Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Lunch, Drinks, Eureka – Garry Hamilton, Chief Growth Officer and Co-Founder, Equator

Like it or not, pubs, restaurants and clubs play a key role in our industry. They host the meetings, the quiet words, the off the record chats that keep the wheels of the media and advertising world turning.

This series celebrates the moment of inspiration, a chance meeting or eureka moment that led to a key development in your career, by finding out where it first struck.

What bar, pub or restaurant where you in when this momentous occasion occurred. Was it in the Dog and Duck in Soho that you finally cracked the problem that led to the birth of your new company? Was it over lunch at Roka that you shook hands on a deal that transformed your business? Or was it over late-night drinks at The Groucho that you decided to finally take the plunge to leave your job and set up on your own?

Garry Hamilton, Chief Growth Officer and Co-Founder, Equator talks to us about the long dinner with Vice founder Shane Smith helped spark his Eureka moment.

What was your eureka moment, and what did it lead to?

When I realised I needed to follow what excited me, even if I couldn’t quite plot the full journey ahead. I turned my back on six years of study to become a lawyer and found a new path, which eventually led me to the digital transformation agency Equator.

What was the background to your Eureka moment, what was the path to this success?

Throughout university I had a side hustle – buying the best streetwear brands, like Supreme, from North America and selling them in the UK. I did this the old fashion way, by making retail contacts, flying across the Atlantic, buying as much as I could and then selling on this side of the pond. In 1997, I wanted to expand the business and I began building an ecommerce site. I loved the entire design and development process, which gave me a sense of where my future lied.

Through one of my retailer contacts, Nick Wetton, in Canada, I was invited to dinner with Shane Smith, Gavin McInnes and Suroosh Alvin, the three founders of Vice Magazine, in Montreal. It was the summer of 1998, and Vice had just received investment by Richard Szalwinski, a wealthy media mogul.

Nick had recommended me as the guy who could help with ecommerce and also knew streetwear. So, it turned out to be an interview of sorts. The only thing was, I didn’t realise I was being interviewed!

Over the meal and lots and lots of alcohol, Shane mapped out his vision for an omnichannel media empire that would take on the establishment and win. His clarity of thought and vision was quite simply awe-inspiring. By the early hours of the following morning, I had taken the job, admitted I knew 50% of what they wanted but gave assurances I could figure the other 50% out. I was hired!

What followed was an eighteen-month rollercoaster of a journey that included brand partnerships, launching a store on Queen Street West in Toronto and adventures with the Vice founders that are not suitable for print.

However, all good things come to an end. Vice went on to become the $Bn company that Shane foretold. On my return to the UK, I met John McLeish and Jamie Jefferson, my partners at Equator today. Over the last 20 years, I built a Top 5 independent digital transformation agency.

Where did it happen?

L’Express, 3927 Saint Denis St in Montreal.

What were you eating or drinking at the time?

I can’t remember the exact dishes, but I do recall that Shane had a great taste in wine and we sampled numerous bottles that evening. Surroosh, as I would learn, stuck to OJ and cranberry.

Who else was involved?

Shane Smith, Gavin McInnes, Suroosh Alvin and Nick Wetton.

Do you still visit/celebrate/miss this particular venue?

Unfortunately, I have never been back since.

After Lockdown, where are you looking forward to revisiting

I am fantasy-planning a three-month workation in the Greek Cyclades when/if the pandemic settles. Time will tell if this happens.