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Interview with an Alum: Theo Margolius

By Joe O'Brien, on 3 April 2020

Interview with Theo Margolius, UCL alum (2015) and Co-founder & COO at Otta. Written by Joe O’Brien, Marketing Communications Assistant at UCL Careers.

How did you get to where you are now in your career?

After graduating from UCL, I started my career in investment banking, a popular career choice for Economics students. After two years of learning about corporate finance and building up my analytical skills, I joined Nested.com, a fast-growing proptech startup. I had the opportunity to work in a few different roles across finance, operations and strategy, which gave me loads of exposure to different parts of the business. My time at Nested taught me a lot about what it’s like to grow a startup. While there, I worked closely with my two current co-founders, and we would spend weekends in the office working on different ideas. I left Nested after 18 months, had a couple of months off and then started Otta in June 2019. Starting a business has been a great challenge and very different to my last two jobs. I feel like we’ve made a lot of good progress already and I’m excited to see what the next few years hold!

What skills are involved in your current role?

Being an early stage founder requires you to wear a lot of different hats! One hour you’ll be meeting potential investors to try and raise money, the next you’ll be on a call with a customer trying to get their feedback on the product, then you’ll be interviewing a candidate and trying to convince them to work for you. If I had to pick one skill, I would say persistence. You need to believe that your idea needs to exist even when things are going wrong. It’s persistence that gets you through the challenging days.

What advice would you give to current students on getting into your sector?

I’m really passionate about encouraging people to work for startups, which is why I started Otta. If you want to work for startups or build your own business in the future, it helps a lot to be entrepreneurial early on and try out different ideas. While at UCL, I tried to start a tutoring business. It didn’t work out (because we weren’t persistent enough!), but that didn’t matter because I learnt a lot of valuable skills that helped me the next time around. If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to try and make something of it in your spare time, what’s the worst that can happen?

What is on the horizon within your industry/company that our students can learn and get excited about?

In my view, startups are by far the most exciting places to work. No two days are the same and the priorities of the business are constantly changing, which means you’re almost always learning something new. London is attracting billions of pounds of investment from venture capitalists every year, which is all going into funding and growing different ideas. Whatever sectors you’re interested in, you’ll always be able to find a business that’s doing something new and exciting. I don’t expect this innovation to slow down, and think Europe will continue to get more innovative and attract record levels of investment for many years to come.

If you could give a current student one piece of advice on something you wish you’d have known prior to starting your career what would it be?

If you find yourself in a job where you’re not learning, try to leave and find a job that pushes you. It’s really important to give yourself as many learning opportunities as possible during the formative years of your career, don’t play it safe!

Finally, can you tell us a bit more about Otta?

At Otta, we’re building the only place candidates need to go to find and secure roles at the world’s most innovative companies. We started Otta because the current options out there don’t put the interests of the job seeker first, with most recruitment companies focused on squeezing fees out of companies. Otta was founded in June 2019. We raised our first round of funding in November 2019, securing backing from some of the top investors in Europe, including LocalGlobe and Paul Forster, Co-founder of Indeed. Make sure to follow our journey ‘OttaHQ on Instagram!

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