At 22 years old, JAKE MILLAR has interviewed some of the most influential business people on the planet: the president of General Motors, the co-founder of Tesla, the co-founder of WeWork, founders of billion-dollar startups, and the godfather of entrepreneurs everywhere, Sir Richard Branson.

WORDS JENNY RUDD / PHOTOS CAROLYN HASLETT

Jake sold his first busi­ness, Oom­pher, to the New Zealand Gov­ern­ment when he was 19. His sec­ond start-up, Unfil­tered, has just cel­e­brat­ed its sec­ond birth­day in New York, where Jake is now spend­ing most of his time as he launch­es Unfil­tered into the States.

Jake has bot­tled his abil­i­ty to get peo­ple to talk to him, and turned it into a busi­ness. Unfil­tered gives you access to the sto­ries and wis­dom of some of the world’s most suc­cess­ful busi­ness men and wom­en. Inter­viewed by Jake, they share what they’ve learned, inspir­ing oth­ers to achieve great­ness. Each inter­view is about an hour long, is bro­ken up into bite-sized videos, and pub­lished on unfiltered.tv.

Before he’d launched Unfltered with his co-founder and school friend, Yuuki Ogi­no, Jake had secured com­mer­cial part­ner­ships with Bell Gul­ly, Craigs Invest­ment Part­ners and PwC.

In July this year, I went to Unfil­tered Live, held at Auck­land Muse­um. It was slick. Hun­dreds of peo­ple from around the coun­try came to hear Jake inter­view peo­ple like the Prime Min­is­ter; All Blacks leg­end, Keven Meala­mu; and bungy-jump­ing pio­neer, AJ Hack­ett.

Dap­per, neat, scrupu­lous­ly organ­ised, bespec­ta­cled, and always smil­ing, there’s a touch of the #geekchic about Jake. His old-school, gen­tle­man­ly man­ners give him an air of panache. Jake wraps up lots of infor­ma­tion neat­ly and tight­ly in short spaces of time. He has got used to shar­ing the two-min­ute ver­sion of his sto­ry to pro­mote Unfil­tered. In an inter­view with an Amer­i­can TV chan­nel that broad­casts live from the New York Stock Exchange, the pre­sen­ters start off smil­ing polite­ly at the rather young, earnest-look­ing fel­low in front of them. But after a few min­utes of his sto­ry, their prac­tised, gener­ic wel­come is slight­ly askew, and their jaws hang a lit­tle loose.

 

A LOSS

When Jake was 15 years old, his father, Rod Miller, died in a plane crash near Fox Glac­i­er, along with eight oth­er peo­ple. Four of them were Jake’s close friends. Rod owned a sky­div­ing busi­ness. The crash occurred on the same day as the frst earth­quake hit Christchurch. Then Prime Min­is­ter, John Key, trav­elled across the South Island, pay­ing his respects to the vic­tims and vis­it­ing afect­ed fam­i­lies from the earth­quake and the Pike River Mine dis­as­ter.

After­wards, Jake wrote to the Prime Min­is­ter, thank­ing him for com­ing to the crash site and ask­ing him for words of advice about his future. John Key respond­ed with a per­son­al and encour­ag­ing note, ask­ing to meet Jake, and then vis­it­ing the 15-year-old at his home in Grey­mouth. It was a bright moment amongst all that hor­ror.

Jake says, “At sev­en years old, John Key lost his father, yet went on to achieve his dreams. I thought, ‘If he can do it, so can I.’ And I was inspired by the kind­ness and human­i­ty he had shown in his lead­er­ship of our coun­try at that awful time.”

SCHOOL

From a young age, Jake has worked hard. “I set myself the goal of becom­ing head boy of Christchurch Boys’ High School (CBHS) and head boy of Adams House, the board­ing school for CBHS. The two posi­tions hadn’t been held at the same time in 11 years.” He achieved both those goals in 2012.

Whilst at school, Jake organ­ised quite the line-up of speak­ers for assem­bly at CBHS: Rob Fyfe, then CEO of Air New Zealand; Rhys Dar­by, from Flight of the Con­chords; Helen Clark, then Admin­is­tra­tor of the UN Devel­op­ment Pro­gram­me; and Bill Eng­lish, then Min­is­ter of Finance. Pho­tos of baby-faced Jake hon­ing his skills with the­se nation­al heavy­weights are shock­ing­ly recent.

Rob Fyfe is now one of a num­ber of expe­ri­enced CEOs who sit on the board of Unfltered. He says, “I have known Jake since he was 16, and he is one of the most inspir­ing young New Zealan­ders I have met in my busi­ness career.”

As he head­ed towards his fnal term at school, Jake read Sir Richard Branson’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Los­ing My Vir­gin­i­ty. It ignit­ed in him a pas­sion for busi­ness. He could see how much fun and how excit­ing it was.

Seek­ing out career advice at school, he found it woe­ful­ly lack­ing. “You were asked what you thought you’d like to do, and hand­ed a few pam­phlets. Where was the advice from some­one who’d been there and done it? What was the best way to get start­ed in a par­tic­u­lar job? Where was the inspi­ra­tion to get out there and achieve extra­or­di­nary things? There wasn’t any.”

And so, turn­ing down a $40,000 schol­ar­ship to study law at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Otago, Jake left school and found­ed his frst busi­ness, Oom­pher. The pro­duct was what he had want­ed a year ear­lier: career advice – from the top of the pile. He inter­viewed peo­ple lead­ing their indus­tries, and invit­ed them to share their wise words, ask­ing ques­tions like, ‘If you were 18 years old, get­ting start­ed today, where would you begin?’ The videos of the inter­views were pub­lished online. With­in two months of launch­ing, Jake start­ed to nego­ti­ate with the Gov­ern­ment, which want­ed to buy the com­pa­ny. Six months lat­er, in mid-2015, it did.

READ THE FULL STORY IN UNO. SUMMER 2017/18