At the ADCE Festival Pip will draw on a wealth of research, analytics and data from over 350,000 creators, to will uncover ten ways creativity can thrive in an age of automation.
Ahead of her talk, below she introduces The Dots, discusses how to overcome the challenges female entrepreneurs face, and reveals the secrets of building a successful digital community.
How did the Dots come into existence?
I’ve spent most of my career in the creative industries. The whole idea for The Dots came about while I was working at MTV – I was surrounded by incredible people who were adopting very different career paths (and in many ways had very different value sets) to the traditional white-collar workforce.
Our careers were much more fluid! We were increasingly working on a project-by-project basis, had side hustles, working freelance or adopting portfolio careers. LinkedIn just wasn’t working for us, so I wanted to invent a new professional networking solution that was fit for the 21st century. One that helped these ‘no-collar’ professionals -eepmed creators, freelancers and entrepreneurs – build their personal brand, network and connect to dream roles.
For me, LinkedIn always felt like it encouraged homogeneity, but being a dyslexic woman working in the creative industries, I never felt I fit the corporate mould. What I’ve come to realise is it’s our differences that make us brilliant. With that in mind, The Dots is all about promoting and championing diverse talent and the work they create. Our amazing community is currently 68% female, 31% BAME, 16% LGBT+, and we also do a lot of work supporting disabled, neurodiverse (dyslexia, autism, ADHD etc.) and disadvantaged talent.
So I sunk everything I earned into starting The Dots from my houseboat, Horace. Fast forward and we have 100,000s of members and over 10,000 brands using us to hire full time and freelance talent. It’s been a LOT of hard graft, but my goodness it’s been worth it!
Who were your first sign-ups / customers/projects?
We launched with 100 amazing influencers from across the creative sector, including fashion, advertising, publishing, media, entertainment and events, and it just grew from there. Early adopters tended to be creatives, but thanks to the platform crediting the full team that deliver projects, amazing producers, account managers and projects managers are now part of our top 15 professional categories.
What was the moment that The Dots ‘came of age’?
Gosh, I think it was in the first couple of weeks when someone emailed me to let me know they landed their dream job via The Dots. It was a magic feeling to know we’d actually built something that helped people, but would also be commercially viable.
Why do you think the Dots is successful?
As we enter an age of automation, creativity is increasingly becoming a secret weapon. We all know the robots are coming. Soon machines will drive, serve customers, do our accounts and legal work. However, there are three very human traits that machines struggle with; 1) they don’t have common sense, 2) they don’t understand (or have) empathy and 3) they can’t match our creative capabilities.
Was there ever a moment you thought it wouldn’t succeed?
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, scaling a tech business is hard, really hard. It’s an endless roller coaster.
I think the hardest thing of late was closing our recent £4 million investment round. Raising investment is a painful process for any founder, but it can be particularly gruelling for women. The numbers speak for themselves, with only 9% of funding into UK startups going to women-run businesses. While at my level only 2.2% of Venture Capital (VC) investment goes to female founders. If you look at investment into female black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) founders, the numbers are so woeful they aren’t even measured!
I guess in the words of the amazing Sheryl Sandberg, I’ve just had to ‘lean in’, and lean in hard! The reason I’ve managed to break the glass ceiling is I’ve completely focused on building a brilliant class product and team. Once you have a thriving business gaining traction, you get a little hard to ignore!
What is unique about The Dots?
On a basic level, the core difference between The Dots and LinkedIn is instead of promoting yourself via a CV, people posts projects and credit the whole team behind those projects – kind of like a community-driven imdb.
For example, you could post a campaign and credit with the full team that brought it to life from the art director, to the copywriter, producers, photographers, designers and so on. It’s a recognition that creativity is a team sport – you can be a rockstar creative, but if you’re not supported by an amazing team, that idea is hard to bring to life.
How would you describe the Dots to a stranger?
Well, Fobes called us ‘The Next LinkedIn’, so I’ll take that 🙂
What’s next for The Dots?
Since closing our latest round, our current focus is scaling our community, building on our mobile offering and developing our international roadmap. This the start of a long, but super exciting journey for The Dots.
Hats off to what Reid Hofman built with LinkedIn, but it’s time for a new solution fit for the next generation, one that celebrates diversity, democratises talent, and helps everyone work with people they admire and for brands that respect. What that involves is scaling what we’ve created here in the UK into new regions, and excitingly with over 31% of our community now based out of the UK, this is already starting to happen!