We talked to Brian Pallas of Opportunity Network, an invite-only network for select CEOs and private investors to grow their businesses worldwide. and he had the following to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Brian Pallas: Fortunately, everyone is fine. Thanks for asking!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Opportunity Network.
Brian Pallas: I am an Italian entrepreneur who holds a B.S. in Business Management, an M.S. in Economics, as well as an MBA from Columbia Business School. Before founding Opportunity Network, I worked at the Boston Consulting Group. During my time studying at Columbia University, I joined the Family Business Club. I was intent on helping my father expand our family business in Milan, so I started a newsletter anonymously connecting my fellow club members with each other’s business opportunities. The newsletter proved to be very successful, and this was the beginning of Opportunity Network.
I set up the first Opportunity Network office in New York City as part of the Columbia Business School Startup Lab in 2014. Now the company hosts 45,000+ CEOs across 130+ countries and operates directly in 32 locations with headquarters in Barcelona, London, and New York. The network currently boasts an estimated deal flow of $380B and 8500+ live deals stretching from the United States to Europe, from the Middle East to Southeast Asia and Latin America.
How does Opportunity Network innovate?
Brian Pallas: The more conventional way of growing a business is through face-to-face meetings, personal networks, and trade shows. However, these more conventional methods don’t always provide the most efficient and scalable ways to grow a business. This is where the innovative Opportunity Network is here to help.
We are a digital business matching platform where CEOs and private investors can easily find any solution to their business needs in one place. They simply have to post their business opportunity and our matching algorithm with share it with potential counterparts within our network of 45,000 business leaders. On average, every opportunity receives at least one connection in the first 48 hours. This offers unprecedented scale and capacity for any type of company to grow faster than any competitor. Our innovation has changed the way business is done and transformed it into a simple and reliable process.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Brian Pallas: In 2020, due to global travel restrictions, we saw a tremendous shift towards business leaders turning to online platforms, in place of face-to-face meetings, as a means to network and find new partners. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 10,000 new companies have joined Opportunity Network, and our levels of activity have skyrocketed with a 70% increase in conversations among members and 60% growth in the number of new business opportunities posted. We offer a means to continue growing your business at a time when it is easy to stagnate, so business leaders are drawn to the platform.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Brian Pallas: By the time Barcelona allowed offices to reopen, several of our employees had moved out of the city where our operative offices are located or were unable to return to the office without risking their own or their family’s health. A huge part of the experience of joining Opportunity Network’s team revolves around sharing and meeting people at our workspace. However, our team has found ways to keep those who work remotely closely involved in our everyday work and still keeping our unique company culture alive.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Brian Pallas: In order to navigate our way through this crisis, we are adapting our current methodologies to be more agile, so we can find our way through situations in a quick and easy manner. Within our business, we are constantly meeting to share our observations and what we have learned in this rapidly changing environment. Communication within teams and between different departments is crucial when it comes to truly understanding the impact of the crisis and how, as a whole, we can overcome it. We are a very transparent business, and we believe that if everyone, from CEO to intern, has a clear knowledge and understanding of what is happening in the business, then we are more likely to navigate our way through crises.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Brian Pallas: There are several platforms targeted to specific needs, like doing M&As, closing trade deals, and investing capital. However, Opportunity Network is one of a kind because it works like a swiss-knife for CEOs. The platform caters to any business need in one place. Unlike other competitors, we have committed to a very strict vetting of all our members to ensure the quality of the network. We have partnered with 75+ financial institutions and peer-to-peer organizations such as YPO, Credit Suisse, and ABN Amro, among others. To stay in the game, we’ll keep improving our KYC processes to bring more reliable CEOs into Opportunity Network and eventually get the scale needed to match every business opportunity with a counterpart within the first hour of posting.
Your final thoughts?
Brian Pallas: Whether we want it or not, the pandemic has changed our lives and, therefore, the way we do business. It has brought about rapid changes within the world of business, and I believe that the shift to digital deal-making platforms will be lasting. As Opportunity Network’s CEO, I feel very fortunate to be in a historic position where our product has such a valuable offer for businesses around the world looking to secure capital, re-adapt their disrupted supply chain, shift their business strategy, or find the right resources and connections to keep running.
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