11 Jul 2012
Under the Spotlight: Heidi Lindvall and Guy Gunaratne
Every entrepreneur is different and Pioneers’ vital business stats are always inspiring. We put Heidi and Guy under the spotlight to examine the approach that’s helping them achieve success.
Guy Gunaratne and Heidi Lindvall are passionate about video content: regularly updating the Pioneers’ community with their polished video blog and even doing a spot of filming for Virgin Media. They talk to us about the power of storytelling and why they believe it’s possible to talk about global issues without being an activist.
Tell us about your business
We produce online and broadcast content that focuses on inspirational, social and global stories for a young, connected audience. Our company, CODOC, is a digital documentary platform dedicated to creating spaces for critical thought through media.
We aim to help build a culture defined by free expression, equality and creativity and our collective experience in post-conflict zones around the world has helped to instil a sense of responsibility in all the work we do.
We’ve been collaborating with organisations such as Amnesty International, TED, Warchild, International Refugee Trust and (of course) Virgin Media. Recently, we’ve produced two acclaimed feature films: The Truth That Wasn’t There (2011) and Forgive Me Mother (2012).
Our manifesto? We don’t start campaigns. We begin conversations.
What’s the big vision for CODOC?
We wear our Pioneers’ tags proudly and we’ve worked hard over the past year putting in place the foundations for a truly 21st Century brand. Innovation is at the heart of what we try to do and our big vision is to create a cross platform media network. Big ideas begin with small steps however, and the first part of putting this in place is the launch of our interactive documentary channel: CODOC.TV. We’ve also been working on the interactive component of our web player, which we see as having great potential for online journalism, education and advocacy.
How long have you been running your business and what have you learnt along the way?
We started our business in 2011 and, looking back, what we’ve learnt is to focus on concrete goals and know that sometimes it’s okay to take some downtime. It’s a non-stop ride running your own business and we work incredibly hard, but burnout is never good. We’re always at our best after we’ve taken some time out to recharge and get inspired.
What’s your most important learning so far?
We have a saying we use a lot: ‘If we want to fly with the eagles, we’d better surround yourselves with them’. Networking and connecting has proved a huge benefit to us and CODOC. But we don’t simply mean showing up and ‘working the room’. We mean finding, building and nurturing relationships with mentors who will help us reach the next step. Also, we’ve learnt to never, ever, ever give up. Some of our best moments have come after falling short on others.
What’s your greatest achievement to date and why?
We’ve had a great year, truly. Our debut documentary received an award and we got our first broadcast commission from Al Jazeera – really amazing highlights for us. Pitching the idea for our interactive player to Sir Richard Branson through the #VMPItch2Rich competition and having him, and the likes of Jamal Edwards, encourage us to keep going was also unforgettable. We can’t really choose one moment. Our entire first year has been pretty spectacular.
Who inspires you to keep going and why?
Having co-founded CODOC together, we are lucky enough to have each other through the peaks and troughs. We inspire each other every day and hearing from everyone who is following our story online and those who randomly send us messages of encouragement really helps too. It’s these moments that tell us that we’re creating value for people. That’s when we get inspired and that’s what keeps us going.
What three tips do you have to share with those who are just starting their business?
Focus on your strengths
That’s how you’re going to get the most out of yourself. Find others to help you with the areas you don’t excel in.
Brand isn’t just a logo
Set up some key principles to act as the spine your brand is built around. After you’ve done this, you have a sort of divining rod that you can use to make the biggest, toughest decisions.
Staying up late to finish a project doesn’t make you more dedicated
All this means is you haven’t been efficient enough with your time. It doesn’t impress anyone. Take care of yourself: eat and sleep well so you can give 100% when it matters.
Name an entrepreneur you admire. Why/how do they inspire you?
It’s got to be Sir Richard Branson: for his ambition, drive and the fact that he’s left breadcrumbs for young entrepreneurs like us to follow in his footsteps. He’s also shown everyone that you can build a successful brand and do a lot of good at the same time.
What’s your favourite quote?
‘The best way to know what the future holds, is to create it yourself’.
What’s your favourite thing about Virgin Media Pioneers?
What we love about Virgin Media Pioneers is that it seems to have come at the right time, just after the economic crisis. It’s as if an entire community has come up and claimed their part in its rebuilding. They’re saying “OK, the economy has tanked. Let’s not blame everyone else, let’s do something about it. We have ideas, give us a shot”. For us, Virgin Media Pioneers encompasses that belief. It provides support and the network to make moves worth making. It’s a privilege to be part of it, honestly.