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James Broadbent, CEO and Co-founder of Narrative

From professional wedding photographer to solving a problem faced by millions of photographers globally, James shares insight into his career journey that led him to co-found Narrative. An entrepreneur from a young age, James and the team at Narrative are on the path to building a dynamic team to redefine how an entire profession operates, one lens at a time. Thanks for sharing James.

How would you explain to a five year old what it is that you do?

Narrative has a computer application that helps photographers find their best images from a photoshoot.

And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?

Narrative builds Machine Learning Models which understand photo desirability. Our core thesis is the significance of leveraging professional photographers to help us label, train and validate our Machine Learning models.

Today our users are professional photographers but we plan to bring our models to the general consumer on the mobile edge via cameras and smartphones.

“At the age of ten I started my first company, a small Trade Me shop that sold cell phone covers to Kiwis.”

Was building a tech company something you dreamed about doing as a kid? If not, what was?

I’ve always known that I wanted to start a company. Since I was young I found ways to generate income. At the age of ten I started my first company, a small Trade Me shop that sold cell phone covers to Kiwis. 

When I started my photography company at the age of twenty three, I established it knowing that it would open a clear path to creating another company in the near future. Wedding photographers can make most of their income over the summer months and this gave me nine other months of the year to work on starting my next thing.

Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and what inspired you to start Narrative?

My career journey is a little unorthodox. Prior to Narrative I had never worked for a company and I’d never been on a salary. 

After spending six years deep inside the photography industry it became clear to me that photographers are deeply under served from a SaaS perspective. There are five million professional photographers worldwide and the average photographer spends four days behind the computer for every day behind the camera.

“..the average photographer spends four days behind the computer for every day behind the camera”

Where do you hope Narrative will be in five years from now?

In five years, downloading Narrative will be synonymous with becoming a photographer. Narrative will have introduced full automation to it’s machine learning models and we will have completed our full product suite for the professional photographer. In doing so we will have halved the time a photographer needs to spend at the computer.

How does Narrative build and develop talent and elevate people to be at their best?

It just so happens that when you’re working within a high-growth startup, career growth is inevitable as new opportunities arise within the company.

We strongly believe that the best way to build a successful company is to ensure that our employees up-skill at the same speed that the company does, so that they can step into more senior roles as they open. We’ve managed to pull together a team of top tier talent from companies like Google, Uber, Xero and beyond who have each absolutely excelled in their roles.

“..hiring a team that is passionate both about their work and the people that they work with, is the best way to have a great culture.”

What does culture mean to you and how do you ensure this culture is maintained with everyone at the Narrative?

Culture is everything for us. Let’s face it, a desire to solve hard problems is what has brought us together but what keeps us going on a day-to-day basis is the relationship we have with our team and the joy that comes from that.

Culture is an essential focus of our recruitment process; hiring a team that is passionate both about their work and the people that they work with is the best way to have a great culture. Our team naturally congregates on a daily basis for lunch and we have a deep trust of each other.

Additionally, we have a handful of rituals that bring us together on a weekly basis. My favourite is our end of week recap where we go around in a circle and share either, something we’re grateful for that week or something that we are thankful for.

Lastly, as Narrative continues to evolve, what kind of talent do you want to hear from in the coming months?

Narrative is eagerly hiring over the coming year with about 17 new hires built into our budget. Our key hires will be: AI Engineers, experienced software developers in React, Rust and Elixir and anyone else who’s worked on the ground level of a high-growth startup - specifically bizops, marketing, product or ops.

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