Alumnus Tim Pointer aims to help companies that have huge market opportunities to realise their potential through digital means such as online advertising.
A genuine desire to do the right thing by his clients has given Wellington School of Business and Government graduate Tim Pointer a distinct commercial edge, and was one of the reasons he’s been identified internationally as a business leader to watch.
Tim, who graduated from Victoria University of Wellington in 2010 with a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing, International Business and Commercial Law, is the CEO of Uprise, a digital marketing agency he founded with school friend and fellow alumnus Matt Rowe while they were still studying.
"Matt and I went to what was supposed to be a digital marketing conference in Auckland, but which turned out to be one of those ‘how to make money online’ events," explains Tim.
"There was a person telling the crowd they could guarantee business owners would get web traffic from Google, if they just purchased their product. We knew that was complete rubbish—no one can guarantee that. And we were completely disheartened to see all these small business owners rushing to sign up for this person’s product."
Tim says they were spurred into action by what they saw that day.
"We pretty much started Uprise that very evening—we went back to our hotel and registered a company. We wanted to help companies grow by doing things that actually worked and stop them from getting ripped off," he says.
"There's a lot of smoke and mirrors in the digital marketing space, and we could see people were spending far too much money in the wrong areas."
Tim and Matt ran Uprise from a spare bedroom at Tim’s parents’ house, and got their first employee after a year. The company now employs 27 people across two offices—their hub in Wellington has 22 staffers, and an office in Auckland has five employees.
The company's horizons are continuing to expand.
"We've won a bit of work out of San Francisco, so we’re planning to set up there later this year," says Tim. "We’ve been really gearing up for the past year for this next move—it’s taken a while to plan our processes and systems to have a properly scalable business but it’s finally happening and it’s really exciting."
Making the list of list of top 'entrepreneurs, break out talents and change agents'
Uprise’s exponential growth (it's one of Asia–Pacific region's fastest growing digital companies, having been recognised in the Deloitte Asia Pacific Technology Fast 500 Growth Awards in 2014, 2015, and 2016) is just one of the reasons Tim was named on Forbes magazine's 30 Under 30 list of top 'entrepreneurs, break out talents, and change agents' for 2016.
Another reason is the way Tim and Matt have structured Uprise.
"The way we’ve built our business is quite different to almost every other company in the world," explains Tim. "We do it based off the value we can provide, so essentially we only succeed if we get the results for a company!"
He says Uprise's business structure is about more than just providing a good incentive to work harder for clients.
"It also aligns well to the ethos behind our company—we shouldn't be putting forward recommendations of where clients should be spending their money if we can't back it up. We describe it as having skin in the game—it's our job to crush the industry norms, and to take a real stand to make it better."
Tim says Uprise’s disruptive model has given other companies food for thought.
"We’re definitely starting to see other companies use some of our ideas, which I’m quite happy about—our goal is really to make the industry better."
Coming back to talk to students
Every year, Tim comes back to the business school to deliver a guest lecture and meet with Marketing students to talk about the reality of working in digital marketing.
"It’s great to be able to give back in that way. The digital space is constantly changing, so it’s too much to expect any education curriculum to keep up with every tiny development in the way that we have to," says Tim.
"Organisations like Google and Facebook are making changes every couple of weeks, so it’d be impossible for any books or course material to ever be up to date with that."
He says the benefits of coming back to talk to students flow back to his company too.
"We want to be an organisation of 100 employees in the next five years, with a lot of them based here in Wellington, so we definitely want to be getting our names in front of students—if they’re interested in digital marketing then it’s a fantastic opportunity for us as a prospective employer to get our brand in front of them."
One key to business success that Tim always tells students is to pursue something you are unwaveringly passionate about.
"If there’s even a remote chance that passion could end up fizzling when times get tough, then it’s probably not the right area to jump into because the reality is that things do get tough," he says.
"For us at Uprise, the reason we’ve grown and continue to succeed today is because we’re still passionate about our original purpose. We didn’t start our company because we loved digital marketing—it was because we saw people getting screwed over and we wanted to fix what we could see was a broken industry. If others can find whatever that kind of passion is to them, then success will follow."