When Shelby Walsh joined Trend Hunter as an intern in 2009, it was a four-person operation reposting cool ideas and viral news on a website. But Walsh saw potential for growth. Today, Trend Hunter tallies over 30 million page views a month and serves as an “innovation accelerator,” leveraging data to help over 500 big-name brands like Nestlé, Microsoft and Samsung “find better ideas faster.” Walsh has also come a long way—she’s now the company’s president.
Walsh studied English literature and political science at the University of Toronto; like many millennials, her degree didn’t create a clear career path to follow. After working as a legal secretary for a year, she realized she needed a fast-paced job that would feed her entrepreneurial spirit. She moved to Trend Hunter and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming founder Jeremy Gutsche’s number two in 2013.
Trend Hunter uses the behaviour and activity of its online audience to gather market insights, scoring trends based on novelty and virality. “We can tell brands what consumers want and need, and they can start selling those products on shelf or through experiences,” Walsh explains. She deals with clients day to day, while Gutsche works on the technology and delivers dozens of keynotes a year.
Now 29, Walsh believes Trend Hunter’s diverse young team—some 92% of the staff are millennials—and unique working environment set it apart from the more established market research industry. Now a much-cited trend expert in Canada, Walsh launched Future Festival in 2015, an event that brings together top innovators to “prototype their future.” The event sold out in its first two years in Toronto (tickets run US$1,999 for non-clients), and Walsh recently announced it will be expanding to six new cities in 2017, including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and London.
Both her individual success and that of her company are down to taking educated risks, says Walsh. “I think I really took a bet on Trend Hunter. As long as I’m learning something and we’re pushing things forward, even if those things fail, I’m really motivated to keep going.”