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.