Sam Franklin, CEO of recruiting firm Otta. Photo: Otta
Sam Franklin is the CEO and co-founder OttaWhich supports salary transparency globally.
London-based Otta works with over 1.2 million people in the UK and US with its recruitment business, ensuring candidates know exactly the type of job they’re going for. The venture has raised approximately $25 million.
I was working at the consultancy firm McKinsey when I took advantage of its Take Time program, which gave employees four weeks of unpaid leave. Most spent time switching off, going on vacation, or learning an instrument. I decided to work.
I emailed several entrepreneurs asking if I could work with them because I had a dream to build a start-up. Many ignored me but one, Matt Robinson, got in touch and asked me to work with him for the summer, where I was chief of staff/right hand.
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Matt is the CEO and founder of online estate agency, Nested, and previously set up with two friends a very successful business called GoCardless, one of the best fintechs in the UK.
I was face to face with him on my first day, so he trusted me very early on. At the time, Nested had 18 employees and after spending another year at McKinsey I called Matt to ask if there were any roles. The company was 60 years old then.
Otta empowers job seekers to find a company that matches their interests. Photo: Otta
I joined in 2017 as the Chief of Staff. The mandate was to work with Matt and the other leaders, and I threw myself into this role, getting involved in things like business strategy and handling customer service meltdowns.
I learned from Matt that being an entrepreneur is different from being a leader, that raising and raising money for a company is a specific skill, and understanding the business model, where the opportunities lie, and making things happen.
This is almost the point where you have to keep trying to make it a reality. Matt used to tell me that as an entrepreneur you have to think about why something will work, rather than being an analytical person about why it won’t.
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Matt was also instrumental in allowing me to form my company. I told him about it from the beginning and he was open and cooperative. He did a really good job of encouraging people to do what they want to do next.
In nested we could not find the right model for some time. It was a great lesson in innovation, but it was also a lesson that an idea has to be a really good one.
Matt Robinson is the CEO and co-founder of Nested. Photo: Nested
I also had an interview role, and Matt asked me to act as interim head of people. I interviewed 30 hours a week, and at the end I asked candidates how their job search was going.
“Looking for a job is soul-crushing” and “feeling like a second-class citizen” were the most common responses.
It was a light bulb moment in which people were using some emotive language. My nested experiences finally let me explore what OTA can be.
Otta co-founders Zev Kearney, Sam Franklin and Theo Margolius. Photo: Otta
Matt told me to find a fast-growing market, but one that was mission driven and special to me. I’m one of the three co-founders of Otta and we discussed how to convince ourselves that this was something we were passionate about rather than what the product was.
On the other hand, we became career coaches for free, helping friends of friends with interviews and job searches. We wanted to test ourselves to see if we were up to the task and also to see what problems people were having.
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We were sensible operators and this helped us to make some shortcuts to avoid mistakes. We learned a lot about how to build a business fast and our investors told us that we were very good at doing one thing fast rather than doing too many things at the same time and losing our grip.
Matt was very quick and able to discuss all areas of the business and being a very competent person his personality helped him build trust.
From three people in a bedroom starting at Otta in June 2019 to 60 people three years later, Matt has been incredibly invaluable during this time and, as the first boss, is still present in my life.
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