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.
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.”
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