What is Semi Permanent?

It’s a global creative and design thinking platform. Over 14 years, they have established a community of over 400,000 people and a network of over 800 speakers and artists, across their operation around the globe. Here are some quick background stats to give you an understanding of the platform scale:

14 years / 48 events / 12 cities / 6 countries / 800+ speakers and artists / 400,000+ attendees

We are extremely lucky to have this conference come to Auckland.

When and where was the conference?

Two day event: August 11/12 2017 @ Aotea Centre in Auckland


What was the focus?

Throughout the conference the following themes came through for me:

  • Futurist / futurism
  • Sci Fi
  • Passion
  • Blank Page
  • Self Learning
  • Transcendence
  • Health

Who spoke?

The speakers this year were top notch 💯💯💯. Throughout the event I took pages and pages of messy notes, the act of distilling all of these into a post would have most likely result in a book of other peoples ideas. Instead, I've decided to focus on the speaker that resonated with my aspirations and values the most (see bolded below in the amazing line up of speakers).

  • Amber Cartwright - Design Manager – Airbnb
  • Ana Arriola - Director of Product Design – Facebook
  • Ben Johnston - Founder – Josephmark
  • Dean Poole - Co-founder and Creative Director - Alt Group
  • Erik Klimczak - Creative Director — Advanced Technologies Group, Data Design Group - Uber
  • Hayden Cox - Founder and Surfboard Designer - Haydenshapes Surfboards
  • Hector Ouilhet - Head of Design - Google Search
  • John Brown - Technical Director - Instrument
  • Kara Place - Executive Director – Instrument
  • Kelly Thompson - Creative Director / Illustrator
  • Lucy McCrae - Science fiction artist, Body Architect
  • Marc Moore - Founder and Creative Director - Stolen Girl Friends Club
  • Mark Gowing - Founder and Director - Formist
  • Michael Parekowhai - Professor in Fine Arts, Faculty of Creative Arts and Industries – University of Auckland (UoA)
  • Natasha Jen - Partner and Designer - Pentagram.
  • Nicholas Kamuda - Sensory Design Director – Windows Mixed Reality
  • Sissel Tolaas - Smell Researcher and Artist
  • Steve Denekas - Executive Creative Director - Instrument
  • Tobias Frere-Jones - Founder and Design Director
  • Valentin Ozich - Creative Director Founder – I love Ugly

Key Takeaway: These days speed is everything.

This takeaway is inspired by the talk from Ben Johnston - Josephmark.

Ben Johnston had a superb presence on stage at Semi Permanent 2017. He took us all on a journey of how he and his friend Josh Capelin started JosephMark (J-M) in 2004. One notable comment was that their first hire Jess Huddart is now the CEO. Josephmark is a digital product studio, who design, develop, and launch digital products that change the way we work, play and connect. They have a mantra of:

“Keep your tables clean and your walls messy”. - Ben Johnston

Some of the different projects Josephmark have delivered:

  • Their own T-shirt company
  • Gilimba
  • Breeder
  • Their own bar (apparently they have two)
  • Established their own beer (Rainbow Pilsner)
  • We Are Hunted (acquired by Twitter)
  • Pocket Hipster
  • Undertone
  • Redesigned Myspace.com

Rainbow pilsner by Josephmark

Throughout these projects J-M realised they were succesfully churning out traditional businesses. This gave birth to Josephmark Ventures - A design led digital ventures lab with a systemised process of execution. The timing of founding this lab and the experience gained from the ventures has positioned them as leaders in this future thinking space. See a photo of their process below from Ben's talk:


As you can see their process is clearly articulated and transparent. The circles represent pivot points where the investment committee are able to give a 👍 or 👎, ultimately determining the fate of the venture.

It all starts with their Recon team (which I have to admit is an excellent name), the goal of this team is to rapidly take ideas from napkin to business plan. Once the plan is pulled together the venture is then pitched to the investment committee. If successful the venture is then propelled toward minimum viable product (MVP) as fast as possible. Following this is commercialisation, solidifying, and amplifying to potential customers. The key thing here is ⚡️speed⚡️:

"Speed is the new IP" - Ben Johnston

From his talk it was clear their team has an eye for knowing when to call it quits with an idea or as Ben put it “Identifying ideas whose time has come.” The following image outlines the number of ventures they are able to validate (or invalidate), monetise, and exit.


This process has seen J-M develop a networked portfolio across multiple verticals, where each venture team is helping the other.


An important note is that everyone working on a ventures has a slice of the equity pie 🥧. This means everyone is incentivised to build great products and therefore assets and over time. This approach is next level and I haven't seen a company in New Zealand offer this, yet...

My hypothesis is this joint ownership would be extremely motivating and increase staff retention in many companies. There is plenty of room for venture builders like this in the world. I'm making it my mission to contribute to getting one of these off the ground in New Zealand with a world-stage focus.

Thanks for the bout of inspiration Semi Permanent. 🙌 🙏 💯

Check out upcoming events here

— Shane