‘It’s a bit like dating’: Inside Omny Studio’s acquisition journey

Omny Studio

Omny Studio co-founders Long Zheng (left) and Andrew Armstrong (right) and chief executive Sharon Taylor. Source: Supplied.

Last week, Melbourne podcasting startup Omny Studio announced it had been acquired by global audio tech company Triton Digital.

And while Omny co-founder Andrew Armstrong says the move was the right decision, it also followed a four-year relationship and some serious courting from the US digital giant.

Armstrong co-founded the business that would become Omny Studio in 2012, along with Long Zheng and Ed Hooper.

The product went through iterations of personalised radio and text-to-speech for articles, before becoming the Omny on-demand podcast and audio publishing platform in 2015.

In the same year, the team also appointed chief executive Sharon Taylor.

Omny isn’t disclosing the value of the acquisition, but Armstrong says Omny has raised a total of about $2 million to date.

The entire of the Omny Studio team, including Armstrong, Zheng and Taylor, have joined Triton Digital, a statement said.

A match made in heaven

Armstrong tells StartupSmart that when the team launched the Omny product in 2015, at a trade show in Paris, Triton staff members showed interest immediately.

Omny’s technology “really complements their technology”, Armstrong says, and the two businesses became “friends and partners”.

The Omny team never set out with the goal of an acquisition, but having worked together for a few years, the two businesses grew closer.

Omny Studio

Omny Studio co-founders Long Zheng, Ed Hooper and Andrew Armstrong. Source: Supplied.

“It’s sort of like dating, there’s a ritual,” Armstrong says.

They knew the two businesses worked well together, and, importantly, that the people involved got on well.

“They were looking at how to progress in the industry and we were doing the same. I think both of us had several options at our disposal,” Armstrong explains.

It was “a natural progression”, he adds.

“We both thought it would be great to get married.”

According to Armstrong, gradually both the Omny and Triton teams realised they would be able to achieve more together.

If the two businesses became one, they could better cross-pollinate and cooperate, the co-founder explains.

“Together we’re bigger than the sum of our parts,” Armstrong says.

“We’re all on the same team, we have the same goals to help our customers together,” he adds.

“There are less logistical problems in the way … it’s all shared revenue, it’s all shared customers, it’s all shared wins.”

A good decision

For the founders and chief executive, Omny’s acquisition is the end of an era. But Armstrong says it was a “positive decision”.

Armstrong says he’s “excited to step into something bigger”, and to see Omny all grown up.

He recalls a “black and white horrible powerpoint presentation that we showed the first seed investors”.

From that point until now has been “a rollercoaster”, he says.

“You’ve got great highs and terrible lows and everything in between, and it moulds you as a person personally and professionally.”

One thing that got the Omny leadership team across the team was Triton’s commitment to growing the product. Armstrong says he’s heard stories of acquisitions where the buyer just wants to get the team on board, or where they don’t prioritise the product and allow it to stagnate.

“[Triton] were pretty excited, as are we, as to what’s the next-level thing we can be doing with the product, and integrations between the companies,” he explains.

“That definitely played into those decision-making processes.”

Omny Studio

The Omny Studio team. Source: Supplied.

Another important aspect was the impact on Omny’s customers, and also its staff.

“We feel a sense of responsibility to those people, and want to do right by them,” Armstrong explains.

However, ultimately those questions were “answered well”, he adds.

“This was a good decision to make.”

“You don’t need to know everything”

Although hes no longer going to be a full-time startup founder, Armstrong says he will still maintain a creative outlet.

“I’ll always continue to have that building mindset in me,” he says.

In fact, he has already been working on a side hustle with co-founder Ed Hooper, building StartupGalaxy.com.au, a directory of Aussie startups.

“In the community, we’re always talking to people and sharing stories,” he says.

“There are thousands of great startup businesses in Australia that we didn’t know about.”

For Armstrong personally, when he and his co-founders launched Omny, there are “so many things” he wishes they had known.

But the main thing he’s learnt is to reach out to people.

“People have been quite generous, at least to me and my peers, with their time,” he explains.

“There are all these people along the journey that are just starting, or seven years ahead of you, and anywhere in between.”

He encourages founders to contact other founders, to go to co-working spaces, or to attend meetups to get connected in the startup ecosystem.

Along the journey, you may face different challenges you may not have expected.

“Just talking to other people is really helpful,” Armstrong says.

“When we started I didn’t know how to hire our first employee, so I asked my peers in the workspace.”

This is especially important for solo founders. When you’re working on something by yourself, seeking feedback can be invaluable.

If you’re locked away and working on a product for a year, “that takes a certain amount of energy that will naturally deplete unless you have some positive reinforcement”, he says.

Just sharing your experiences can make things easier, he suggests. Most founders will have shared experiences, even if they’re working in completely different sectors.

“Along this journey having those friends and peers to talk to has been invaluable … someone to listen to you complain, and also to celebrate.”

Finally, Armstrong also advises other founders to “give yourself permission to fail”.

Everything is a learning experience, he says.

“You don’t need to know everything to get started, you just learn along the way … don’t feel like you need all your ducks in a row to get started.”

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