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Thomas O’Malley of Currnt: “Work like an immigrant”

Companies really struggle with knowing what’s coming next. Customers often give the “faster horse” feedback, but disruption comes from the outside. We are tech enabling the ability to engage with groups of your target market; from a single fully-managed virtual experience, companies can learn faster, get quicker access to Voice-of-Market (VOM), they can create their […]

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Companies really struggle with knowing what’s coming next. Customers often give the “faster horse” feedback, but disruption comes from the outside. We are tech enabling the ability to engage with groups of your target market; from a single fully-managed virtual experience, companies can learn faster, get quicker access to Voice-of-Market (VOM), they can create their best thought leadership ever, and they can even make new relationships and sales.


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas O’Malley.

Thomas is the founder and CEO of Currnt, a marketing intelligence startup launched in 2015 that uses AI to recruit on-demand, curated teams of experts for virtual focus groups and ongoing advisory boards. Prior to Currnt, Tom held various senior leadership positions at Oracle, Avaya and Qwest Communications. He received his MBA from the University of Chicago — Booth School of Business and his bachelor’s degree in business from Emory University — Goizueta Business School.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Twenty years in large enterprise taught me that companies tend not to engage with their market in meaningful ways and miss huge and sometimes obvious opportunities. After seven years in a strategy role at Oracle, I became convinced companies need to learn faster by collaborating with their market. They say if you are bothered about something enough, you have to create a startup to solve the problem…so I did.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Companies really struggle with knowing what’s coming next. Customers often give the “faster horse” feedback, but disruption comes from the outside. We are tech enabling the ability to engage with groups of your target market; from a single fully-managed virtual experience, companies can learn faster, get quicker access to Voice-of-Market (VOM), they can create their best thought leadership ever, and they can even make new relationships and sales.

We source and bring in subject matter experts, and host an online SME facilitated discussion over days, weeks or years. We produce ongoing reports, blogs, podcasts and any other formats of in-demand content one seeks. Companies often utilize and implement that content into their communications calendars and marketing activities.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I met my first investor in the parking lot of a restaurant on Sand Hill Road. An ex-pro NFL’s, he is a physically massive man and I made some comment about how his car fit him like a glove. Continuing idle chat on our way into the restaurant, we ended up at the bar together and had a few drinks and laughs. Turned out we were both from Cleveland and shared similar values. I stayed in touch with him for a couple of months, until finally he took a meeting to hear more about my business. Today, he is still my most active investor and advisor, and we have become great friends.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I think about Rich Delperdang…I know…great name! He was one of my first bosses in my career that taught me that sales is about listening. He always seemed to grasp the depth and breadth of the customer problem and it was through that he garnered trust and gained a lot of efficiency. And, at risk of sounding predictable, clearly, my spouse is the unsung hero related to my journey. We have made many life decisions together that gives me the ability to pursue business goals, but most important is the patience and faith in the journey itself. Doing a startup is REALLY REALLY hard; I really cannot imagine it possible without 100% support at home.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption in the context of innovation is generally a good thing, because in theory it unlocks latent value, creating more value for more people. Uber and Amazon are two that we can all relate to that have made our lives more affordable and easier. That said, you can also go online today and buy Ransomware to intentionally harm someone. That kind of description will actually destroy value.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Sleep By 10: I rarely do it, but honestly that is just priceless advice. Sleep is everything for memory, processing speed and aptitude. Many emphasize work hard/play hard as some rite of passage. I hate to sound lame, but if you really want to get places, get some sleep.

Work like an immigrant. My dad was big on this expression because born and raised in NY he would see first-hand the first-generation immigrants that were getting ahead had a gratitude and attitude for the work, no matter how tough or menial.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

For Lead Generation, hosting online discussions on the problems you solve are the best way to detect intent. We do this by focusing topics on the problems that we solve for and invite our target customers to come and be panelists. We make them into thought leaders and in turn forge new relationships with people showing a passion and intent to solve the problem. I don’t think companies do enough of real engagement with their market. We sometimes forget they are just people with problems that we can help with.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I’m really attracted to the future of work. We virtualized our company two years ago. My wife likes to tease me that we have been in quarantine since 2018. I think the world is rapidly moving to a new operating model for companies and a new employment model that we call gig-ops.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I host a podcast with Johnathan Reichental called Drinking Wine and Talking Tech. It’s a couple of guys that are both in technology, drinking wine (sometimes tequila) and talking about specific tech trends. I think our listeners like that it is not that heavy, and we have some fun with our guests which are some of the who’s who of Silicon Valley. It’s been a great outlet during the months of lock-in, in the meantime, I do get inspired by our guests.

When it comes to impact, I think the book “world is flat” changed my early career and got me focused on my yearning to work internationally. I ended up living overseas for a decade and I’m not sure that would have happened if not for that book.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you catch it, see a doctor and get rid of it.” Just kidding, but I love “The Jerk” with Steve Martin. I don’t have any “life lesson quote”, but I do spend a lot of time listening and learning from older people who have lived a full journey. I had a paper route as a kid through a senior community (I had way more customer churn than any of my friends). It also took me twice as long because my customers liked to bend my ear. It just stuck from there…I still enjoy listening to the infinite paths people take through life.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Say no to leaf blowers…pick up a broom and stop blowing it around. It may sound silly (cuz it is) but I think they typify a larger flaw in society that I’d like to see change; the “I don’t care about the noise and dust I create as long as my little patch of life is cleaner.” I’m not sure leaf blowers would be my platform necessarily, but I believe we gotta get more mindful and empathetic of others.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.linkedin.com/company/getcurrnt/

Main website: https://currnt.com/ (follow, view expert panels)

Podcast https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8xZGEzYTdkOC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw?sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwii8PDxlMbrAhUsg3IEHbEnBW4Q4aUDegQIARAC&hl=en

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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