In the world of new tech companies, it’s all too easy to class them all together as a new “dot com” wave. However, developments in Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, colloquially known in their respective circles as AI and DS, are the sharpened cutting edge of this movement. One of these digital pioneers is Olmait. Founded in 2018 and armed with the brightest minds in software development and data science, they set out to change the way companies handle their IT projects. In this edition of The Sit Down, GEORGIA TODAY talks with the CEO of Olmait, Talel Weisman, about beginnings, challenges, and what the future of data solutions will look like for the industry in the near future.
SET THE STAGE FOR US. WHAT GOT YOU INVOLVED IN THE TECH WORLD?
Actually, it happened quite late in my career. I studied Economics and Accounting, and worked as a business analyst and as an auditor, alongside running several initiatives in the social enterprise field. The finance and big-business world, which was the natural choice for my background, seemed gray, rigid and full of frustrations. In Israel, where I’m from, tech is booming, and is a much more attractive ecosystem than any other. It’s where the interesting things happen, where the smart people go, and is mostly free from legacy corporate culture and old-school thinking. The significant difference in income in this sector played a role as well, of course. Many people in my surroundings were tech entrepreneurs at different stages, or worked in international startups and tech companies, so advice was easy to find. Making the transition to tech was a long and difficult process, but it was definitely worth it.
WERE YOU AT ALL WORRIED YOU’D END UP IN THE EVER-EXPANDING GRAVEYARD OF FAILED NEW COMPANIES? WHAT KEPT YOU GOING?
As part of the transition process, I sought the advice of an experienced and successful startup entrepreneur, asking what my professional direction should be. He said that being an entrepreneur is a type of personality, and if this is what you are, the way will be found. But the direction is clear. And he was right. Starting a company, in my case, meant a very long period of time without income, or with lesser income than I could get elsewhere, and without knowing if it had any future. It means failing 95% of the time. But it was totally ok for me. The main things I was worried about were offering stability and interest to our team and doing a good job for our clients.
HOW DO YOU SET YOURSELF APART FROM THE “NOISE” OF ALL THE OTHER SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT COMPANIES?
That depends for which audience. For Georgian developers, we probably have much more interesting work, and better conditions than most companies around. Clients appreciate our use of state of the art technologies, and that we actually care a lot about what we build for them. Both appreciate the high level team and friendly environment. Practically, the market is big enough for everyone. Competition is not our biggest concern. Our biggest concern, as a company, is moving fast enough in this ever changing world.
DATA SCIENCE, TO MANY OUTSIDE OF THE INDUSTRY, IS RELATIVELY NEW. WHAT MADE YOU ZERO IN ON THIS FIELD?
Personal interest and the nature of business. My co-founders and I were enthusiastic about the cool practice and huge technological potential in data science. At the same time, companies and ecosystems are based on the technologies that emerged when they were born. A new business can fi nd its place in a growing market or in a changing market. There’s no point doing what everybody else is doing. Because they are already there. They have the clients, they have the talent, they have the resources, and they know how to get things done. Data science is still an immature practice in a sense, and not many companies have managed to actually make a working, valuable product yet. For us, this is the time to get in.
LET’S TALK ABOUT TBILISI. WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO EXPAND SO MUCH HERE?
So many reasons. Like for farmers, fertile ground is key. And Tbilisi is a fertile ground for tech. It has a core of great engineers with proven abilities and a small but vivid ecosystem with clear growth potential. I feel at home in Tbilisi.
DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU HAVE ANY LIMITING FACTORS IN YOUR BUSINESS MODEL?
So far, we managed to grow quite fast, and besides the normal challenges of finding the right people and the right clients at the right time, limitations were reached. Growing a company is a test that not everyone passes. Companies die because of unbalanced growth. Unlike startups, our business model is not easy to scale. But some companies in our field made it to an incredible size. It will require international expansion, which we are working on now.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE TRUE SUCCESS FOR YOU, AND FOR YOUR BUSINESS OPERATIONS IN GEORGIA?
Personally, success will be creating a workplace that people love: with transparency and trust, where people like what they do and are proud of their work. When you reach this state, it means that all other aspects are good as well. As for Georgia, our goal is to grow and strengthen the local ecosystem.
IN THE NEAR FUTURE, DO YOU SEE THE MARKET SPACE YOU’RE IN BEING OVERCROWDED OR UNDERSERVED?
The competition for good developers is getting harder, but we manage to compete. It’s a natural process for an ecosystem, and we expected it from day one. But COVID-19 gave it a boost, and many international companies are coming, either by local branches or by remote employment. In terms of sales, the international need for tech skills keeps growing, and with an increasing inclination towards outsourcing in particular and remote work in general. Which works great for us.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF OLMAIT LOOK LIKE?
Hoping to keep the rapid growth, enjoy what we do, and be among great people.
ONE LAST QUESTION. SO MANY TECH STARTUPS HAVE “CUTE” OR CATCHY NAMES. HOWEVER, “OLMAIT” SEEMS MORE SERIOUS. WHERE DOES THIS NAME COME FROM?
It comes from the word “almighty”, referring to the future state of artifi cial intelligence, according to the technological singularity theory
BY MICHAEL GODWIN