“8 Questions with Playfair” ft. Matt Wilson @ Omnipresent
This is the tenth in our “8 Questions” series — in which we sit down with founders in the Playfair portfolio who share their entrepreneurial journey.
We first met Matt Wilson and his co-founder Guenther on March 9th, 2020 at our offices in Central London. The very next day, the headline in the Corriere della Sera newspaper read, “The whole of Italy is closed now,” after Rome imposed the first lockdown on a Western population since the Second World War.
Whilst we couldn’t have known that remote work was about to suddenly become the new normal around the globe, our partner Joe had been bullish on remote work for several years at the time and believed that we would eventually become a remote-first species. This belief, when combined with the impression Matt and Guenther left after their first meeting with him, led us to the view that it was an investment that we simply had to make.
Today, we sit down with Matt, to hear his story, from deciding to take the plunge as an entrepreneur to building Omnipresent to where it is today. We hope this can help other founders and aspirational entrepreneurs in their own ventures.
1. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
At its core, being an entrepreneur is about changing how the world works. Most people want their careers to make an impact and help evolve some aspect of the world around them. For entrepreneurs, we have the opportunity to affect that change and impact those around us with what we do, including our clients, their teams, our own people and the business community at large.
Building a tech company, in particular, is also one of the highest-leverage ways to do this. The applications of technology are expanding everyday and we are at the forefront of amplifying its reach to anticipate the needs of a changing world. The greatest inspiration comes from the impact that you can have from building a scalable and sustainable business many times greater than what you could achieve alone.
2. Can you take us back to the beginnings of Omnipresent?
Omnipresent began as part of the Entrepreneur First program in London in November 2019, months before the pandemic hit. I describe Entrepreneur First as being a mix between The Apprentice and Love Island. The program brings together amazing, smart people who want to found start-ups from a variety of backgrounds: technical experts wanting to commercialise their area of specialty, deep industry experts looking to change their industry, and others with a strong commercial background.
Omnipresent co-founder Guenther Eisinger and I met during the program, both with that commercial background. After a few false starts with other (business) partners, we “coupled-up” and founded the company in a matter of weeks — and, we haven’t stopped running since.
The thesis behind Omnipresent was that companies were becoming much more global due to technology, economic trends, and changes in ways of working. The interconnectivity of the internet, growth of globalisation and emergence of remote work were creating the perfect storm. We believed that shifts in these areas could bring about huge benefits as companies were now able to access global markets and a global talent pool more than ever. Regardless of where they were, workers were also able to access the best opportunities around the world.
Guenther and I had already experienced the complexities associated with building and managing global teams when operating our previous companies. We anticipated the growing need to adopt a more global approach with the help of technology. We knew the serious challenges that emerge as companies deal with the complexity and bureaucracy of operating as a multinational business. Companies typically have relied on lawyers, accountants and consultants to solve these problems, but this can be complex, expensive and slow. To help change that reality and solve these challenges, we build technology-enabled products that make it easy to build a global business. In simple terms: We Make Global Teams Work.
3. What is the hardest lesson learned since day 1?
How important it is to focus. It’s always tempting to take on more things — both personally and as a company. However, it’s important to also consider the opportunity costs when taking on such new projects. Doing more in one place always means doing less somewhere else. Everything you say yes to now, comes at the cost of saying no to, or deprioritising, something else later.
One of the highest-leverage things you can do as a leader is to increase the overall organisational capacity. Building and growing that vision, those resources and the important relationships within it, allow you to broaden your focus without having to sacrifice in areas that are important.
4. What has been your strangest day as a founder?
This one’s easy! It was meeting the entire Omnipresent team for the first time in person. For nearly two years, Omnipresent had been operating as a fully remote and globally distributed company (naturally!). In that time, our team had grown from me and Guenther to nearly 120 people, spanning more than 30 countries and regions around the world.
We had spent all that time operating remotely and coming together virtually but were finally about to bring the majority of the team together for the first time for our company retreat. We spent a full work week together in Madeira in September 2021 and finally got to know one another in real life. Meeting more than 100 people for the first time in person after having worked together intensely for so long, brought on a surreal mix of pride, joy, and anxiety!
5. What have you learned from your investors since you first fundraised?
Joe Thornton at Playfair really impressed upon us how important it was to get our early hires and the leadership team right from the beginning. His background in talent and recruitment helped us in getting the core Omnipresent team in place. He knew that having a strong core team would allow us to scale and grow exponentially in multiple areas simultaneously. Our core team has been instrumental in helping us grow our revenue by 50x between our Series A funding round and today.
6. As a founder, what is your proudest achievement to date?
Honestly, growing Omnipresent from two co-founders to a team of more than 150 people in more than 35 countries around the world makes me quite proud. We’ve done this amidst a global pandemic and completely remotely in only two years. At our first OmniRetreat a few months ago, it blew me away at how much we had grown, the type of people we had attracted to the organisation, and the projects we have been able to accomplish. It makes me incredibly proud but I know there’s still so much more to come.
7. Crystal Ball: What are your plans for the future?
We’re a very young company, having just passed our second birthday. We’ve had a strong start but are only just getting going and can’t rest on our laurels. Remote work is here to stay and global remote work is only set to increase in the coming years.
As such, over the next few years, we will keep our foot on the accelerator at Omnipresent. We need to keep working on improving and growing what we do today, but must also stay innovative and entrepreneurial! We’re currently expanding to new markets and segments, and we have a number of new products in the pipeline to help our customers solve even more of the problems they face as they build global companies. We want to make answering complex questions as straightforward as possible for them. By being a real partner to clients and global remote teams, we’re poised to see some strong growth.
8. #1 piece of advice to an aspirational founder?
The best piece of advice I can offer to aspirational and current founders is to have your head in the clouds but your feet on the ground. This is essentially a combination of two of our four company values at Omnipresent: ambition and humility. I believe this is a superpower of a combination.
You can aim high and set high expectations but it’s important to remember that it requires hard, and smart, work from the ground up. Don’t waste time chasing things that may look good or could appear to elevate your status. Those are not the things that will lead to success. And, don’t get any lofty ideas or think you’re successful before you actually are! Execution and results are what count.