‘We pitched to a chair’: Olsam co-founder shares worst investor meeting – Fi5

Olsam co-founder Sam Horbye Olsam co-founder Sam Horbye

Sam Horbye is the co-founder of Olsam, a company that acquires ecommerce and marketplace brands and draws on its in-house technology and digital marketplace experience to scale them globally.

Horbye founded Olsam in 2020 with his brother Ollie. It acquires brands created by solopreneurs and develops brands in-house and aims to make them “blow up” on Amazon and other digital marketplaces, channels and retailers.

The London-based company has raised $165m from VC funds including Christian Angermayer’s Elevat3 Capital, which counts Peter Thiel as a strategic partner, and Apeiron Investment Group.

Prior to founding Olsam, Horbye worked in New York supporting Fever-Tree’s launch into the North American market and has managed some of the UK’s largest third-party Sellers on Amazon’s worldwide marketplaces.

In this week’s Founder in Five Q&A, Horbye recalls his worst pitching experience, the best and worst parts of his job at Olsam and explains why startups should take time to reflect on how far they’ve come.

1. What’s your worst pitching experience?

Sam Horbye: During Covid in 2020, all our pitches were done via Zoom. One specific instance that springs to mind is with an investor who came across as pretty blunt via email so we knew the pitch was going to have to land fast and on point.

However, what we weren’t prepared for was his response: ‘your backgrounds aren’t that special’. He proceeded to get up and make a cup of tea and we pitched to a chair!

2. What funding advice would you give to a first-time founder?

SH: I love the advice from Paul Graham in the early days, ‘do things that don’t scale’. In the context of fundraising, we spent a massive amount of time creating targeted bespoke
outreach to investors, being as specific as possible as to why this opportunity suited them perfectly.

This meant research around their prior professional experience, but also detailed relevant previous investments with sector focus front of mind – e.g if they invest in ‘consumer’, go a level deeper – have they invested in similar services of tangential products that you can leverage or compliment.

3. What are the best and worst parts of your job?

SH: The most challenging part of being a founder is the sheer number of plates that are spinning at any one time but the best part is reflecting on how far you’ve come after such a short period of time, thanks to the team that’s working so hard together to drive forward.

4. What’s a fact about yourself that people might find surprising?

SH: A fun fact about me……avid bagpipe player. You might see me at weddings or parties!

5. How do you prevent burnout?

SH: It’s so trite to say this but take time to reflect on what you have achieved over the past period with your team. In startups, as a team you can achieve so much in such a short space of time. Reflect more and see how far you’ve come!

Founder in Five – a UKTN Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative tech startups, scaleups and unicorns – is published every Friday.