Toby Skilton, Founder & Managing Director at Mutu
From working with Lion, Cheetah, Elephants and more to founding a tech company, Toby Skilton, Founder of Mutu has had the definition of an interesting career journey into tech.
Whether it is clicking on a google ad that led him to fulfilling a lifelong dream working as a Ranger in South Africa, or wondering how he and his girlfriend could access all of the amazing stuff in people's garages that was gathering dust, curiosity has served Toby well.
We caught up with Toby to learn more about some of the twists and turns in his career path to date, how he got started building a business around a problem we have all faced at some point as well as some great advice as to others considering their own career path. Thanks for sharing your story, Toby.
“I help Kiwis share all of the wonderful things they own and hardly use, with their neighbours”
How would you explain to a five year old what it is that you do?
I help Kiwis share all of the wonderful things they own and hardly use, with their neighbours.
And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?
My main focus day to day is to find new and innovative ways to educate Kiwis on the benefits of the share economy by making it easy to get access to the things you need by borrowing as opposed to buying.
This includes securing strategic partnerships, working with our dev team to build new features, speaking at events as well as looking for funding opportunities.
Was building a tech company something you dreamed about doing as a kid? If not, what was?
My dream job as a kid was to work with African animals and fortunately, this is something I have been able to do. For the last 7 years, I have been working for a few months at a time as a Ranger in South Africa.
I have been able to work with Lion, Hyena, Cheetah, Rhino, Elephants, Buffalo, Giraffe, Zebra, and so many more incredible animals. I knew pretty early on that I wanted to start my own business but I had no idea in what area.
I actually started my first business down in Otago when I was studying called Scarfie Repairs. In Dunedin, there is a heap of damage that goes on in student flats, and generally, builders and glaziers charge premiums as they know students have their money tied up in bonds.
Scarfie Repairs was a student flat repairs business that fixed student flats for student rates. This allowed me to then travel to Africa from November to February during the Uni break.
“I hope that in five years' time ... people will say 'Don't buy it, just Mutu it'”
Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and what inspired you to start Mutu?
After university, my long-term girlfriend Elise and I set off on our OE. When we were traveling around, we found it difficult to get access to things I wanted without purchasing them.
When you’re on the road traveling, buying something and having to lug it with you is incredibly inefficient.
Renting these items involved going through a time-consuming paper-heavy process at a brick and mortar store or trawling through multiple websites to find the best prices.
We used platforms like Airbnb & Couchsurfer and saw that the people we were staying with had homes filled with the things we wanted that were lying around collecting dust and they got a lot of joy out of us using it.
I thought back to my family garage of all the tools, gardening equipment, sports gear, and other items that lay idle and are hardly used and this is where Mutu was born.
After returning home I actually worked full time for a travel company called Topdeck but was redundant due to COVID so I put all of my energy into shifting Mutu from an idea to a platform all kiwis can love.
Where do you hope Mutu will be in five years from now?
With Mutu, I want to completely revolutionise the way people view asset ownership all over the world.
We are currently working on a couple of solutions that are going to make assets more visible and easily transferable across a range of sectors.
I hope that in five years' time Mutu will be a household name and that people will say “Don't buy it, just Mutu it”.
“... great ideas are only a small factor in the success of great companies”
What kind of boss are you, if I was to ask one of your employees?
I am striving to create a company that all of our employees are proud to work for.
I make sure that everyone has the opportunity to share their thoughts on potential opportunities to explore and ways for Mutu to grow.
I also encourage our team to challenge my assumptions and to seek opportunities to further develop their skills. We have an attitude of leaving no stone left unturned and that we need to try fast and learn fast.
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
The one thing I wasn't prepared for when starting my Mutu journey was the roller coaster that you will find yourself on when you enter the wonderful world of entrepreneurship.
One day you can be on top of the world and then the next feeling like you are completely alone and no one understands what you are going through and this is something that can be hard to deal with.
The best piece of advice I received was that great ideas are only a small factor in the success of great companies.
This motivated me to surround myself with exceptional people who have the skills and expertise to make Mutu into the company I dream it will be.
Lastly, as Mutu grows, what are some of the key traits and characteristics you look for in the people you are looking to work with?
We want people who are innovative, driven, collaborative and have that hustler mindset.
We are looking for people who want to be part of a team who are motivated by using innovation and technology to create long-lasting sustainable change throughout New Zealand.