Letting Companies Share Great Ideas

In his new book on creativity Sir John Hegarty cautions the creative industry to not become enthralled with technology, but instead allow technology to liberate great ideas. This is the idea behind Pie, a tool for modern teams to save and share inspiring finds and ideas.

Pie originated in the BBH ZAG bakery and we spoke with Pieter Walraven, formerly Product Director of BBH ZAG Asia, about the things he learned during his journey from an idea to a funded startup.

So what is Pie and how did you get the idea?

Pie is a link-sharing tool that helps teams share and organize the zillion things they see at work every day. At BBH me and Thijs Jacobs (former BBH Asia Pacific Head of Creative Technology) noticed that people are constantly sharing and discussing inspiring things over email. We loved the culture of sharing, but we saw that sharing ideas over email is broken. It clutters inboxes and relevant finds easily get buried. After talking to other companies and clients about this issue we learned that they have the same problem. This is when started thinking about a technology enabling an open culture of sharing with the bigger vision of liberating great ideas.

When you say you ‘started thinking about a technology’ what does that mean, how did you translate your idea into an actual product?

What we did early on was look at the current relevant software offerings out there such as Yammer and Sharepoint and didn’t really like what we saw – who decided that enterprise software has to be dull?! So we shifted our focus to consumer apps as they’re much better at creating a great user experience.

Obviously, we liked the visual aspect of Pinterest and found that boards are a great way to organize things. We’ve used elements from Pinterest and other popular consumer applications to design our first MVP and tested 2 hypotheses:  ‘do people want to use this?’ and ‘will people be drawn in by the visual consumer-like design?’.

(An early iteration of the Pie MVP)

So you tested your assumptions, what was the next step? When did you actually set up Pie as a company?

To maximise our chances of building a successful global SaaS company we knew we had to raise external funding and attract top talent. Most high-profile strategic investors only invest in strong and autonomous founding teams so shortly after we’ve completed testing our MVP we set up Pie as a separate company with myself and Thijs as founders and major shareholders.

As we both have prior experience of tech startups our pitch deck was mainly focused on the founding team. It also included the positive market outlook – “Adoption of Social Enterprise is Booming” – and the findings of our MVP which consisted of both usage data and the interest of potential clients.

(Pie pitch deck: market opportunity slide)

For structuring our financing we used a model called convertible notes. A convertible note is basically a loan that converts into shares of preferred stock upon the closing of a the next round – Series A – round of financing. Here’s a great TechCrunch article on convertible notes with all the pros and cons.

After a few hectic and uncertain months we managed to raise our target of $800K from a list of notable investors including BBH Asia Pacific’s former ECD, Steve Elrick, a U.S.-based VC, Siemer Ventures, and Peng Tsin Ong, founder of and widely considered one of Asia’s most successful tech entrepreneurs.

So tell us a bit about your daily routine at Pie, what keeps you busy?

It might sound obvious, but I underestimated the amount of time I have to spend on hiring. Our culture is our most valuable asset and it takes time to carefully select people that match the rest of the team. Of course it doesn’t help that these kind of people already have a great job! Basically hiring great people takes time, but luckily it gets easier as Pie’s exposure grows and we gain more international traction.

(Pie’s stream where you can see what coworkers are collecting and sharing)

Other than hiring me and the rest of the Pie team are 100% focused on growth. Everything we do is directly or indirectly related to growing our user base. We’re constantly iterating on Pie to improve either the user engagement or the virality. We’ve also been writing and seeding content for our target audience to attract users and have had some success with this – we’ve been live for 1.5 months and over 700 companies are on Pie ranging from Spotify to Shell. We’re seeing companies saving and sharing industry news, innovations, market data, trends, but also funny videos. Companies such as Edelman and IDEO use Pie to keep track of market trends and collaborate around certain topics. Besides internal sharing they also use Pie to share inspiration and links to relevant articles with clients.

Proximity (BBDO) uses Pie to collect and organize UX best practices. They create boards with finds that can be used for later use. Before Pie was introduced people were storing things in email drafts or spreadsheets invisible for their coworkers to see. By collecting things on boards knowledge that was previously hidden in silos now gets exposed to the rest of the team.

(A library of posts collected by a team on a ‘collaborative board’)

Lastly, we regularly post interesting reads on work hacks for modern teams on our Facebook page and on Twitter and have recently released a chrome extension allowing direct posting from any website.


BBH Zag are recruiting a Brand Strategist

Author: Aran Potkin, Senior Brand Strategist, Zag

BBH Zag is the ‘branding agency that ventures’ within the BBH group. At Zag, we work with both large blue chip brands and exciting start-ups, offering our clients brand strategy, visual identity and user experience design.

We are looking for a strategist to join our small senior team. Working within the strategy team you will have the opportunity to lead projects from the outset, working closely with senior team members and managing junior strategists. This is the perfect opportunity for an ambitious, entrepreneurial agency strategist looking to accelerate their career.

The role:

A Zag Strategist is a hybrid – an agency professional who can lead strategy while also managing the client and account. They will lead branding and innovation projects and create solid, differentiated brands for everything from start-ups to global businesses. They will oversee the entire consultancy project, working with the Zag design studio to bring those brands to life and writing marketing and communications strategies for launch. The strategist should have a creative, entrepreneurial spirit with a good knowledge of strategic models and processes but the ability to push the envelope and generate new ways of working and approaching briefs. We are looking for an innovative thinker with bags of energy and ambition.

Specific experience & responsibilities:

  • 3+ years in strategy at a brand consultancy or design agency
  • Demonstrated experience with and in-depth knowledge of digital strategy, UI and UX
  • Ability to lead teams and manage projects as account/project manager
  • Comfortable with clients and confident to manage the day-to-day relationship
  • Experience planning, commissioning and leading consumer research (both qual and quant)
  • Understanding of and appreciation for the design process – able to write clear briefs for design and work closely with designers through creative development

Who we’re looking for:

  • Someone with a passion for brands and branding, bags of energy and ambition
  • Entrepreneurial spirit – ready to pitch in at any level
  • Creative thinker and problem-solver
  • Energetic with a positive, can-do attitude
  • Clear, articulate communicator
  • Commercial awareness and interest
  • Ability to work collaboratively within a team
  • Digital fluency – many of the start ups we work with have strong digital DNA

 If this sounds like you, send a cover email and your cv/resume to

Searching for Sagacity

Author: Dan Harris (@gecko84), Social Media Manager, BBH Labs

Every day we use technology to find answers, from Google processing billions of searches, through to emailing colleagues or sending a question on twitter. We are increasingly relying on algorithms, communities and the fact that our colleague’s eyes may pass over our request at the right time.

On top of this, users have to contend with the filter bubble. This selective distribution of information based on a web user’s location, search history and previous clicks relies on a previous viewpoint and won’t necessarily reflect what somebody wants to know *now*.

This reliance on a fast digital response leads us away from existing relationships and habits and all too often we forget the value that can be provided by people with decades of experience, thoughts and stories. For example, when my ninety-four year old Grandad listens to my fairly trivial stresses and comes back with the maxim “You can only give it your best shot son” it resonates because I know he fought in World War II, worked for 40 years, opened a lodging house aged 60 and has been through plenty of loss and happiness.

Online searches may be able to supply the facts about historical events, but it will never be able to replicate the emotions and feelings of someone who was there and witnessed an event first hand or the personal delivery of that information. A status update asking for help is just as likely to illicit sarcastic responses as actual, useful advice. In fact, sometimes the best reply is sitting in a lonely old chap up in Scotland who is just waiting to be asked, whatever the question.

Hugmail is a partnership between BBH Zag and Touchnote, a British technology company whose aim is to bridge the increasing digital divide and making it easier for different generations to keep in touch.

That’s why Labs & Zag are excited to announce ‘Search for a Sage’, the hunt for Britain’s most interesting grandparent. We’re looking to find a great character that’s seen it all, with plenty of stories and a unique slant on life.

We’ll ask a Sage to answer the nation’s questions via regular webcasts and take it from there.  We want to put real wisdom on a pedestal in a place where modern society is likely to look for it.

So if you know a grandparent that fits the bill then send a nomination to

Our sage will be unveiled and start answering questions and laying down wisdom from 21st November.