Words: Kate Racovolis I write about global entrepreneurship and women of the world. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. Find the original article here
Pip Jamieson is on a mission. By 2018, this London-based entrepreneur wants to connect one million creative professionals and freelancers to new jobs and commercial opportunities around the world. And she is making it happen through an innovative digital platform that she launched a little under two years ago called The Dots; also known as the creative industry’s answer to LinkedIn.
Jamieson’s plan is an ambitious one. But with a client list that reads like a roll call of some of the most well known creative powerhouses in the UK and globally, such as Condé Nast, Facebook, Twitter, Universal Music and Buzzfeed (to name but a choice few), The Dots is clearly working. And, only adding further to its credentials, it has also won the stamp of approval of British advertising mogul Sir John Hegarty, who came on board and led a $1.9m (1.5m GBP) investment round late last year.
The idea behind The Dots was born while Jamieson was head of marketing at MTV based in Australia and New Zealand eight years ago. “As with most creative businesses, the easiest way for us to find full-time and freelance resource at MTV was through word-of-mouth, but the result was a lack of diversity in thinking, skills and background,” says Jamieson, 36. “The impact of this was that our creative output became predictable.”
Jamieson wanted to change that. So she decided to ditch her dream job as an MTV executive to become an entrepreneur. Not only had her time at MTV showed there was a genuine space in the marketplace for a digital destination where people could showcase their work more visually to those looking for creative talent, but it gave her many of the skills she needed to run a business.
“In a way, [MTV] felt like a startup,” says Jamieson, who had helped the company launch two new channels into the region — MTV and Nickelodeon. “There was no real budget, just grit, determination and passion. Within two years, we had turned it into the most profitable MTV channel in the world by margin. It taught me the importance of branding, strong creative strategy, how to build relationships and how to be entrepreneurial.”
Jamieson took those lessons and co-founded a platform called The Loop, a professional networking site targeted at the creative industries (much like The Dots), but only within Australia. With 11,000 clients and more than 67% of all Australian creative professionals registered on the site, Jamieson and her cofounder Matt Fayle were clearly on to something.
In 2014, Jamieson returned to her native London to take on a larger creative industry, bringing the technology rights to The Loop with her. Worth more than $100bn (76bn GBP) per year, employing 1.7 million people and equating to more than 5% of GDP, the creative economy in the UK was the perfect environment to launch The Dots.
“Until The Dots, there wasn’t much that effectively serviced the critical gap between self promotion, networking and recruitment across the full spectrum of creative professions,” says Jamieson. “I found existing platforms like LinkedIn and portfolio sites such as Behance really frustrating to use,” she says. “LinkedIn was very corporate and geared towards résumés – but I wanted to see people’s portfolios visually and the thinking behind their ideas. Portfolio sites like Behance were great for inspiration, but lacked networking and recruiting features. I guess the reason we’ve grown so quickly is that we understand our members’ unique needs and have given them an effective way to network and connect with opportunities.”
Fostering Creative Mobility And Diversity
“The Dots is without borders and while the majority of our [3,500] clients for now are based in the UK, our fast growing international member base means that proximity is becoming less important,” says Jamieson. “Many of our clients already work with remote freelancers that they’ve found on The Dots or recruit global talent directly into Britain.
Not only are the companies that are recruiting via The Dots largely businesses with global reach, but also, 16% of The Dots’ members live outside the UK, signaling a fast-growing demand to launch in multiple countries and languages. “Creatives want to work overseas or have portfolio careers, with clients all over the world,” explains Jamieson.
The next stop for Jamieson is set to be the U.S., where The Dots’ second largest membership base resides. “The referendum here in the UK has introduced some uncertainty surrounding EU labor, so it makes sense moving into the U.S. market before expansion across Europe,” explains Jamieson. “I was strongly against Brexit and our pending split from the EU, as were the majority of the creative industries. Diversity and inclusion is at the heart of what The Dots is all about.”
In fact, The Dots is tackling some deep-seated issues in the creative industry as a whole. Gender diversity in particular remains a huge problem not only in the corporate world, but in the creative industries too, as “globally only 3% of executive creative directors are female, while here in the UK, only 36.7% of the entire creative workforce is female and 47.2% in the wider economy,” says Jamieson.
To that end, Jamieson made a bold move when she first launched the company by implementing a policy on the “Featured” section of the website, ensuring a 50:50 ratio of male and females were represented with at least 30% minorities, since the majority of members were men.
“We saw a shift in the demographic of sign-ups almost immediately,” says Jamieson. “We’re now tracking at over 61% women. I’ve had a bit of negative flack for that on Twitter – but hey, with LinkedIn tracking at a 79% male membership, I’m proud to bias things the other way. In the end, as female and minority representation grows in companies, unconscious bias will fade. It won’t happen overnight, but I won’t rest until it does happen.
“For creativity to really thrive you need people to come from different backgrounds, have different perspectives and have different ideas and challenge the status quo – that’s what creativity and innovation is all about,” says Jamieson says.
As The Dots moves into its next round of funding, Jamieson’s vision to connect one million creative professionals is certainly well under way. She knows there is no algorithm for creativity, and there is no equation or formula that can guarantee a brilliant idea. “Soon machines will drive, serve customers, code, clean, manufacture, do our accounts and legal work, so what will humans still be good for? Creativity!” says Jamieson. “We need to support the makers, doers, thinkers, planners and dreamers that bring creative ideas to life.”
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