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As I See It: Intro To James Aylwin

Posted by: Staff Posted on

Say hello to James Aylwin, head of product partnerships at Viddyoze. He joined the business in September and since then has been working tirelessly sourcing and setting up a whole host of strategic partnerships. When he’s not showing admirable restraint in his coffee intake, you’ll find him strategising, collaborating and generally having a good time. Here’s how he sees it.

Professional ice hockey player

Yep. That’s what I wanted to be when I was a kid. I loved the sport and still do. The cost of it and multiple injuries put paid to that dream (I broke from my collar bone five times between the ages of 12 and 15). I did get to enjoy a short but successful Roller Hockey career and, as a 14-year-old, I did get to attend nationals.

Asking for help is not a weakness

Why should it be? We can’t know it all and do it all. I see it as a strength and not as a weakness. Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with asking for clarity when you’re not sure – it’s better than nodding along mindlessly and saying yes and no when you really have no idea. Save yourself the trouble and you’ll be better for it.

I enjoy what I do and I don’t feel that ‘work is work’

With the exception of one job, I do not feel as though I have worked a day in my life. I guess I’m lucky I feel this way, but every day I learn something new, make new acquaintances and have fun. I also like paying it forward.

Fun, hard, challenging, exciting, risky and rewarding

That’s what it feels like to found a company. It’s a wild experience that has done me wonders. I’ve founded two businesses. The first time I was lucky to meet some very smart people that were kind enough to let me come on the journey. The second time I really had an itch I wanted to scratch. I did not end up executing on that company and returned the money to the investors – which was no bad thing.

I am where I am because I spotted a gap in the market

It was luck more than anything. That and a bit of talent. After all, what was it that Seneca said? Something like “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”.

Openness, support and learning

The three things that make a partnership work very, very well.

I bring businesses together in a strategic and mutually beneficial way

That’s pretty much a simple definition of what I do. What that generally involves is looking at the market and identifying a large segment of target customers within a partner’s network. At that point I work out what is the best way that Viddyoze can enhance a potential partner’s offering and also how we can work together to achieve reciprocal success. Partnerships should be a two-way street.

The ability to go from zero to one very quickly

That’s what I like about my job. And that’s what I find so enjoyable and rewarding. I also love the collaboration – in-house and with partners – and working with smart people who understand and get what it is I’m trying to achieve – which is success for all. Especially within the startup ecosystem. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. We’re better than that.

I like working with smart, articulate and confident people

Why? Because you get to experience intense, challenging and brilliant debates that sometimes go your way or sometimes don’t. But you never lose. You always come out of it having learnt something new, like a different perspective that can change your own.

I always have ideas

Which is a blessing and a curse. There’s always something new, something else to stick on the board. I’m getting good at letting go though. Not every idea I come up with has to be actioned. You can always come back to it.

It’s an exciting time to be working at Viddyoze

We are currently putting together a number of very important partnerships, bolstering our ‘build, buy, partner’ strategy with some exciting technology companies, and identifying and signing off on projects with some brilliant household names that will make our platform better and more impactful.

All of this comes back to our users. We see them as the North Star, which means they’re always front and centre when it comes to making data-led decisions. The question I always ask myself before making any decision is how will it impact the user?

I’ve always had the mindset to move fast and break things

Which I’ve been able to do at Viddyoze. What I love about the company is the unbelievable openness and ability to move quickly. It’s very rare to work for a business that likes to do things fast – and in a good way.

It’s also refreshing to work with individuals who are more than willing to step up when it’s required. My role impacts the whole organisation, and because of that, I’m often required to loop in multiple teams. To date, I have never experienced any issue when seeking out help, support or a sounding board. Every time I have something to work on, I always know that I have someone I can talk to and that my colleagues have my back. They will help me deliver. 

I miss seeing my colleagues, grabbing a beer and having impromptu meetings over a coffee

That’s what Covid-19 has put on hold. And while I miss ‘normality’, it has pretty much been business as usual in all honesty. The one thing I will say is this – and you have to see the glass half full here – because of the nature of our business (SaaS), we have had the opportunity to help lots of businesses during these trying times by offering them a service that has never been more relevant. That’s amazing.

I am increasingly interested in exploring the NFT and DTC space…

… and watching how Google and Facebook will continue to change the world of retail even further. I predicted 10 years ago retailers would become dumb pipes. And it seems to be moving in that direction.

Attending the National Retail Federation conference in New York after being mugged in New York is probably one of the best things I’ve ever done

It changed how I dealt with adversity. Let me recap. A few years ago I flew to New York for a conference. I had a number of meetings booked in, which I was excited about. But, unfortunately, on my first evening in the Big Apple, I was mugged.

At one point in my trip, I visited McDonald’s. The server asked if I was okay and if I needed anything, joking – in a good way – about the cuts and bruises on my face. I told them what had happened and you know how the server responded? They gave me a free meal. It was heartwarming and I always think back to that moment whenever I go into a meeting. Really, what’s the worst that could happen? Not getting mugged. 

A little bit about you

  • Go-to emoji: 😂
  • Go-to social media platform: I don’t post much – I’m more of a voyeur. I’ll say this though – I’m enjoying a good GIF on Twitter at the moment
  • Tea or coffee: Coffee, but I only let myself have one a day. So, I guess I would have to say green tea
  • Favourite food? Burger. Always a burger
  • Favourite movie: Remember the Titans
  • Favourite album: I am one of those people who will just listen to anything when it comes to music
  • Favourite book: Zero to One by Peter Thiel
  • Favourite work of art: No idea
  • Favourite quote: Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth (Mike Tyson)
  • Who do you admire: My mum and anyone who is willing to take themselves out of their comfort zone. We’re all on our own journey – so be kind
  • We’re at a party. Your trick is: Well, it’s not technically a party trick, but I’m always happy to talk to strangers. I guess that’s why I’ve been lucky. I’m one of those people who enjoy networking events