Career conversation with Justin Flitter, Founder of Unrivaled
At 14 Justin’s Mum bought him an Apple Mac Classic computer to support his colleague study. At 15 he was working at the local juggling retail store in Wellington. It was that combination of tech and business that sparked the curiosity and passion that lives strong in his work still to this day.
We caught up with Justin Flitter, vCMO and Founder of Unrivaled.co.nz, to learn about his passion for helping businesses grow, building communities and celebrating ideas changing the world.
How would you explain to a five-year-old what you do right now?
When people have a great idea, to build something useful. I help them share that with other people that could want it too. It's like when you share your toys with your friends, but instead of toys, it's things like apps, furniture, or even services like accounting. I try to make the company's things look really good and helpful to the other companies so they want to buy them. It's like being a really good toy salesman, but for grown-ups and their businesses.
And for the adults, what does a typical day-in-your-life look like?
Every day’s a different challenge. And I love that. I work as a fractional chief marketing officer deployed into my clients leadership and marketing teams. It’s like theatre-sport but for go-to-market activations. I can be working on business & marketing strategy one day, brand and creative campaigns the next, and email automation workflows the other.
In between that, I’m the Chair of the NZ Tech Marketers Group and help produce and emcee TEDXAuckland Events.
Was a career in “tech” something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?
I was commercially minded from an early age. Organising events, talking to people about products, tech and their businesses. Having access to a computer so young, with the tools to create websites, publish content, research and learn was so empowering.
I’ve never really had a strong idea of my own to go and build. But I’ve always enjoyed helping others take their idea to market. And to share information that helps others use technology to grow their business.
Tell us a little bit more about the journey you are on and how you got interested in your profession in the first place?
During college and university days I worked for several local retailers and learnt a lot about how they managed their business. I sold advertising for a local newspaper. I was an average salesperson but I loved learning about the different companies and helping them craft a compelling story, and that earnt some street cred.
After University I searched for Tuesday pizza and beer nights, to meet other people building companies. What I found was after-5 business meetups with lots of free drinks with people twice my age.
I’d discovered this concept of a Business Incubator in the USA. Office space + services for fee or equity. And thought this would be awesome to start in Wellington. The first version was an internet cafe with events and workshops. I shopped the idea around but got pushed back because of the cost to set up.
Version two was a Charitable trust that could seek funding from community organisations to fund an office space, shared services and build a community of local companies supporting the tennants.
I took that to the after-5 functions, until I found 5 amazing people that would become the board directors. We won $250,000 from the City Council and other community groups and the NRG Charitable Trust was founded in 2000 on the top floor of the Wellington railway station.
A few years later I decided I need to learn new skills, manage a team and work on something different. So I joined Student Job Search, helping to manage the Wellington office, national resourcing, marketing and tech.
During that time I founded the Wellington Young professionals group with the Institute of management. We hosted dozens of monthly events with local young business leaders sharing their knowledge.
In 2008 I moved to Auckland to take the role as Head of the Customer Service team at Fishpond, only to be made redundant 8 months later with the GFC.
Stuck, unemployed and about to run into the summer holidays I joined LinkedIn and search for Zendesk, a SaaS customer service platform I’d used at Fishpond. I connected with Michael in Hong Kong who was one of their first hires and within 2 weeks started working. I was number 7. After writing the product documentation I joined the support team before APAC BDM and leading the Social Media marketing. That was an incredible 4 years.
If you were to summarise one or two big problems you are looking to tackle in the coming years, what are they, and what is your connection to them?
1 - The NZ Tech sector is scaling up fast. We have access to capital, great ideas and development capability. Commercialising those businesses and getting them to a global market is an art and a science. As chairperson for the NZ Tech Marketers group we’re helping to nurture the growth of New Zealand’s marketers. Building their capability, confidence and potential.
2 - Technology is rapidly changing. With generative Artificial Intelligence impacting how we work, take ideas to market and create content New Zealand’s business leaders need to understand the potential and risks. I founded NewZealand.AI in 2016, hosting dozens of monthly events and two international conferences. Today I host lunch-n-learn and executive briefings helping businesses and their people confidently explore how AI will impact their business and how they can leverage this new tech to stay competitive.
Finally, how can others in the industry support what you are working on?
1 - This year I published Unrivalled, the B2B Marketing Strategy workbook. And launched Unrivaled, a B2B Marketing Agency with a team of fractional marketers, ready to embed into clients leadership and marketing team. We develop business marketing strategy, go-to-market activations, build capability and partnership programs to accelerate growth.
Read the book to get a handle on B2B marketing best practices. Hire us to help your business grow. Unrivaled.co.nz
2 - Support the NZ Tech Marketers Group. Register your marketers to be apart of the community and attend our events. Or sponsor our programs and annual conference. Techmarketers.co.nz