A Conversation with Brian Pallas, Founder of Opportunity Network.
Thank you for participating in the Interview Series! For anyone who may not be familiar, what does Opportunity Network do?
Opportunity Network is an exclusive community where CEOs and HNWIs from all over the world can share and connect to business opportunities above $1M. We partner with the best financial institutions in the world that invite their best clients to join our platform in return for client intelligence and market share. Today our network includes around 14,000 CEOs from 128 countries, hosts around $40B+ worth of deals and connected thousands of companies.
Have you always known you wanted to build your own company?
I had no idea that I would end up being an entrepreneur. It has always fascinated me because I grew up surrounded by my father’s family business, but I didn’t expect to become an entrepreneur myself. I have always tried to keep many doors open and this is why I picked consulting at the end of university. Later on, after my MBA at Columbia, I could have gone back to work for BCG or I could have tried to pursue a career in Private Equity, but when I understood that Opportunity Network was turning from an idea into a concrete project and that it could make an impact on the world I thought I couldn’t miss the chance to at least try to make it happen. Here we are, three years later, with a team of 80 in over 25 countries, clients from all over the world and partnership with several prestigious financial institutions and organizations.
What has that process been like for you over the last 3 years?
The last 3 years have been a very fast marathon. Building a company is like running a marathon, you need to pace yourself, you need to never get scared of the down moments and keep yourself focused on the arrival. At the same time, in this fast-changing world, it is necessary to keep a continuously fast pace and be able to adapt to the changing circumstances around us.
As successful as you are now, it certainly could not have been easy- what was the most intimidating part of that journey and how did you handle it?
Of course it hasn’t been an easy journey, it never will be. Especially in the very early days when we were still testing our business model- when more and more people were giving up promising careers to follow me in this project- I felt a lot of pressure. It was not only about my family and myself at that point, it was also about other people. It is those people around me and the culture we’ve created, based on trust and on “let’s-make-it-happen-together,” that made me look forward and overcome the hard moments. I am extremely proud of the company culture that we’ve been able to build. It is definitely one of the major keys to our success.
And what role has Columbia played in all of that?
Opportunity Network was born within the Family Business Club of Columbia’s MBA program. Without the support from Columbia to pursue this project and transform it into a company, I would never be where I am now.
How did you end up at Columbia Business School from Italy?
Columbia was one of the top choices among other MBA programs, including HBS and LBS. I have always had Columbia in my heart because my grandparents met there a long time ago, but the real person who made me pick Columbia was my wife, who has built a brilliant career in the film industry in New York since we moved.
What would be your advice for other founders, or those considering taking that leap?
There are two key elements that founders always need to keep in mind. First, just do it. Don’t wait to have the perfect product before taking the leap. Your product will never be perfect at the beginning, but if you don’t start building it and testing it on the market you will never have a chance of understand if it works and how you can improve it. Second, focus on your team. The world is full of great ideas, but what will allow you to build a successful company is the execution of these ideas and you can’t think of doing it by yourself. Build a team that you can trust and that can help you discover different perspectives with the aim of achieving a collective result.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about? (i.e. product launches, recent achievements, links to other interviews..)
Thank you again for sharing your story Brian -and of course, best of luck as you continue!