Meet Brent Blonkvist, Chief Of Staff

Meet Brent Blonkvist, Chief Of Staff

We're highlighting noteworthy employees that drive Odyssey's growth.

One thing that makes our staff so successful is shared vision. It’s a harmonious experience where individual interests align with company missions. This drives consistent innovation, feedback, and growth.

By definition, shared vision requires collaboration, especially across departments. So, for our second employee spotlight, we spoke with Brent Blonkvist, Odyssey’s Chief of Staff.

Brent’s ties to Odyssey have always been strong. As a student at UNC, he connected with Odyssey through his executive involvement with the Interfraternity Council. When Odyssey expanded across school networks as a print publication in 2011, Brent built, led, and scaled UNC's local editorial and sales teams. Even after graduation, Brent played a part in launching new communities of Odyssey at UT Austin and Texas Tech. “I was still leveraging my network,” he said, “to help build Odyssey because it was fun.”

After graduating from the Kenan-Flagler Business School, Brent started his career at HSBC, the largest international bank in Asia, covering their Asian multinational inbound business. His undergraduate studies in Hong Kong and Greece inspired his desire to learn international commerce firsthand, particularly with respect to Asia, in order to stay competitive in the ever-increasing globally connected economy.

Brent’s tenure at HSBC offered him great opportunities to build business. He helped build the first China Multinational Inbound Desk, and then went on to help build an 'Oil & Gas Structured Finance and Advisory' business across the Americas. Despite the decline of the oil and gas markets in 2014, his team closed 19 deals— i.e. $50 million in income— over the first year alone.

“All the while,” Brent said, “Evan and I reconnected when Odyssey’s New York office opened. We literally bumped into each other on an elevator in the city. Two years later, we began discussing what it might look like to work together. Within a few months, I was working for a growth company.”

“Investing in technology companies myself,” he added, “knowing how a large company operates, understanding the connectivity required to have a global footprint, and seeing that Odyssey had experienced success and would likely expand one day… [it was] a no-brainer decision.”

Since March of this year, Brent’s contributions to our company have been impactful and all-encompassing. To speak to this, he gave some insight on our culture, growth, and direction as we continue to scale.


What is our biggest opportunity at Odyssey?

“The opportunity to truly scale a company. Few companies can do it successfully, and even fewer companies successfully raise institutional capital. To be able to take those dollars and invest them in a way that allows you to expand and create a revenue stream that enables your company to grow organically, scale domestically, and then internationally— that’s unbelievable.”

As Chief of Staff, what is your role?

“I’m building strategic partnerships that help expedite our user growth and increase engagement on our platform. I work to enhance our traffic and monetization efforts in order to better position Odyssey to truly transform the industry.

I have the vision and dream of taking us international. To take Odyssey everywhere, so that we can democratize the creation of content and its consumption around the world. Everyone will have the opportunity to share what’s going on in their community. One destination for people to consume all content that’s relevant to them; real perspective around issues they care about on a 360-degree topic sphere.”


Tell me about the people at Odyssey.

“Here at Odyssey, people are building their future. That’s pretty cool and powerful. I love the unspoken rules around punctuality and being prepared. I absolutely love the way in which we align vision and mission— I just think it’s so meaningful.

I think every person has a vision, but they’re only here because of the shared vision between themselves and the company. I love how the company has short, digestible missions that can be accomplished over a period of time. I love how we celebrate individuals and award them upon achieving their missions, instead of hoping their good performance will be remembered and recognized at the end of the year.

You can really be yourself at Odyssey. You can do what you love. Figuring out how to integrate into this type of culture was fun, especially with respect to attire. My existing ‘work’ wardrobe was suits, shirts, and ties. Before my first day, I had to talk to Evan about it. I’m pretty sure I asked, ‘Do I need new clothes, or can I rock a suit?’”

Want to learn more about our internal team? Check out our recent post featuring Lauri Baker, Odyssey’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

Cover Image Credit: Odyssey

7 Things You Do If You’re One Of Those 'I Always Order Chicken Tenders' People

It's hard to love food but also hate it at the same time.

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Growing up, my mom would usually have to cook me a separate dinner from my siblings. Why? Because I was ridiculously picky and wouldn't eat the same foods as everyone else. Trust me, it gets old. It's not my fault certain things just taste gross, you learn to live with it.

1. You eat something you hate just to see if you still hate it

I'll take a bite of a burger every once in a while just to reaffirm that it still tastes like dirt. I just have to know. Don't even get me started on vegetables.

2. When trying to explain what you actually like to eat, people give you major side eye

Don't ask me about my eating habits unless you want to get into a long, confusing conversation.

3. Eating at someone else’s house when you were younger was a pain

You hate to tell their parents just how much you hate the food that they gave you. So, you sucked it up and ate it anyway only to come home and whine to your parents.

4. There’s one thing on any menu you always fall back on...even if it’s on the kids menu

Pizza, maybe. Chicken tenders, always.

5. Trying a new food is a very proud moment

It's like, wow! Look at me being all adventurous.

6. When you realize you actually like some new food, that’s an even more amazing moment

Crazy times. This rarely happens.

7. Sometimes it’s the texture, sometimes it’s the flavor, all the time it’s left on your plate

Oops. At restaurants it's either left on your plate or your order is very specified.

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10 Tips On How Not To Waste Your Time When You're Traveling

Sporadic trips are great, but maybe plan a little on the train ride in.

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For New Years, I took a trip to Boston. It wasn't sporadic— my boyfriend and I booked a room at Boston's Verb hotel, situated across from Fenway Park, about a month in advance. However, we didn't look at how we were going to get to Boston until the day before we left, or what we were going to do until the day we got there. If we had sat down and cracked open our laptops for 45 minutes while we watched American Horror Story reruns on Netflix, we wouldn't have spent so much on transportation and walking around in freezing rain looking for something to do. However, while we were content not going out and getting "drunklestiltskin" levels of drunk, it might have been better if we outlined what we were going to do on New Years Day and how we were going to get there.

We ended up spending about $10 to us the T, which isn't bad, but we spent $30 on parking and $45 on Uber rides, which wasn't bad until our last driver took the long way. If we had researched the area a little better, we might have been able to find things to do in the area we were staying, or map out a route to take using public transportation.

1. Book your hotel in the area you want to visit

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By doing this, you'll save on transportation costs because you'll either be within walking distance, or public transportation will have stops close to the places you want to visit. You also will be less likely to get stranded in an area you're unfamiliar with.

2. Get an idea ahead of time the things you want to do, and map out how you'll get there

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This helps you create a budget for transportation so that you don't think you're stranded in an area that doesn't have public transportation. Ubers can be expensive, especially if the driver takes the wrong turn, or wants to learn your life story.

3. Budget so you don't overspend

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Plan out how much you want to spend on transportation, how much you want to spend on food, and how much you want to spend on alcohol, so that way you don't spend all of your money, and have to create a new life or ask someone to borrow money you may never be able to pay back.

4. Don't be afraid to talk to strangers

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My boyfriend and I asked several bartenders where the best place to get a bite to eat would be, and that's how we found our new favorite restaurant— Eastern Standard. It's like the perfect restaurant if you don't think too hard about it. But our server had to tell us the staff at the bar wasn't being paid to endorse or promote it. It was just really good.

5. Look for stuff ahead of time

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If there's some type of public event, or you decide to visit on New Year's, St. Patty's Day, or on another popular date, look to see if you need tickets, and buy those ahead of time. If the weather isn't good, this will keep you from standing in line in the rain only to find out the cover charge is $60 a head.

6. Learn how to read the subway maps

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Ask someone who's been there and is good with direction, or get an app, so you don't get on the train going in the opposite direction of where you need to be. Boston and New York City should have apps where you can get the live subway schedule, so look for that if you need to.

7. Leave your car if you can

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Find a good, safe place to park, and if you know you're staying overnight, make sure the garage or lot allows that. This will also force you to explore what's around the area and you may just find something great you wouldn't have found otherwise.

8. Look at peak times

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If you're going somewhere popular to tourists, look at peak times so you can plan ahead and get there a little sooner. Standing in line is fun and all, but people can make or break that, especially when it comes to anything getting in the way of food (at least for me).

9. If you're a frequent flyer, try Pre-TSA

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If you fly a lot, you know TSA security checks can make or break your trip. If you're deemed low risk, you can get through security faster. Apply on the TSA website— www.tsa.gov

10. Don't just look at hotels

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For international travelers, hostels can be great. Some will let you stay for free if you do a few chores. Other great choices are Air BnBs and even camping. I also had a friend who couch surfed through an app, but do that at your own risk.

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