The joint founder of charity Ocean Culture Life, Tamsin Raine, explains her latest venture, Exordi, and how her professional life is now in tune with her personal values. Emily Moore reports
FROM the outside, Tamsin Raine appeared to have landed the perfect job.
Having graduated from Bournemouth University with a degree in advertising, she gained a job as an account manager in a UK agency working with global brands such as Mentos and Chupa Chups.
But appearances can be deceiving and it was not long before Jersey-born Tamsin realised that something wasn’t right.
‘I loved the buzz and the fast pace of the agency, I loved the people I was working with and the projects themselves – which covered everything from big television campaigns to content for social media – were great but I soon realised that I didn’t actually feel happy,’ she said.
As she analysed the reason for this dissatisfaction, she discovered that it stemmed from a dichotomy between her values and those of the brands she was representing.
‘The stories I was endorsing and representing were not ones that I really believed in,’ she reflected.
With question marks thus hanging over her next career move, it was during a visit to see family and friends in Jersey that she met photographer Matt Porteous – an encounter which was to answer many of those questions.
‘We got chatting and quickly discovered that we had many things in common, not least of which was a shared passion for storytelling and a love of the ocean,’ Tamsin explained. ‘While Matt is an incredibly talented photographer, I had experience in crafting and managing campaigns and big stories. By combining our skill sets, we were in a great position to tell purpose-driven stories about subjects which resonated with us.’
Deciding to return to the Island, Tamsin took up the position of studio manager at Studio M, which Matt had launched in 2009.
‘Telling those purpose-driven stories quickly became our niche and something we worked on day in, day out, all around the world, alongside our community of ocean storytellers and guardians which we have developed through our charity Ocean Culture Life, which aims to give the ocean a voice,’ said Tamsin.
‘While community may be something of a buzz word, it is a concept which means so much to Matt and me because it is the premise around which we’ve built not only Studio M and Ocean Culture Life but also our new business, Exordi. It’s our why. Without community and collaboration, we have no chance of getting these stories out to the people who can change the narrative.’
It was as this community and demand for its services grew that Tamsin saw the potential for Exordi.
‘I was managing multiple creatives and multiple campaigns and stories all around the world and having to do everything manually,’ she explained. ‘We were building a really strong portfolio of work, supporting some big brands and organisations and it just struck me that there had to be a way of automating some of the processes so that we could continue doing what we were doing but on a bigger scale, so that we could both spread the messages further and also grow our community of purpose-driven storytellers.’
It was a thought which was both exciting and daunting to the production manager who admits that, despite using many digital tools to support the rollout of clients’ campaigns, she had no background in technology.
Driven by her passion for their work though, Tamsin – alongside Matt and fellow co-founder and former professional skier Carlo Scaglia – pushed ahead with the idea, developing Exordi, a platform which brings brands and creators together in a way which isn’t entirely dissimilar from an online dating service.
‘It’s a little bit like Tinder for brands and creators,’ she said with a smile. ‘Instead of a brand coming to me and saying “This is our story, this is what we want, can you facilitate and produce it?”, they can now enter their brief on the platform and the technology will automatically match them with the storytellers across the world who are best placed to manage that campaign for them.’
With more than 100 content creators already signed up to Exordi, Tamsin says that the platform gives brands access to ‘a world-class community of storytellers’.
‘The onboarding process for our creators revolves around purpose-driven storytelling and we apply strict criteria before accepting anyone, as the content generated has to be world-class,’ she said. ‘Because we have creators from around the world, not only do brands have access to a global community but we can also often eliminate the need for travel and reduce the costs for an organisation. For example, if a company wants to shoot a campaign in Mexico, instead of us travelling across the world, we can tap into our network over there.’
With values at the heart of Exordi, the ‘matchmaking’ element of the platform is very much based around purpose and ‘why’.
‘The reason I left the UK agency was because I didn’t feel I was showing up as my true, authentic self because I couldn’t align my why with the whys of the brands I was working with,’ Tamsin explained. ‘Having found our niche, Matt and I now naturally attract campaigns with which we are aligned. This is critical, not just for our own authenticity but also to give clients the best outcome.
‘Creators always produce their best work when they are aligned with the why and that’s why matching creators and brands based on values and relevancy is so important. With this in mind, if a brand whose values didn’t match those of our creators signed up to Exordi, they wouldn’t receive a match.’
With the platform currently at the minimum viable product stage, Tamsin – who was part of the first Digital Jersey Tech Bootcamp – says that Exordi is already being used by brands and creators.
‘Matt, Carlo and I have been working with a development team based in Sicily, who have taken my wire frame and my thinking to build the platform,’ she said. ‘We are now at the test phase, using Exordi manually with clients and onboarding our community of creators. We have also recently opened up for a round of investment, something which is always one of the greatest challenges facing any start-up.
‘We are in a relatively strong position, though, as we not only have proof of concept but we are also revenue-generating and can show scalability, two things which are attractive to investors.’
While undertaking this round of investment, Tamsin is also strongly focused on building Exordi’s community of creators and attracting and carrying out campaigns.
‘We really need to keep up the momentum and make sure that we nurture our growing community,’ she said. ‘This isn’t something that will be built overnight but when I think how far we have come over the past eight months, the progress has been remarkable.’
And this is a message of which Tamsin says she needs to remind herself.
‘I’m learning that it’s important to celebrate the little wins,’ she smiled. ‘As an entrepreneur, you tend to get so caught up in hitting objectives and targets that you often forget to look back and see where you’ve come from. When I remember that we are already generating revenue, building a community and developing a business, I realise that it is important not just to focus on the overall vision but also to enjoy the journey.’
While she is beginning to enjoy the process, she admits that a lot of this is down to the support she has received from Digital Jersey’s Tech Bootcamp and from her mentor, Ed Prow.
‘If you had told me a year ago that I would have built a tech platform and would be managing and navigating this digital landscape, I would have been terrified,’ she acknowledged. ‘However, thanks to the bootcamp, Digital Jersey has facilitated a safe space where I didn’t feel stupid asking questions, whether they were about technology or investment.
‘There have definitely been times when I have felt completely out of my depth but the Bootcamp has provided a constant support network. In fact, I think that nurturing environment in Jersey is one of the great advantages for anyone starting a business locally.
‘Having worked away a lot in the past, I never really looked inwards to see what talent and support was available in the Island and that was a big oversight on my part because we have an incredible testbed here and an incredibly community of people who want to nurture and support Jersey business. As a female founder, in particular, I have felt really supported.’
Indeed, that level of support has inspired Tamsin to try and encourage other females to pursue a career in technology.
‘I’m the only girl on the Bootcamp but I would love to see more women breaking into the tech sector in Jersey,’ she said. ‘Exordi is a great example of how you can start and scale a tech business from Jersey and, while we are very much a globally-focused business, we are Jersey-based and, as we grow, I would love to hire more local creators to extend our community.’
In the meantime, Tamsin is working on campaigns which have already come in, one of which, she is delighted to say, will be carried out by an all-female crew,
‘We’ve got some really exciting jobs on the go, including one with Beautiful Destinations, which is currently taking place in Saudi Arabia,’ she said. ‘We’ve also been to Kenya, working on campaigns for Mars, and have documented an event in Singapore for the International Cotton Association. I’ve also got my first all-female crew lined up to carry out a job in Indonesia this summer, which I’m really excited about because I would say that, on average, only 10% of photographers and filmmakers are female.’
Although many of the jobs take place far away from Jersey, Matt and Tamsin also shoot significant campaigns in the Island.
‘We have worked locally with a number of big brands, including Breitling for whom we shot a big campaign in the Island last year,’ she said. ‘Jersey has a fantastic landscape which offers lots of potential for more global brands to use.’
While very much thinking globally, though, Tamsin says that Exordi’s success lies in a combination of ‘thinking big and staying niche’.
‘Having first set out to dominate the world, I have since realised that we need to learn to walk before we can run,’ she smiled. ‘We need to lean into our strengths and resources and, while remaining ambitious, we have to keep niche because that’s how we get out proof of concept, revenue and how we scale. Creatives always think big and Matt has this amazing, wild imagination but I keep reining the concepts back in and keeping projects manageable.’