Creator Profile: Pip Jamieson, Founder of The Dots - London
Hi Pip! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m the Founder of The Dots, which is a bit like LinkedIn but for creators. What I’m passionate about is helping the people and teams that make ideas happen to get credit for their work, so they can connect, collaborate and land their dream job or clients.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I’m desperately dyslexic and really struggled in my early years, but thanks to an amazingly supportive mum and a lot of hard graft I managed to get through school.
My brilliant Dad worked in the creative industries and I had this wonderful upbringing surrounded by creatives. It was our shared passion and my family just assumed that I’d follow the same path.
However, my slightly strange, rebellious nature led me to do an Economics degree. I guess I wanted to prove that even with my dyslexia, I could carve a career path that was my own. To the surprise of my whole family – and to myself, to be honest – I walked away with a top grade and was approached by, and then joined, the UK government as a fast-stream economist. I went into government because I had aspirations to change the world. However, I quickly realised that an economist’s role in government was primarily to produce results that justify political policy, not to inform them.
So I jumped ship and joined the creative industries, working first for the Brit Awards in London then in various roles at MTV around the world.
What led you to begin The Dots?
While at MTV I realised that my friends and I were all adopting a much more fluid and creative way of working, than the traditional White Collar career path. We were all chasing the work more than the money, and were constantly job hopping, adopting portfolio careers or freelancing. LinkedIn felt so corporate to us! At the same time while I was at MTV I was constantly on the hunt for amazing talent to collaborate with on projects, and the easiest way for us to find talent was to hire friends and friends of friends. The inevitable result was a lack of diversity in thinking, skills, and background. Our creative output became predictable.
To be honest, I was actually never one of those people that dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. I simply wanted to solve a problem that I was experiencing first hand at MTV, by creating a better professional home online for all of us to progress our careers - the rest, as they say, is history!
What made you decide on the name?
Gosh - coming up with a name was one of the hardest things. We brainstormed hundreds of ideas. Then I started tuning in to what I said in meetings, and realised I kept using phrases like; we connect the dots and we join the dots…. then hey presto!
How would you like to see The Dots grow further in the future?
It sounds crazy ambitious but I’m on a mission to take on LinkedIn! Why? Because I truly believe that creatives are the future. The robots are coming... soon machines will drive, serve customers, do our accounts and legal work. Whole waves of traditional (white and blue collar) careers will be replaced by machines. However, one of the hardest things for machines to automate, is a human's ability to be creative.
LinkedIn’s power will fade, as whole waves of more traditional, linear professions are replaced by machines. But true creators are set to become the future workforce, and my dream is that The Dots, in turn, will become the network of choice for these professionals. I guess this is why Forbes very generously suggested: is The Dots ‘The next LinkedIn?’
How do you connect with your community on the platform?
The Dots is built around the principle that everyone should get credit for the work they create. As such, instead of promoting yourself via a CV, our amazing community posts projects and tags the whole team involved in that project (a bit like a community driven IMDB) so they can be discovered by potential collaborators, clients and employers. In the longer-term, our dream is to enable brands and companies to hire full team hires, not just individuals, to work on projects. Giving the power back to the collective!
To date our community has been mainly on browser. However, excitingly we just launched our The Dots iOS app so now people can connect, collaborate, be inspired and apply for roles wherever they are. Android version coming super soon I promise :-)
You previously worked with a partner on a different project before starting The Dots. Do you have any tips for working in a partnership/maintaining a personal relationship with a partner/knowing when to move on/etc?
Going into business with someone is like a marriage, without the benefit of make up sex! I think the most important thing is to make sure that your visions for the business are aligned. The only thing worse than a project pointing in the wrong direction is a project pointing in different directions. If you’re all pointing in the wrong direction, you can quickly identify that and change tack. But if you’re pointing in different directions, it can be hard to work out which way is right and which way is wrong. As such, the most import thing for any partnership is to ensure that your visions are aligned, and you both have the same work ethic to achieve that vision.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
I’m a sole female tech founder (we’re rarer than hen's teeth!), so I’ve definitely been able to see things from a minority perspective. The thing that drives me most is putting diversity at the core of everything we do. As such, at the top of our agenda I’ve put helping the 6000+ companies on The Dots to connect with and hire diverse talent.
In many global workplaces right now, so much amazing talent is unrealised and squandered because of unfair bias and the barriers that creates. Despite endless research out there showing that diversity is good for the bottom line of any business, bias is still rife. A Harvard Business School study found that teams with workers from different backgrounds and experiences, come up with more creative ideas and methods of solving problems, than less diverse teams. Another study by the London Business School found that more gender-balanced teams better promote an environment where innovation can flourish. Work by McKinsey & Company found that the most racially and ethnically diverse companies are more likely to have better than average financial returns. And the list goes on.
There are several things we do at The Dots to support, champion and nurture diversity within our community and within industry more broadly. For instance, when we first launched, our sign-ups skewed massively towards white males. We implemented a policy that our ‘featured’ people section had to be half female and include at least 30% ethnic minorities. We saw a shift in the demographic of sign-ups almost immediately. We’re now tracking at over 61% women on the platform, 31% BAME and 16% LGBT+. I’ve received a bit of negative flack for that imbalance on Twitter, but given that LinkedIn skews massively against minority talent, I’m proud to bias the other way. Eventually, as minority representation grows in companies across the board, unconscious bias will fade. It won’t happen overnight, but I won’t rest until it does!
What is one of the most exciting things that you've been able to do since starting this company?
I was recently sent a poem from an amazing member of our community, who landed their dream job via The Dots. Countless people are hired through the platform every week. The reason that email gave me goosebumps, is it was a junior who had just been through this amazing program run by D&AD called Shift (that helps juniors who haven’t got a degree, to learn creative skills via a free night school and then make it in the industry). His work is incredible, and he totally deserved the role, so the fact that we helped him connect the dots made all the late nights and endless coffee totally worth it!
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with The Dots?
Closing our recent investment round was the most grueling thing I’ve done recently. I’ve experienced unconscious – and sometimes very conscious – bias first-hand. It's been proven that male entrepreneurs are 86% more likely to successfully raise funds for their business than their female counterparts. Even after all the progress we've made as an industry or even society, the fact remains that women and minority groups generally still have to work a lot harder to achieve similar results.
But hey I did it - and now I can focus on what I do best, which is managing a team I love and building the business.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
I’m so lucky to be a part of a number of female networks. They are my cheerleaders, my shoulders to cry on, my rocks. I literally couldn’t have achieved what I’ve done today without a whole host of amazing women cheering me on and supporting me from the sidelines! When you’re in a minority, on a mission to beat the odds, we all need to support each other. That way we stand a real chance of #ChangingTheRatio
What creative women do you find inspiring?
Oh gosh, how long have you got! Over 61% of our amazing community are female and each one of them inspires me every day. For International Women’s Day we did a complete female takeover of The Dots; only featuring brilliant female creators and work created by those creators. We also asked 15 creative leaders like Jude Kelly (Director of the Southbank Centre), Liv Little (Founder of Gal-dem), Nishma Robb (Marketing & Chair of Women@Google UK), Otegha Uwagba (Founder, Women Who) & 12 more to nominate 10 incredible women they believe will lead our future. It’s the most incredible list of 150 female leaders - all of which give me goosebumps!
What have you learned from owning your company that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
I made some hiring decisions too quickly at my previous business in Australia, where I brought on a couple of people with impressive corporate careers who – on paper – looked amazingly suitable for the job. However, they were just not used to working within the dynamics of a startup. They were used to having IT and HR departments, healthy expense accounts, and delegating to minions. As a result, they quickly became disillusioned with the company and that sort of negativity just spreads. One bad apple can rot the whole barrel, so you need to act quickly.
Ever since then, I’ve become obsessed with cultivating a positive working environment and building a team that focuses on solutions, not problems. Don't get me wrong, it's not about blindly saying 'yes' to everything – everyone on my team is expected to challenge the status quo – but all ideas or feedback must be communicated in a positive, productive, and fair manner. There can't be any room for passive aggression, blame or manipulation. In a positive environment everyone feels valued, supported, and secure. In the end, happy staff are productive staff. It's a win-win.
I’ve also learnt to trust my gut. I think trusting your gut is often underestimated, particularly in technology, but actually we are the most sophisticated machines that exist! We take in millions of inputs a day and synthesise it into gut feelings, how incredible is that!
How do you manage your time?
As our team scaled, I learnt to love processes. Until then I always viewed them as very corporate functions that stifled creativity, but then I learnt they can be a wonderful tool for freeing up my time to focus on what mattered. There are so many amazing tools out there that can make processes fun like Xero for accounting, Trello & Asana for project management, InVision for design collaboration - I learnt to love them all.
However, I think the most transformative process that I’ve implemented to manage mine and my team’s time is clearly setting the vision for the business via Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), which are a great alternative to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). I think KPIs are the death of innovation; as they have to be achievable - but when you’re running a new business, how on earth do you know what’s achievable? Set them too high and your team will become demotivated as they keep missing targets. Set them too low and people can start doing the bare minimum as they can easily hit targets. OKRs, which were made famous by Google, are all about shooting for the stars and setting crazy ambitious goals. Because hey - if you shoot for the moon, at least you’ll land in the stars. In the end it doesn’t matter how good your processes are, if you don’t set the vision so the team can prioritise what you do day-to-day to achieve that vision you’ll never move the dial!
How do you deal with moments of self doubt?
For me the trick has been to surround myself with cheerleaders and to avoid the drains - people who take out more energy than put in. Running a business is a constant rollercoaster of highs and lows - the last thing you need are friends and/or family that don’t 100% support you.
Crucial for me is also the support I get from my incredible husband who keeps me sane and grounded. He is a patient, genuine listener who helps me talk through problems. As I am dyslexic, he also proofreads all of my important communications (he proofread this article!). Most importantly, he’s my emotional rock through thick and thin.
Oh and I also love the Calm app - mindfulness training at its best!
What tools or resources have been most helpful for you as a business owner?
A wise mentor once told me that the most successful business people spend at least 30% of their time in deep learning - it has stuck with me always. While I make a conscious effort to get out of the office and go to talks, being dyslexic I find reading really tricky and get easily distracted. That was until I discovered Audible. I now walk to work each day and listen to audiobooks on my way. Learning plus exercise; a magic combination!
What are some of your favorite places in London?
I live on a houseboat called #HoraceTheHouseboat on the Regents Canal in Kings Cross, London and I’ve completely fallen in love with the London Canals! When I previously lived in London I barely knew my neighbours, but houseboat living is so wonderfully communal. We all look after each others' boats and collectively after the canals, and on balmy summer days we hang out on each others' decks. The other day, a neighbour was baking bread and asked if we wanted a loaf. We rowed over and ended up having dinner together.