Interview: Pip Jamieson, founder of The Dots – “LinkedIn for the creative industries”

"There's no point in sugarcoating it: raising investment is tough."

Headshots for The Loop

We love speaking to inspiring women creating innovative new businesses. We’ve interviewed the woman making fountain pen letters big again, the CEO making tech diversity look easy, the female founder of a woman and van company, and many more inspiring women in amazing jobs.

This time, we’re speaking to Pip Jamieson, former Head of Marketing at MTV, who’s founded an online portfolio platform for the creative industries. Called The Dots, it’s already helped lots of talented people find a new challenge – here’s what she had to say.

Hi Pip! Please introduce yourself.

Hi, so lovely to meet you. I’m the Founder and CEO of The Dots, which is a bit like LinkedIn but for the creative industries. What I’m passionate about is helping amazing creatives promote themselves and connect with new contacts and opportunities. Creatives add so much value to our economy but tend to undervalue themselves. We’re trying to change all that by helping creatives commercialise themselves in a credible way that makes sense to them.

We love the name ‘The Dots’ – can you tell us how it all came about?

Glad you love the name! I guess it just sums up what we do – you join the dots and then connect them. Steve Jobs famously said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” It might be a little ambitious but we’re trying to prove him wrong!

We started the platform because while I was Head of Marketing at MTV, I was finding it really hard to connect with amazing creative talent and freelancers. At the same time my then colleague Matt Fayle, who was Digital Director for Viacom, was constantly being asked by creatives for advice on getting up and running online.

What we realised was that all these people and companies wanted their online presence to lead to something. If you were a creative individual or freelancer, you were trying to build your personal brand, find collaborators, find a client or a job. If you were a creative business, you were trying to build your brand, promote your projects, connect with clients or hire talent.

So our vision was not only to create a platform that was easy for creative individuals and businesses to promote their work online, but most importantly connect that work to some form of commercial outcome: a client, collaborator or a job… essentially helping creatives to make money.

Our amazing community comes from the whole spectrum of the creative industries including what I’d call content makers (e.g. film directors; graphic designers; sound engineers), idea makers (e.g. marketers – currently The Dots’ second biggest vertical; publicists; events managers) and support roles such as administrators, producers, account management and sales) – all of which need each other, thus fuelling community interactions, traffic and commercial outcomes for all involved. We also have thousands of amazing clients that use The Dots to promote their brand and recruit talent, including the BBC, Tate, Net-a-Porter, Vice, Airbnb, Sony Music UK, Condé Nast, Spotify, Facebook, Red Bull, WPP, Selfridges, Channel 4, Liberty, Saatchi & Saatchi, Viacom, Fremantle Media UK, Twitter and Somerset House.

How has your past experience helped you get to where you are?

It was my role at MTV that first inspired The Dots, but on reflection, my whole life seems to have led me to this point. I was blessed to have an incredible father who was in the record industry. My earliest memories were hanging out in his office, making coffee and chatting to his team. It ignited in me a love of business and the creative industries. While my father always wanted me to go into the creative industries, my rebellious nature led me to do an Economics degree at Edinburgh University and much to the surprise of my parents I walked out with a First and joined the fast stream civil service as an Economic Advisor.

My creative calling came on a dawning realisation that being a civil servant wasn’t really my thing, first working on the Brit Awards, then in various roles for MTV around the world. For years at MTV I regretted my Economics degree (as it had absolutely no relevance to what I did then day to day) but now that I run my own business I’m so grateful that I have a firm grasp of maths, economics and business.

You recently secured £1.5m investment for The Dots – what are your tips for other female entrepreneurs looking for funding?

There’s no point in sugarcoating it: raising investment is tough. Very tough. I also tend to agree with Martha Lane Fox’s comment that there is an “unconscious bias” against women in the technology sector. Recent research at Startup DNA found that male entrepreneurs are 86% more likely to successfully raise VC funds and 59% more likely to secure angel investment than their female counterparts.

If I have one tip for female founders, it would be to make sure that you put Angel Academe on your hit list, a female-led syndicate that invest in start-ups with at least one female founder. We were lucky enough to raise part of our investment through Angel Academe and they’re an amazing bunch of women.

What are the best and worst bits of your job?

I remember the first time that someone landed a job on the platform: it was the most amazing feeling that not only was it up and running, but it was working. Now this happens all the time on The Dots, but it still gives me goosebumps.

The worst bits used to be the behind-the-scenes bureaucracy: legal, accounts etc. However, I now have an amazing COO/CFO who takes most of that burden off me – thank goodness! I’m so blessed to do something that I love every day. I have no work-life balance: I work 6 days a week and on the 7th I tend to be attending some creative event, so I guess that could also be considered work. But hey, work is my life, so maybe you could argue I have a complete work/life balance!

If you could give your younger self some advice, what would you say?

Pip and her team, including advertising magnate Sir John Hegarty

In a previous venture, I made a couple of bad hiring decisions. I knew within a matter of weeks that they weren’t right. However, my natural instinct was to blame myself and give them the benefit of the doubt. The classic personal doubt crept in: it’s not them, it’s me, I’m too young to be a leader, I’m too inexperienced to run a company – and so on went the inner dialogue. The outcome of this was keeping people on way longer than I should have.

If I could go back and give advice it would be to trust your gut, trust your abilities and when a bad apple joins the team (mistakes will happen, not matter how diligent your hiring process), get rid of them quickly before they have a chance to rot the whole barrel!

What are your must-have apps and gadgets? How do they make your life easier?

I love Audible and podcasts. You wear so many hats starting a business; strategist, HR manager, marketer, product developer, salesperson – it’s a never-ending learning curve. Finding time to sit down and read is challenging, so instead I walk to work every morning listening to business books… And walk home every evening listening to trashy novels, as they’re the only thing that quiets my brain!

I’m also addicted to my Apple Watch, mainly because of Apple Pay. It’s such a joy not to have to root around in my bag for my credit card, I can just pay straight from my wrist. It makes me smile every time – technology at its best.

What are you most excited about at the moment? (In terms of your career, technology, the future – whatever’s got you fired up)

It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a creative! The UK’s creative industries currently contribute 5% of the UK’s GDP and employ 1.8 million people. What’s even more exciting is that the sector is expected to grow 35% between 2015 and 2020, a faster rate than more traditional sectors and it’s being increasingly recognised that creativity is fundamental to building competitive advantage across all industries; just look at Tesla, Airbnb & (of course) Apple.

Looking to the future with the rising march of automation, creativity is our secret weapon, generating millions of extra jobs by 2030. Soon machines will drive, serve customers, code, clean, do our accounts and legals – what are humans still good for? Creativity! So if we want our children and grandchildren to have jobs, we need to stop thinking of creativity as a fluffy subject. As Ken Robinson famously said: “Creativity is as important as literacy,” and I couldn’t agree more!

Read more interviews with inspiring female founders in our Motivation section. If you’d like to hear more from Pip and The Dots, follow them on Twitter: @Pip_Jamieson, @The_Dots_UK.

All images via Pip Jamieson/The Dots.

Holly Brockwell
About Holly Brockwell 291 Articles
Tech addict Holly founded Gadgette in 2015, and won Woman of the Year for it. She's firmly #TeamAndroid, has ambitions to become a robot, and beat all other Hollies to her awesome Twitter handle.