Omnisend CEO Rytis Laurinavičius: We put a lot of emphasis on the daily effort of our team to walk „20 miles”
The Vilnius TechFusion ecosystem is surprising not only for its new ideas, but also for the abundance of companies operating in different fields. From biotechnology and financial technology to game development and e-commerce, all these companies are working together to make the name of Vilnius known worldwide.
Omnisend, which won the Startup of the Year title at the Vilnius TechFusion Startup Awards 2022 last year, is no exception. With more than 100 000 clients from 130 countries, this sales and marketing automation platform stands out from others because it operates without external investment. The company has three offices, one in the US and the other two in major Lithuanian cities: Vilnius and Kaunas. In total, the company employs around 200 people.
In this interview, Rytis Laurinavičius, CEO of the company, talks about the upcoming Vilnius TechFusion Startup Awards 2023, the achievements of Omnisend and the possible future outlook for e-commerce.
What has the year 2023 brought for your company? How do you evaluate your revenue, talent and client acquisition this year?
Like our clients, we calculate our results at the end of the year, so I can’t give exact figures yet. In e-commerce, the first quarter is usually very slow, the second is better, the third quarter is stagnant, and I would call the fourth quarter a celebration of our industry, because that is when we generate 35–40 per cent of the total annual turnover. This has an impact on our results, because when our clients do well, we do well. October and November are the critical months that will be most reflected in our performance. On the basis of the data available now, we can only predict that we will grow as well as last year. Optimistically, I would call this year a year of recovery, because the year 2022 was quite tough for us.
The number of Omnisend clients has been growing rapidly every year. What are the main foreign markets your company is targeting? Do you see any changes in the last five years?
There have been no major changes in the last five years because we have the same four main markets that we have focused on for a long time. We focus on English-speaking countries, so it is from these countries that we generate most of our revenue. Our main partners are from the USA, the UK, Australia and Canada. However, for some time now, we have also been seeing English-speaking clients from smaller countries. In total, we work with 100 000 e-shops from 130 countries. Our clients include stores located on small islands in the Pacific Ocean, so it’s safe to say that we have partners from every continent in the world using our services. To ensure full support for all the shops that use our services, we have introduced a 24/7 contact centre for our clients to reach out for us in case of any problems.
Which world-class companies use your services?
While our service is tailored to small and medium-sized businesses, we also have well-known clients. The biggest of these are the LEGO and Samsung brands, whose branches use our services. I would like to point out that we do not optimise our business with large corporations and only try to deal with clients who can work more flexibly. Some corporations allow their e-commerce units to operate very autonomously. As a result, they are more like medium-sized organisations than large corporations.
You have once said in an interview that you are so close to being No. 1 in the world, maybe one opponent’s mistake away from the top. How close are you to becoming the biggest business in your field?
I think it does not depend on competitors. I’m of the opinion that success comes from your own preparation and circumstances. Our competitor has already done an IPO and is a much bigger organisation than us, but we are not giving up and we have a plan to become the best in the market. Our vision spans many years and I believe that we have to first of all do our own best, deliver quality and create the most valuable service to be able to be No. 1. And only then we can talk about the mistakes of the opponent and other circumstances.
What do your clients and their customers expect today?
The vision of Omnisend has remained unchanged since day one. Our main goal is to make marketing relevant. We understand that advertising is an essential service for our clients, so the more targeted and the smaller the volume of advertising, the happier both our clients and their customers. To further explain our strategy, let’s take one example. Suppose I’m a consumer looking for a new phone. Only those ads that offer me this device will be relevant to me. I might not pay attention to the ads of refrigerators or other household items because I will not find them interesting. Therefore, our primary goal is to make advertising relevant so that it is useful to people and offers only the products they need. To achieve this, we have the full technological potential, the knowledge and the experience that we have accumulated over many years. Of course, in order to minimise the volume of advertising the consumer receives, they must allow access to certain data, and many people willingly accept this.
The last few years have been extremely challenging for many businesses. They say that a company needs a CEO as an ambassador in good times and as a psychologist in tough times. Do you feel more involved in managing your own team and improving the climate?
I wouldn’t say the role has changed much, but it has taken on a different tone. Last year we grew by 50 per cent, but that was much slower than in 2021. We didn’t have to cut costs, dismiss staff or withdraw their benefits. It is true that we have seen some of our team members worried about their jobs because their friends or relatives have lost them. Understanding that the market is quite turbulent at the moment, we presented four scenarios to the whole organisation to try to look at the situation where our company is growing as planned, is growing a little less, is not growing, and is starting to shrink. We were frank with our employees about the benefits that would be cut, and we promised that we were not planning any redundancies in the first three scenarios.
Our company also takes the position of Jim Collins, who writes about success in a scholarly way. The 20-mile concept is among the main points he presents. According to this concept, if an American wants to walk across the whole of the USA from East to West, he or she must walk 20 miles every day. But if he or she is too fast or lazy one day, the next day he or she will be either exhausted or finding themselves in the same spot. So we put a lot of emphasis on the daily effort of our team to walk those 20 miles.
Last year, you won the Startup of the Year title at the Vilnius TechFusion Startup Awards. How do you rate this achievement?
Like every award, it gave me a lot of joy and motivation. I thought there were other strong candidates and I didn’t consider us favourites. When you work, you see yourself from all sides – the underdog and the overachiever, so it’s important to see yourself from a winning perspective. It means a lot. These awards, together with the work we, Vilnius TechFusion, Unicorns LT or other startups, have done, mean that other businesses no longer look down on us. They appreciate our efforts and results. The ongoing Startup Awards help us to appreciate, understand and feel part of the community. Such initiatives connect and strengthen the community.
And the last question. What will Omnisend and e-commerce look like in 20 years?
I think that in 20 years’ time Omnisend will be part of a larger group. The technology sector is dynamic and doesn’t allow you to stay in it for long, so I won’t necessarily be leading the company. And it’s very difficult to predict what e-commerce will look like – sometimes our imagination can’t see 10 years ahead. I think that artificial intelligence may take over a lot of work from humans. Even though it has been on the market for a few years and has not yet made a breakthrough, it has the potential to revolutionise the whole commerce sector within 20 years.