Nick Walters built the foundations of his media career at Viacom International, where he was first Head of Strategy for Emerging Markets and then Vice President and General Manager for Russia and the CIS. Having had a constructive role in growing someone else’s business he decided to start up his own, and seven years ago he founded Hopster. As the app has now gone global, he felt he was ready to take on a NED role. Here Nick explains how he hopes to help money-saving app Money Dashboard and also learn from his time there.
What made you realise that you are at the right stage in your career to take on a supplementary NED role?
I am the CEO of Hopster, which is a video and learning platform for pre-school kids. We take videos, games, books and music for kids and make them available in an app for tablet, mobile phone and connected TV, all organised around a learning curriculum. We think of ourselves as the next generation of TV for kids.
I’ve grown Hopster into a place where we have more than half a million subscribers across the world. We have distribution deals through the UK, the US, New Zealand and across Europe.
Why now? When you start a business and grow it in the way that we have done, you learn an awful lot first hand and there is no obvious reason to abandon all this in a locker and only bring it out in ten, fifteen years’ time, once you’re semi-retired. I think a lot of your experience is time-limited and if you’ve got good and relevant experience why not be out there sharing it now. That’s what made me realise that I could benefit others by taking on a NED role and hopefully benefit myself too.
What do you hope to give and take from your new NED role?
As a founder of an entrepreneurial-led business, I think I bring a different perspective from someone who maybe has only ever been an investor.
While the perspective of someone who has spent their whole career working in venture capital or private equity is definitely helpful, it is going to be different from someone who has actually run an organisation themselves and had to deal with all the things that come with that. I hope I can bring a different perspective to maybe a more conventional board director.
And I feel that it’s also an interesting way to diversify my experience as well. As a Non-Executive Director, I will be at Money Dashboard to advise and support, but in doing so I hope that I will also be learning about a very different industry to mine, but one that I’m interested in.
What was it that attracted you to Money Dashboard in particular?
It’s a fascinating combination of a completely different industry and a business with really similar challenges. It’s at a similar stage financially to where Hopster was a couple of years ago. They are trying to navigate between running a direct-to-consumer model and a business-to-business model, which is something in a very different context that we do as well.
Money Dashboard’s scaling journey is similar to ours too and they have some strategic questions to do with running the business that are quite similar too ours as well, such as: where is the next disruptive increase in revenue coming from? And how should we be prioritising the different things that are driving our revenues in the short, medium and long term?
How did you find out about Nurole and how did you find the Nurole experience?
I was recommended to Nurole by a friend who works in the recruitment industry. What I like about Nurole is the transparency of roles that are available.
For a NED role you should be asking yourself very critically are you the right person for this role and you should almost be harsher on yourself as a candidate than the hiring company is. If you’re not doing that, you’re failing in your first duty to the company.
The Money Dashboard role was the first one that I applied for, because Nurole let’s you look at all the roles that come up and ask yourself: Why am I fit for this? Do I really think that I can add value on this? With that transparency around what they’re working on, what’s coming up and what’s interesting, it gives you the opportunity to do your own first screening process.
And now for some quick-fire questions…
What are you reading at the moment?
A biography of Oliver Cromwell
What was your biggest career break?
Probably moving from a consulting to a strategy role at MTV when I was 25.
Do you have a favourite quote?
I’m not a huge fan of business quotes. Advice isn’t often generalisable to all situations. That said, I saw Tony Hawk (the skater) interviewed about starting his business once. He’d broken his pelvis while he was trying to get started and it made things really difficult. His advice was ‘don’t break your pelvis’. That seems like a pretty solid quote to go with.
What’s your favourite holiday destination
What do you do to have fun?
Quite a lot of Minecraft with my ten-year-old.
What’s your favourite app?
Other than Hopster! I have a love hate relationship with Twitter, but love is probably the stronger. I spend too much of my free time on it.
When does your alarm go off?
The alarm is our ten-year-old! And I sleep pretty well, normally at least seven hours.
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