Sam Horbay is the co-founder of Olsam, a company that acquires e-commerce brands and marketplaces and leverages its proprietary technology and digital marketplace expertise to scale them globally.

Horbye founded Olsam in 2020 with his brother Ollie. It acquires brands created by solo entrepreneurs 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 $165 million from venture capital funds, including Christian Angermeier’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 North American launch and managed some of the UK’s largest third-party sellers on Amazon’s global marketplaces.

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

1. What is your worst pitching experience?

Sam Horbay: During Covid 2020 all our presentations were done via Zoom. One particular case that comes to mind is with an investor who was quite candid over email, so we knew the pitch would have to land quickly and on point.

But what we weren’t prepared for was his response: “your past isn’t that special.” He proceeded to get up and make a cup of tea and we threw ourselves into a chair!

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

SH: I like the advice from Paul Graham in the early days “do things that don’t scale”. In the context of fundraising, we spent a huge amount of time creating custom leads
reaching out to investors, being as specific as possible about why this opportunity is a perfect fit for them.

This meant researching their previous work experience, but also detailing relevant previous investments with a focus on the sector – e.g. if they invest in a “user”, go a level deeper – have they invested in similar services of tangential products that you can use or compliment.

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

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

4. What is a fact about you that people might find surprising?

SH: Fun fact about me……an avid bagpiper. You might see me at weddings or parties!

5. How do you prevent burnout?

SH: It’s so cliché to say this, but take the time to think about what you’ve accomplished with your team over the past period. In startups, as a team you can accomplish so much in such a short time. Think more and see how far you’ve come!

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

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