Gravitywho? #11 Jack
In this series I interview the award-winning team of creative geeks, thinkers and grafters, one by one.
Hi Jack, you're actually my last guest — the headline act, some might say. Where are you from and when did you found Gravitywell?
Originally from Paulton, once upon a time an old mining village, halfway between Bristol and Glastonbury. So a bit of a local, though I spent quite a few years living in various places along the South coast. I was actually already running another agency in 2012, met Simon along the way, and in 2014 we merged our companies together but kept the Gravitywell name. We’ve been growing and evolving ever since.
Aside from the coffee machine, what's great about working here?
The team. We have a group of exceptionally talented, curious, and driven people who make Gravitywell what it is, and who seem able to adapt to anything thrown at them. The company is the sum total of those people and the inquisitiveness of one pushes everybody forwards together, which is constantly evident in our output. It can be quite humbling to watch them work.
Definitely. Pepper's newsletter contribution probably the standout example. Who would be your dream client and what would you like to work on for them?
My ‘dream’ client is just a new one, with a new challenge. Which makes being here great - as every project we take on is new and unique in some way. But if I am truly dreaming, then I’d love to do something for Leftfield - some kind of large-scale live installation/video set or similar that the crowd could interact with. Tech-heavy but bright and loud! That would be fantastic.
That would indeed. So how did you get into your role?
In a very roundabout way. I didn’t get on well with school, so dropped out pre-GCSEs and set my first business up - believe it or not the UK’s first satellite broadband provider - in the late 90s, when I was 15. Aimed a bit high with that one, but it gave me a flying start.
I’ve been in this industry, mainly in design roles, sometimes self-employed, for most of the 20 years since, but in 2008 ended up at a small Bristol startup called Brightpearl. I think I was the 3rd employee there, but when I left nearly 5 years later it had grown to a pretty big multinational. I was extremely fortunate to have been close to my two extraordinarily inspiring bosses there - the founders, Andy Mulvenna and Chris Tanner - and when I set up on my own again afterwards, I took a lot of what I learned from them with me. If the satellite co was my A levels, then that job was definitely my degree, masters, and more!
There may possibly have been a couple of years spent playing African drums on beaches in the middle of all that, though…
What’s your advice for someone wanting to get into the Digital industry? Presumably percussion isn't a must?
Understand what drives you. Find somewhere that allows you to learn and experiment, constantly seek knowledge, try your hand at new things, collaborate openly with others, and most importantly, take risks. Lots and lots of risks. Pursuing something that interests you is rarely a waste of time.
And the worst thing about your role?
Luke constantly trying to play footsie with me under the desk.
Sam does that as well, although I quite like it. What’s your favourite piece of tech and why?
My MacBook Pro, without a doubt. Though I’ve updated it with a newer model every few years, it’s been the most rewarding investment for me since my very first 17” Powerbook, personally and professionally. They’re such powerful tools for creating almost anything you can think of. Without one I think I’d probably still be banging a drum on a beach somewhere.
Speaking of beaches - what would your Hackathon dream destination be?
Tough question. Probably Reykjavik, Iceland. At a time of year when the sun never sets - perfect hackathon conditions! A bit colder than some of the other choices I’m sure, but an awesome place to spend a week. It’s very unique, always buzzing, and covered in street art - home from home!
I'm down for Iceland, so long as there's no sign of Kerry Katona. Finally, what’s the best-kept secret in Bristol?
Coffee + Beer on Cotham Hill. A fantastic little café with a super chilled vibe and does exactly what it says on the tin: the best coffee and beer in Bristol. The proprietor, Dan Williams, is insanely knowledgeable and somehow learns and remembers your taste once he gets to know you. Slightly dangerous - after a few minutes in there you find yourself heading out with a coffee in one hand, a bag of beans in another, and a six-pack of craft beer in your bag. Highly, highly recommended.
Thank you to Jack for being interviewed. You can find him on Twitter.