From Vice to Stakester: lessons from a career on the edge
Joshua Brill has spent a career working for groundbreaking companies. What has he learned?
Lesson 1: if you build it they will come
“If you have no education or experience then do something. Even if it’s making a blog, an independent magazine or something to boost your portfolio.” It’s all very well saying that, but Josh really lived up to those words. He found himself with lots of spare time at university and started his own magazine: Stamp the Wax.
With a focus on emerging artists, the magazine allowed Josh to channel his passion for music and learn new skills, “I learned to code and how website design works. I fell in love with it and learned to understand how to communicate with a creative team because of it.” And it wasn’t long before this side project got a little more serious. In a matter of months it had garnered over 250,000+ unique monthly users and over 10 million views on Youtube.
If there’s one thing that big brands love — it’s a story like this. Soon Mixcloud, Red Bull, Jack Daniel’s and Heineken were lining up for a deal. Josh was now managing a team of 14 staff (journalists, videographers, photographers, graphic designers, DJs and artists) to create engaging digital content and boutique experiential events — not bad for a side hustle. But a bigger name was about to move in and take over.
Lesson 2: in marketing, cool factor is personal capital
Vice may not have invented shareable online journalism, but they certainly redefined it. Josh jumped at the opportunity to join Vice and put his skills to good use on a bigger stage. His first-hand knowledge of online magazines and content would be vital.
Josh started his Vice career by leading creative ideation for UK brand partnerships and distributing branded content through a global network of influencer publications. By working with global brands, he was able to help seed content to smaller magazines.
Josh’s experience of starting a small magazine that gained a cult following among young trendsetters made him the perfect cool hunter. Vice made their name by finding new, cooler stories that were tailor-made for young people, giving rise to a generation of hipsters. Who better to discover those stories than someone who used to write them?
Lesson 3: old dogs have to learn new tricks
After Vice, Josh stepped up into the big leagues, joining MTV. He would become responsible for managing the creative ideation, strategy and execution of all commercial partnerships across Viacom International’s assets — a big step forward in his career.
Having once been a cultural upstart itself, MTV was now a juggernaut that needed to reinvent itself in order to compete. The new brand strategy was all about emotion and humanity — appealing to a young audience in a way they could relate to.
An injection of humanity and bold colour was exactly what the brand needed. In the new age of reality TV and social media, the old school MTV needed to move on from the music videos. The only way to authentically deliver that was to hire people who had done it before — and recently.
Lesson 4: it doesn’t always work out
Josh’s attention next turned to start-ups. And not just any startup — he was looking at the nascent cannabis industry. He was ready to get his hands dirty again. “Start ups are great because you can do a bit of everything instead of feeling nailed to minimal tasks.”
There’s no denying the opportunity represented by the legal cannabis industry — CBD is expected to generate £690 million this year in the UK alone. But, if the law hasn’t caught up then there isn’t much you can do — external factors brought Josh to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to work out just yet. The cannabis industry will still be around in a few years time, after all.
If you’re comfortable taking risks, the occasional non-starter comes with the territory. The important thing is to remain open to opportunities as they arise, and you’ll be ready when a good one comes along at the right time. Then you can take it with both hands and back yourself to succeed.
The next big thing?
Paid competition platforms represent the next frontier in gaming, so it feels natural that Josh has found his way there. “Stakester is an obvious idea, but it’s not been cracked just yet. We’re on the cusp of exploding and it’s a lot of fun.”
Whether he has called this one right remains to be seen.
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