Oyster was founded in 2020 by Tony Jamous. It has raised £182m ($227m) with a $1bn valuation, and heralded by London Business School as “one of the most mission-aligned companies we’ve ever seen.”
The employment platform now has 600+ remote employees in over 80 countries and empowers companies to hire, pay, and care for team members wherever they are in the world.
My entrepreneurial grandfather, who passed away when I was seven, and my first manager, Paul McGuire, are both connected in my journey. My grandfather enabled me to lead from the heart and Paul from the mind.
Back in the 1960s, my grandfather took villagers from his home in Lebanon to Bahrain to work in the construction business. He was really in the employment business and wanted to help his village people to find jobs abroad.
Oyster is now doing what my grandfather did but on a global scale to help people access job opportunities. As a kid, I was watching my grandfather and he made me understand that being an entrepreneur was about creating opportunities for people and to lead from my heart as well as my mind, which was heightened by Paul, who was my manager at mobile payments network Paymo.
He had been a CEO at mBlox where I was employee No 50, and which went from 50 to 500 staff within a year. I saw Paul leading in a high growth environment, how he was able to change his leadership style and become less hands on.
I also saw Paul at Paymo when we were starting out with five employees and getting his hands dirty. At that early stage, in 2007, you have to explore opportunities and create an environment for people to feel safe, not be afraid to make mistakes and how leadership can change with the context you’re in. Leaders can effectively be elastic and not be involved in one style.
We worked together on business development. There were no right or wrong answers and we kept fine tuning and improving. He would strike a balance between the business and human needs. A charismatic and resourceful leader, he would fuel action and vision by creating excitement.
I got a first-class ticket to witness leadership being created at the beginning of a business. You can learn management at business school and then work for a large company, but nothing prepares you for the ambiguity and volatility of an early stage company.
Everything in my career has effectively been connected to where I am today.
Oyster is a mission-driven business, delivering impact in the world and is one of the fastest growing companies in the history of Software as a service (SaaS). I wanted to build a company that worked for me. I wanted to live and work where I wanted to and not burn out, plus I wanted to create a massively diverse environment.
It turned out that the need for flexibility of freedom and safety at work was something everybody needs. Brain drain is the No.1 reason why emerging companies are still emerging. They lose their best talent and go to work in the UK or US. Oyster has the opportunity to reverse that trend.
I get my kick to see employees moving on and contributing to great businesses. You want to retain your best talent but the method is by accepting that one day they will leave. You have to create a company that is resilient to deal with this.
The secret to my working day is that if I wasn’t the CEO of Oyster, I would be working all the time. Around 80 per cent of entrepreneurs don’t know when to break. There is pressure from the team, from investors and company fast growth. For me, it was an experiment to force myself not to work in the morning.
I publicly say that I don’t start work in the mornings. For me it was a trick for the world to give me permission not to burn out as a founder and CEO. Well, I’m still building a high growth business by having discipline and rhythm.
It has allowed me to connect with my late grandfather through meditation and breathwork. We both have the same name, there is a divine connection, I ask him questions and he still guides me today.
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