Grant Johnson, Co-founder and CEO at Rocketspark
From aspiring ski-bum to tech founder, Grant Johnson, CEO and Co-founder at Rocketspark has a winding career journey into tech and speaking with him, it is clear he has found a place he really loves.
We caught up with Grant to learn more about his journey into co-founding Rocketspark, why he loves the industry he has found himself building a business in, and what he hopes the future with Rocketspark.
Grant also shares some really useful career advice that he has been given along the way as well as the characteristics of the people that would fit well into his fast growing business. thanks for sharing your story, Grant.
“I lead our team to help them do their best work and make sure as a team we’re focussing on the right things.”
How would you explain to a five year old what it is that you do?
Rocketspark is a website that makes websites. We have cool people in our team who design Rocketspark, some tell stories of how we’ve helped people in their business and some team members love helping you if you get stuck.
I lead our team to help them do their best work and make sure as a team we’re focussing on the right things.
And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?
I lead the team to develop the strategy of Rocketspark and work to make sure that we have the right people, process, and finances to deliver the plan.
“My dream was to be a full-time ski bum.”
Was building a tech company something you dreamed about doing as a kid? If not, what was?
Building a tech company was not a dream as a kid.
My dream was to be a full-time ski bum. I did do one ski season in Canada and that was enough, I also had the opportunity to be a full-time beach bum when my wife got a job working with the America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain.
After three months of kite surfing, surfing and Spanish classes I was looking for something with purpose and started working with my brother and two of his mates on Rocketspark.
Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and what inspired you to start RocketSpark?
I studied marketing and accounting at university and wanted to get into marketing when I graduated but couldn’t get a good marketing role so I started my career as an accountant with Deloitte.
Back then accounting was still very manual and the repetitive nature of tasks was not my cup of tea so I searched for marketing roles.
My first marketing role was as a category manager with an agritech company called Tru-Test. A key part of the role was to get insights from customers and work with the development teams to create new products.
This role was a nice combination of analysis and creativity. I later held similar product roles with Vodafone in NZ and Royal Bank of Scotland in the UK.
My first taste of startups was setting up the customer experience touchpoints for a BBC / ITV joint venture called Freesat in the UK.
I enjoyed the nimbleness and fresh thinking of a startup vs the slow-moving bureaucracy of larger corporations where the best ideas did not always see the light of day.
I liked the recurring nature of subscription revenue I saw at Vodafone and I was often thinking about potential subscription-based business ideas that would provide income while I skied or surfed.
When I started chatting with my brother about the website builder idea it ticked the subscription box and combined creativity and helping people which I enjoy.
As a bootstrapped startup I still needed a day job for a few years and when our time in Spain ended my wife and I moved back to the UK and with my new found web industry experience I secured online roles.
My last role was head of online for Geek Squad in the UK which provided great insights into the power of content marketing and great customer experience.
Now Rocketspark is so much more than a channel for passive income. The reality is I’ve never worked harder but the genuine delight I see from the lives positively impacted through the software we’ve created means so much more.
“We believe that through Rocketspark every small business has the potential to have the world’s best website.”
Where do you hope RocketSpark will be in five years from now?
As a bootstrapped startup our development path had been slow but momentum is building things are now getting really exciting.
We’ve said goodbye to our non-recurring revenue from web design projects that funded us and we have a growing network of design partners who use our platform to create websites for their clients.
We’ve been growing well organically and we’re just starting to ramp up our marketing activity.
In five years we aim to be the preferred web creation platform for designers who create websites for small businesses.
We’re seeing designers move from more well-known platforms to Rocketspark because of the efficiency with which they can create beautiful sites, the ease of use for their clients to manage their sites, and the world-class support we provide.
We’ve also commenced our AI journey and are creating tools that automate the website tasks such as search engine optimisation and design that small business owners don’t understand or don’t set aside the time to master.
We believe that through Rocketspark every small business has the potential to have the world’s best website.
What kind of boss are you, if I was to ask one of your employees?
We did Gallup’s Clifton Strengths finder a few years back and my top five strengths of ideation, Strategic, Individualisation, Achiever, and Futuristic would likely reflect what a team member would say about me.
I love new ideas and can pull together various insights as the seed of a strategy. I enjoy connecting with people and I look for ways to create opportunities for the team to develop in their roles.
I genuinely care about the team’s well-being and joining the team at Rocketspark creates opportunities for them to live their best life both at work and in their personal life.
We have team members who work 9 am - 3 pm around school hours, Monday - Thursday with Friday a day to work on a business idea, and also others working part-time around university studies.
The team teases me about my accounting heritage. I do like to see the facts and rationale for a course of action and I do take time to consider the options.
“Be intentional about building relationships with people.”
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
This is an interesting question as I couldn’t recall receiving any memorable career advice. However, there are two key things I’ve observed.
Doing a great job in your career is not enough. Be intentional about building relationships with people.
Not cheesy, phony type of relationship forming but just invest intentional time to understand the people you interact with and help them get to know you better too. When I saw people progress faster in their careers in corporate life I observed the value of relationships.
I also probably did my best work when I cared the least about what others thought of me.
In my last role, I knew that my next role would be full time with Rocketspark so I focussed on doing the best job I could do and unleashed the team to get stuff done to deliver results with a little less consciousness of who we might offend on the way (a big change for a guy who wants to get along with everyone).
Lastly, as Rocketspark grows, what are the key traits and characteristics of the people you look for when hiring?
We look for team members who will genuinely care about providing a great experience for our customers whether that be through the quality of the UI they design, the software they code, or the support they provide.
We look for what the candidate is doing in their personal capacity to make the world a better place.
Rocketspark is growing well so we look for team members who are adaptable and can step into different roles as needed and are happy to pitch in.
We have a collaborative environment so it’s important to be able to get along with others and be able to contribute and receive feedback.
As we grow we’re looking for team members who have expertise in the area of their role and are able to show their problem-solving ability.