with another group who had the initial idea behind Sharesies. We ended up being a team of seven who wanted to make investing accessible and fun. From there, we haven’t looked back!

 

What are you looking forward to getting out of the NZ Startup Bootcamp?

 

I’m looking forward to seeing all the great energy and hustle at work to bring purpose-driven businesses to life! I can’t wait to connect with New Zealand’s future business leaders.

 

Tell me something not everyone knows about you? 

 

A few months after starting Sharesies I became pregnant and now am a Mum to little Elle. Elle is 14 months old and so much fun!

 

When you start a company, there are always a few doubters. When you start a company and are pregnant, you may find yourself facing a few more doubters. Thankfully, I had caring and supportive co-founders, as well as a team and board who never had a doubt.

 

However, I still had a few niggles - I mean, I had no idea what it would be like to parent. So any nay-sayers did ring in my ear a little. Any-who, a lot of doubt was removed around a week before Elle was born.

 

I was driving my car, listening to National Radio when Jacinda Arden kicked off a press conference. Jacinda Arden announced she was pregnant. I immediately pulled over and while I listened I was beaming with a massive smile (and may have done a celebratory dance in the car). I was excited for Jacinda, Clark and her family and also for the legacy she would be creating. I was stoked on a more personal level, as I knew from that moment forward, any doubt on me being able to be a Mum and CEO would dissipate. If the PM can do it, well then I definitely can!

 

When you start a business, really think about who you want to listen too. Yes listen to reason and realism, but really do listen and surround yourself with people that believe in you! I was lucky enough to have such supportive co-founders, board, team and mentors that had no doubt in me.

 

 

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