Founders Fridays is a new StartupAmsterdam initiative that showcases local entrepreneurs who help strengthen our ecosystem. By inviting founders to answer five questions, we want to shine a light on our ecosystem’s most inspirational stories and role models. We hope that by providing startup founders with a space to share their insights and experience, we’ll all learn and grow together.
This week we spoke to Adil Ayi, the co-founder of Omnia. Omnia optimizes your office use during the transition back to work. By using innovative crowd simulation technology, they will help you get insights on reopening decisions.
How did your career journey lead you to found Omnia?
Like most startups, our journey began with a first-hand experience. What we went through was something that everyone in the world was experiencing, the corona pandemic. As millennials, it was our first experience with a global occurrence of this magnitude. We saw the dependency on technological advancement on the world. Apps came out that register corona patients, vaccines had to be designed, even masks had to be mass-produced on a scale never seen before. All were dependent on how good the technology was to support this upscaling.
The biggest change someone could feel on a personal level was working from home. When the corona statistics began to subside after the peak in 2020, people began discussing how the reopening could be realized. There was still one big hurdle, reopening decisions like capacity and timeslots were made by the decision makers based on guesswork. This causes the reopening to become a real life experience, putting your employees at risk. As technology optimists, we saw an opportunity. Using simulation technology, we are able to simulate a reopening and assess the safety and risks before you reopen. Giving the decision makers the right data to base an informed decision on. Omnia was born.
Why did you choose Amsterdam to start and grow your business?
As born and raised “Amsterdammers” we had the privilege to always have been in the innovative ecosystem that is Amsterdam. We have studied here and after our studies, Marwan and I both coincidentally started working as researchers at the university. Amsterdam is one of the centres of Europe. Starting a startup immediately brings you into a community of like-minded people that are innovating but with (like we say in Dutch) a “Sober” mindset. An ideal place to grow and learn, even better when you live there!
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given?
We once had a talk with one of our mentors about our situation. At the time, we had this core technology that almost any stakeholder in the built environment was excited about after talking to them. It seemed like having knowledge about human behaviour (usage) in a building was a big gap in the market which was needed to enable future developments of a human-centric living place. At that time, we got the 3-step advice from our mentor:
You might get the memo, he told us to focus. Every great company started at a niche and dominated that small market until they go to the next niche market. Once you have a pool of niche markets, you might be able to attack the bigger market where these niche markets swim in. He gave the example of Amazon. Began as an online book store, then a book and CD store, fast-forward some years. They became the online store for “everything”.
Omnia founders Adil Ayi and Marwan el Morabet
Which were the local communities that have been the most helpful in getting you to where you are today?
University initiatives like the ACE (Amsterdam Center of Entrepreneurship) program were of big help for us. These organizations gather top beginning startups with mostly student backgrounds from the ecosystem and let them meet and grow together. It is amazing what the recipe of “space + like-minded individuals + entrepreneurship workshops” can produce. You get this motivation and reference point for improvement.
What’s a recent win you’re proud of?
Yesterday we were featured on National TV. We filmed a segment on the show “Pak an Doen” on NH Nieuws. It showcased our first developments and story. It was great seeing ourselves on TV presenting the things we work hard for. If you missed the recording on a quarter past every hour, you can watch the recording here (in Dutch).
You’ve been selected to exhibit at TNW2021 with StartupAmsterdam. How was your experience?
First of all, proud to represent this awesome ecosystem with the other 13 startups chosen. It was great seeing all the developments we are producing. The exhibition gave us an opportunity to network with corporate Amsterdam, which is very important. Next to the business going on we also were able to talk with potential partners who are interested in the innovation. A lot of exciting collaborations might shape the future of our model.