Over the coming weeks, The Chamber of Commerce is sitting down with each of the winners from the recent Waikato Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, supported by Foster Construction Group, to find out what they did to stand out from the crowd. This week's Winners’ Insight is with Damian Bartolomucci, Head of Growth Marketing at Shift72, the winner of the 2021 Business Growth & Strategy award.

Powering Hollywood from Hamilton sounds like an impossibility: two cities that couldn’t be more culturally distinct, separated by thousands of kilometres of ocean. However, thanks to Shift72’s cutting-edge, video on demand platform, it is now a reality. 

Shift72 is an on-demand video entertainment platform with the ambitious aim of transitioning into an entertainment platform servicing multiple industries. The homegrown Hamilton-based company offers a Netflix experience to organisations who wish to connect their content to their audience with an e-commerce solution, offered as a monthly or annual subscription model. Shift72 was founded in 2010 and has experienced significant growth over the last two years. 

“Covid was a catalyst for us,” said Damian Bartolomucci. “We went from 13 employees in January 2020 to 56 employees currently. We’ve captured 40% of the 20 largest film festivals globally as clients, including Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s also seen us expand into other industries with customers in corporate events and galleries, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York.”

Shift72 is on a mission to lead the shift to digital, bridging the gap between content and audiences and bringing independence to clients – whether they be film producers, film festivals, or events – by providing them with their own platform under their name and brand. 

It could be easy to write Shift72’s success off as being in the right place at the right time, but that would be a severe injustice to the tenacity and drive of CEO and founder, David White. 

“Any entrepreneur knows that an unbelievable work ethic is required to take a start-up to the next level, and Dave is no different. As soon as Covid hit, he realised this was a huge opportunity for us. In fact, Dave allowed others to book time in his calendar and ended up with back-to-back meetings for up to 22 hours a day, with no time for bathroom breaks or personal time. That was the grind he was facing every day,” said Damian. 

A grind that inevitably paid off considering Shift72’s massive growth since the pandemic started. CPH:DOX, the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, was the tipping point. Realising a few days before the start of the festival that the server loads on their existing platform would not be able to handle the expected website traffic, the prestigious film festival was left scrambling for alternatives – enter Shift72. 

“CPH:DOX called us and explained their situation. Within 24 hours, we had a new platform up and running for them. That was a monumental moment for us; the resulting press and exposure generated significant interest in our offering. Suddenly, Sundance and Toronto were calling us, asking for our help. It truly did help catapult us into the position we are in today.”

Shift72 has also released an eBook marketing guide for film festivals, which takes business school learnings and combines them with Shift72 tactics and CRM insights to build real-world marketing opportunities. The feedback has been outstanding, and the eBook is helping film festivals adapt to marketing digitally to an expanded audience. 

Despite its stellar international reputation and global success, Shift72 is still incredibly humbled by its success at the 2021 Waikato Business Awards, supported by Foster Construction Group. Taking home the coveted Business Growth & Strategy award was a sign of the respect and admiration for Shift72’s accomplishments within the Waikato business community. 

“It validates the strength of the brand within New Zealand. We have become well-known globally, but many approached Dave after the awards not knowing who we were, right in our own backyard. As a proud Waikato company, it’s an incredible feeling to be recognised and awarded in the company of our peers and whanau.”
The award-winning strategy comes from the top, with the goals and direction set by David and the board of directors. Then the leadership team takes that direction and builds the necessary strategies to hit those goals. Keeping everyone working towards the same goal has been surprisingly simple despite the Shift72 team growing by over 300% over two years.

“It’s a function of leadership and culture,” said Damian. “On the leadership side, it’s hiring strong, capable and humble teams who demonstrate a keen ability to test ideas while challenging normal conventions. It’s also a function of focusing on hiring the right fit, finding that intersection where functional capabilities meet ease of personal interaction. This ensures that all our team are on board with the vision at hand.”

“Culturally, we have an amazing office and work from home environment that lets people work from wherever they can perform best. The professional opportunities and phenomenal culture, set by Dave, are world-class. It has been an incredible experience for me since the day I joined. Somehow, I have come across the most talented people I have seen in my 20-year career, working here in Hamilton, New Zealand,” said Damian. 

For Canadian-born Damian, living and working in the Waikato has been a dream come true. For founder David White, basing Shift72 in the Waikato has been an opportunity to give back to his home and create jobs for families in the region while promoting Hamilton on a global scale. 

“Strategically, Hamilton is an incredible place for business. The tech sector is booming, and some inspiring, innovative technologies are being developed locally. Geographically, it’s in a prime position, with easy access to the country's major centres while offering a peaceful environment for which to do business. Having seen cities like this back home in Canada, Hamilton is as big as an emerging city gets,” said Damian.

So what’s next for Shift72? World domination isn’t far off the mark, with new offices opening in Berlin, Germany and Pordenone, Italy. The entertainment business has also secured the support of the New Zealand Trade and Economic Association to support its expansion into the US, Europe and Asia.

“The next year will be big for us, both in terms of growing our existing platform and expanding into the corporate events industry. Now that the borders have opened up, our opportunities to visit those markets we have been supporting virtually for the last couple of years will be huge.”

“We are seeing continued expansion in the US and Asia, but we also want to grow locally here in New Zealand. We’re excited to talk to any corporation, festival, event or cinema who may be interested in learning how a video platform can be used to appeal to workers both at home and in the office, particularly when security – namely protecting your content from piracy or being redistributed to competitors – is of concern.”


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